The NCAA season officially begins this coming weekend, unless you're in the ECAC Conference which doesn't start until the end of the month. I've been looking ahead to the season and wondering if I might be able to correctly predict this year's eventual Hobey Baker winner.
Probably not but I'm going to offer up my top 5 list, and realistically this could have been a top 10 list so I'll toss out some honorable mentions as well. So without further adieu, here is my list of Top Hobey Baker Candidates for 2009-10.
10) Andrew Volkening (Air Force) - The senior has enjoyed three straight seasons of diminishing GAA with rising save and winning percentages. The Falcons were a hair away from the Frozen Four last year so 2009-10 is a chance to address some unfinished business. A goalie hasn't won the award since Ryan Miller in 2001.
9) Garret Roe (St. Cloud) - He's small but the Los Angeles Kings still him couldn't resist him after the 5'9 forward put up a 45-point freshman campaign. The Kings drafted Roe (pictured) in the 7th round of 2008 and he responded with 48 points last year for the Huskies.
8) Ian Cole (Notre Dame) - Property of the St. Louis Blues, Cole is a terrific rearguard for the Fighting Irish. Not flashy and certainly not a pure offensive minded player, Cole's 26 points last season stand as a career high. There is no reason to think he can't eclipse that as he enters his junior year.
7) Patrick Wiercioch (Denver) - 35 points last year as a freshman has vaulted the former BCHL blueliner to star status in the NCAA. He'll surely take part on Canada's WJC camp again this December and it won't surprise anyone if he makes the club this year. Wiercioch was a 2nd round pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2008.
6) Rhett Rakhshani (Denver) - There were two Boston University Terriers in the final three last year so seeing a pair of Pioneers on my list shouldn't be that big of a surprise. The Islanders prospect posted a career high 37 points last year and will look to finish of his NCAA career in dramatic fashion this season. He opened the schedule with a 3-point exhibition game against the University of Calgary.
And the Top 5 are...
5) Jacques Lamoureux (Air Force) - A weak Conference should help pad some Falcons stat lines but Lamoureux is without running mate Brent Olson as well as graduated defenceman Greg Flynn. The trio finished in sequence a top Air force scoring in 2008-09. Still, he was a finalist last season and if he can somehow increase his 53 point junior output then we might see him back in the mix again. Easier said than done considering the Falcons won't be taken lightly by anyone this year and Lamoureux in particular will be a player that other teams will focus their defensive strategy around.
4) Riley Nash (Cornell) - I was speaking with a contact in the WCHA and asked him for his thoughts on Hobey Baker candidates this year and he not only said Big Red forward Riley Nash might be 'in the mix' but that he was his choice to actually win the award. The ECAC's short schedule might seem like a disadvantage since lower point totals should reasonably be expected. However, Nash has been a scoring leader for Cornell through two seasons and plans to take his game to another level this coming year. Edmonton drafted Nash in the 1st round back in 2007 while he was still playing in the BCHL with Salmon Arm.
3) Jordan Schroeder (Minnesota) - The Golden Gophers look to rebound from a substandard year and the newest Vancouver Canucks 1st round pick is expected to be a big part of whether those plans come to fruition or not. His 45 point freshman campaign has set the bar high for Schroeder who was taken 22nd overall by Vancouver in the draft. The Gophers forward has experience at the WJC and has represented the U.S. several times on the international stage. There were rumors that he was ready to leave to join Vancouver of the NHL but those stories quickly disappeared once it became obvious that he wasn't leaving the NCAA.
2) Louie Caporusso (Michigan) - The Wolverines are an annual powerhouse in the CCHA despite also having a constantly revolving roster. When Andrew Cogliano left for the Edmonton Oilers, his timely replacement was another former St. Mike's Buzzers forward from Toronto - Louis Caporusso. The Ottawa Senators selected the forward in the 3rd round in 2007 while he was still playing Junior A in Canada (like Cogliano) the season before his NCAA career at Michigan began. Since joining the Maize and Blue, Caporusso has become a scoring machine striking for 49 points last year as a sophomore and, like with Schroeder, expectations are very high that he'll continue on his torrid pace as a junior.
1) Carter Camper (Miami) - Earlier this summer I went on the record with my prediction for the Hobey and I've decided to stick to my guns. Camper has scored 41 and 42 points for the RedHawks the past two seasons and will be expected to lead Miami back to a national title game again this season. Despite being undersized like Schroeder, Caporusso, Roe and Rakhshani, Camper is the only one of the group who went un-drafted and is still not property of a NHL team. The 21-year-old is an Ohio native that played one season in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars where he compiled an impressive 71 points in 56 games. I've asked several different scouts, media and coaches about Camper and to a man (or woman) the player gets a positive review. Might a pro contract and a Hobey Baker award await Carter Camper at the end of the year? At this point, that's my bet.
(Photo credits: USCHO.com, Michigan Wolverines)