Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top 5 Tuesday: Hobey Baker Candidates

On Thursday the NCAA will unveil the 10 players voted into the second stage of contention for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in U.S. college hockey. The initial 71-man list was open to public vote through to March 7th. "Phase two of fan balloting will then begin on March 19th from the list of Top Ten Hobey Baker finalists. The fans’ vote accounts for a full 1% of the total ballot in each phase in selecting this year’s award recipient."

I suspect that my pre-season Hobey candidate list won't hold up, several of the players I predicted to be in contention actually had worse years than the previous season. Still, at least one guy is on my new top 5 list and I stand by my thoughts on the others... they failed to play to their potential this year, not me!

Here are my top 5 choices for guys who will be on Thursday's Hobey Baker list...

First, my honorable mentions list:

Stephane Da Costa (Merrimack) - The Frenchman had an impressive year with the Warriors and he's now too old for the NHL Draft. I've talked to scouts who think he'll be signed before next year, and maybe sooner as opposed to later.

Bobby Butler (New Hampshire) - The senior scored 27 goals and hit the 50-point plateau in his final year with the Wildcats. Surely someone will sign him to an entry level deal.

Chase Polacek (RPI) - The junior at Rensselaer went 26-26-52 for the Engineers and helped along freshmen like Jerry D'Amigo and Brandon Pirri.

Brendan Smith (Wisconsin) - Led all NCAA defencemen in scoring with 44 points. The Detroit prospect had a massive year in terms of personal growth after briefly considering his future with the Badgers last year.

Cody Reichard (Miami) - The RedHawks goalie currently holds down the best GAA in NCAA hockey, an eye-popping 1.64 after 24 games. His 18-3-3 record is pretty darn good too.

5. Rhett Rakhshani - Denver Pioneers

I had him 6th on my list back in early October and he's the one guy who didn't let me down. The senior sits tied for 7th overall in NCAA scoring with 49 points in 38 games and he's the top point getter in the WCHA Conference, setting new career highs in every offensive category. The New York Islanders 2006 4th round selection has recorded a point in 11 of his last 13 games, collecting 18 points over that time span. (Photo: DU Athletics)

4. James Marcou - Massachusetts Minutemen

This un-drafted Junior is on the radar for a few NHL teams thanks to another strong season with the Minutemen of Massachusetts. Marcou's 51 points is 5th highest in the entire NCAA and second most of any player in the Hockey East Conference. The King Park, NY native has 40 assists through 36 games and according to the official Hockey East website "his 51 points ranks 4th all-time at UMass for a single-season and is the program’s Modern Era Division I record. His 96 career assists is the program’s all-time career record." (Photo: Hockey East Online)

3. Corey Tropp - Michigan State Spartans

Few teams enjoyed the turn around season that Michigan State did this past year. In fact, while many perennial favorites struggled, the Spartans did the complete opposite improving from a 10-23-5 record to 19-13-6. One of the best stories to come out of college hockey this year, in my opinion, was the redemption of Corey Tropp. The Buffalo Sabres prospect ended the 2008-09 campaign in disgrace, suspended for his role in the on-ice assault of Michigan forward Steven Kampfer. This year Tropp returned to MSU seemingly on a personal mission to wipe his own slate clean. His 42 points represent a career high for the junior and all those we've spoken with talk about his evolution as a player and as a person over the course of the last 18 months. (Photo: MSU Athletics)

2. Gustav Nyquist - Maine Black Bears

The Swedish import would follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Viktor Stalberg who was on Hobey's radar last March. Like Stalberg, Nyquist dominated Hockey East this year posting a NCAA high 59 points through 37 games. The Maine Black Bears have a chance to continue through Conference playoffs to qualify for the NCAA tournament and their success largely depends on the continued performance of their top scorer. Nyquist is a Detroit Red Wings draft pick who is currently in his sophomore year at Maine. (Photo: Dennis Pause)

1. Marc Cheverie - Denver Pioneers

Posting a 24-4-3 record with a .937 SV% and 1.94 GAA is a remarkable accomplishment for any goaltender in any league. To do it in the WCHA Conference, which this year is clearly the strongest in NCAA hockey, is another thing all together. The product of Cole Harbour Nova Scotia is without a doubt the top netminder in the NCAA this season and a major reason why the Pioneers are ranked #1. The Florida Panthers have one of the top goalie prospects in the world with Swedish netminder Jacob Markstrom but Cheverie's development since he was chosen in the 7th round of the 2006 NHL Draft has been extremely encouraging. He is a junior at Denver so the Pioneers are likely going to be able to count on having their marquee player back for another season. (Photo: DU Athletics)

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