Predicting the 2014 Hobey Hat Trick

Before the ten Hobey Baker finalists were announced on Thursday, March 20th, I took my yearly shot at predicting the ten finalists. I managed to hit seven out of ten, correctly picking forwards Josh Archibald (junior, Nebraska-Omaha), Greg Carey (senior, St. Lawrence), Johnny Gaudreau (junior, Boston College), Kevin Hayes (senior, Boston College), defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (junior, Union), and goaltenders Joel Rumpel (junior, Wisconsin) and Adam Wilcox (sophomore, Minnesota).

The three finalists I missed on were junior goaltender C.J. Motte of Ferris State (I had senior goaltender Sam Brittain of Denver instead), Ohio State’s Ryan Dzingel (I had UMass-Lowell’s sophomore netminder Connor Hellebuyck in his spot), and Nic Dowd, senior forward from St. Cloud State (I had junior forward Austin Czarnik of Miami).

I did have Motte listed as one of my six honorable mention selections, but I completely missed on Nic Dowd. He’s definitely a great two-way player and team leader, but I just didn’t think he had the offensive numbers to crack the top ten. At the time of the announcement, the 6-2, 196 pounder from Huntsville, Alabama had collected 21 goals and notched 18 assists for 39 points in 36 games played (1.08 points/game). That mark was the lowest of all forwards in the Hobey top ten.

Ultimately, the reason I chose Austin Czarnik (12-33-45 in 35 games, 1.29 points/game at the time of the Hobey balloting) over Dowd is that Czarnik’s RedHawks had just gone to SCSU and swept the Huskies in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Although the St. Cloud captain collected three points on the weekend (compared to two for Czarnik), I felt that the team’s results didn’t bode well for his inclusion on the Hobey list. The voters weighed St. Cloud State’s league championship (and Dowd’s role therein), and made a good choice in Nic Dowd.

I also felt good about picking Hellebuyck. I had this to say about the selection:

Conner Hellebuyck, sophomore goaltender, Massachusetts-Lowell
15-8-2, 1.87 goals-against average, .938 save percentage, 4 shutouts

Hellebuyck has the national save percentage lead by four points over Sam Brittain and Adam Wilcox, and he’s got the lowest GAA in the country, too. He’s only appeared in 25 games this season, and that might work against him, but he hasn’t lost back-to-back games since his first two starts of the year.

Ultimately, though, the voters went with OSU junior forward Ryan Dzingel, who had amassed 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points in 34 games for an Ohio State team that was fourth best in the Big Ten with an overall record of 16-13-5 at the time the picks were made. I didn’t think that Dzingel’s numbers were off the charts enough to get him in ahead of Hellebuyck, but evidentally the voters wanted Motte in over both Brittain and Hellebuyck and weren’t about to fill the Hobey top ten with four netminders.

And now, on to the Hobey Hat Trick. This is the first year in recent memory where one player has, for all intents and purposes, already won the award. Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) is a stone-cold lock to take home the trophy, particularly after the junior forward from Carneys Point, New Jersey scored three goals and added five assists in two victories at the NCAA East Regional last weekend. Gaudreau now has 35 goals and 42 assists for 77 points in 39 games (1.97 points/game) and has his Eagles in yet another Frozen Four.

“Johnny Hockey” has collected the most points in a season since 2002-03, when Colorado College junior forward Peter Sejna had 36 goals and 46 assists (82 points) for the Tigers and senior forward Chris Kunitz scored 35 goals and added 44 assists (79 points) for Ferris State.

Because the award itself is a forgone conclusion, more of the excitement is focused on the other two spots in the Hobey Hat Trick.

It is important to note that two of the other schools in this year’s Frozen Four have Hobey finalists (Minnesota and Union), and their performances over the past two weekends might sway voters in their favor.

