Last week over on TCHB I took a look at 5 darkhorse candidates for the award, but today I’m unveiling my preseason top 5. These are NOT who I think are the five best players, or the five most talented players. It is merely based on the likelihood that they will take home the award next spring.
5. Louie Caporusso, Sr, Michigan
The CCHA is a very defensive conference, but don’t tell Michigan. The Wolverines had the 12th best scoring team in the country last year, and return almost all of their firepower this season. Caporusso tied for the league lead in goals with 21 last year, and is the leading returner in goals per game. With Michigan a likely top 5 team, Caporusso will benefit from getting to play with great teammates and some publicity increase due to playing for a program like Michigan. Caporusso’s teammate Carl Hagelin is also a preseason favorite, but Hobey voters love goals and I think Caporusso will score more goals this season.
4. Justin Fontaine, Sr, Minnesota-Duluth
Fontaine was part of a great scoring trio for the Bulldogs last year, and with the Bulldogs likely to put up huge scoring totals again, expect Fontaine in the Hobey mix. Fontaine’s 21 goals were tied for 4th in the WCHA last year, and he is the leading returning goal scorer in the conference. The undrafted Fontaine could add a Hobey Baker Award to his list of credentials, and cash in on a big payday on his way to NHL success.
3. Brad Eidsness, Jr, North Dakota
Our first and only goalie on the list, I’m going perhaps a bit out on a limb with Eidsness. His GAA was a nice 2.11 last year, but his save percentage was only .914. However, I think both of these numbers will shoot up (or down I guess) this year. With Chay Genoway, Ben Blood, Derrick LaPoint, Jake Marto, Andrew MacWilliam and Derek Forbort manning the blueline, the Sioux have the best defensive corps in the country. If you look at their shot charts (which I wish I could link to) from their run to the WCHA playoff title, the Sioux allowed very few shots in close. Eidsness isn’t the type of goalie to steal a game, and he won’t need to (which could hurt his candidacy a bit), but he is very good at making the saves he needs to. He’s struggled with rebound control a bit over the course of his career, but North Dakota’s defensemen are good enough to get rid of a lot of those.
2. Cam Atkinson, Jr, Boston College
Atkinson had one of the quietest 30 goal seasons I’ve ever seen last year. He had 8 goals in 8 playoff games last year, including 2 in the national title game. Atkinson ended up 4th in the country in goals per game, and he has a good chance to lead the country in that category with most of BC’s top talent back and some bad teams at the bottom of Hockey East for him to pad his stats against.
Much like many of the great BC forwards (ie Stephen Collins, Brian Gionta and Nate Gerbe), Atkinson isn’t very big. But he is fast, skilled and one of the best players in the country.
1. Gustav Nyquist, Jr, Maine
No surprise here. Nyquist led the nation with 1.56 points per game and 61 points last year. The Black Bears were phenomenal on the power play last year (27.7%, 1st nationally) which helped Nyquist put up some of those high totals. Nyquist isn’t the most physical player on the ice but he makes up for it by being extremely smart and has a great work ethic on the ice. Nyquist is also a very good two way player who backchecks and is responsible in his end of the ice. He may not score many goals but he has really developed into a great college talent and as of right now is my favorite to win the Hobey.