Minnesota sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament but rebounded in the NCAA West Regional (St. Paul, MN). Wilcox stopped 46 of 49 shots on the weekend in victories over Robert Morris and St. Cloud State and posted a shutout in the regional final that propelled the Maroon and Gold to the Frozen Four. The second year netminder from South Saint Paul brings a record of 25-5-6 to Philadelphia with a 1.89 goals-against average of and a save percentage of .934 with four shutouts. Another factor in his favor is that Minnesota has been at or near the top of the polls all season, and Wilcox has carried the load, playing over ninety percent of his team’s minutes between the pipes.

I’ve got Wilcox in my Hobey Hat Trick.

The case is a bit murkier for Union junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. He’s been everything for the Dutchmen this season, but he’s more steady than flashy and he only added one assist in four playoff games since the ten finalists were announced. The assistant captain now has eight goals and 21 assists this season, and he didn’t make a jump offensively from his sophomore season. I’d love to see Gostisbehere rewarded for leading his team to 30 victories (the highest win total in program history) and Union’s second appearance in the Frozen Four, but I just don’t see it.

So who will be the third member of the prestigious Hobey Hat Trick?

I don’t see another goaltender making the cut, particularly since Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel and Ferris State’s C.J. Motte were both outplayed in the Midwest Regional by North Dakota’s Zane Gothberg.

And I’m not about to put Nic Dowd or Ryan Dzingel in my top three if I didn’t have either of them in my original list of ten. For better or worse, that’s how I feel.

So that leaves us with the following list:

Josh Archibald, junior forward, Nebraska-Omaha
29 goals, 14 assists (43 points) in 37 games (1.16 points/game)

Greg Carey, senior forward, St. Lawrence
18 goals, 39 assists (57 points) in 38 games (1.50 points/game)

Kevin Hayes, senior forward, Boston College
27 goals, 36 assists (63 points) in 39 games (1.62 points/game)

Josh Archibald played his last college game on March 15th, signing a pro contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins . His 29 goals were third best in the nation this season, but the Mavericks’ lack of success in the postseason and his relatively low point total (18th in the country) hurt Archibald’s chances.

Greg Carey’s Saints also played their final game of the season on March 15th, and ended the year at 15-19-4. Carey’s 39 assists are the second-most in the country (behind only Gaudreau), but he was held off the score sheet six times in his last 13 games and, in my opinion, didn’t do enough down the stretch (only 12 points combined in February and March) to make a run at the top three.

And that brings us to Kevin Hayes. The senior Eagle solidified his Hobey resume with seven points (three goals, four assists) in two NCAA regional games last weekend. Of course, it’s the age-old question of whether Hayes is benefitting from Gaudreau’s incredible skill (and the answer is yes, he is), but Hayes also makes Johnny Hockey better. The 6-3, 205 pound right winger from Dorchester, Massachusetts (seven miles from BC’s campus) creates space for his smaller, quicker linemate.

Hayes has six game winning goals on the season, compared to just one for Greg Carey. The Eagles have played the sixth-toughest schedule in the country, compared to Nebraska-Omaha at 13 and St. Lawrence at 18. And Hayes’ development has been nothing short of phenomenal. After tallying 17 goals in 102 games over his first three seasons in Chestnut Hill, he’s lit the lamp 27 times in 39 games this year.

It’s been five years since teammates appeared together in the Hobey Hat Trick (Boston University’s Colin Wilson and Matt Gilroy in 2009), but I think that this is another one of those years. The award will go to Johnny Gaudreau, with Adam Wilcox and linemate Kevin Hayes sitting right there with him.

So there’s my Hobey Hat Trick: Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, and Adam Wilcox.

Four Minnesota players have won the award (Neil Broten in 1981, Robb Stauber in 1988, Brian Bonin in 1996, and Jordan Leopold in 2002), while two Boston College players (David Emma in 1991 and Mike Mottau in 2000) have done the same.

And as always, I encourage everyone to read about the original Hobey Baker, hockey player and war hero.

Who ya got?

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