Columnists, Sports

The Blue Line: Hobey Baker

If you had asked me a month ago what I’d like writing about in March, I would’ve said with great confidence that I’d enjoy discussing the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But with Ohio State University, the University of Syracuse, Oklahoma State University, the University of Kansas, Wichita State University and Duke University all eliminated from the tournament early, my bracket currently sits in the 28th percentile nationally. Quite literally, I despise the thought of the tournament right now.

In fact, I never want to talk about March Madness ever again. Ever. Until next year, of course, when I’ll try convincing everyone my bracket is better than his or hers. My submission to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge this year is the most pathetic excuse for a bracket I have ever mustered.

In other news, the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award in college hockey were announced. The group selected consists of University of Nebraska-Omaha forward Josh Archibald, St. Lawrence University forward Greg Carey, St. Cloud State University forward Nic Dowd, Oho State forward Ryan Dzingel, Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau, Union College defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, BC forward Kevin Hayes, Ferris State University goalie CJ Motte, University of Wisconsin netiminder Joel Rumpel and University of Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox.

As of Monday night, Gostisbehere led the voting, but I doubt he will stay ahead for long.

Gaudreau led the NCAA this year with 69 points (32 goals, 37 assists) in just 37 games played. His 31-game point streak tied NHL and University of Maine star Paul Kariya’s of the 1992-93 season for the longest in Hockey East history. Gaudreau earned the nickname “Johnny Hockey” for his overall presence on the ice and his effort shift-after-shift.

After BC got thumped 7-2 by the University of Notre Dame in the first game of the Hockey East Tournament quarterfinal round, Gaudreau led BC to victory in the second contest. He, along with Bill Arnold and Hobey Baker finalist Hayes, accounted for nine points. Gaudreau could not lead his team to victory in game three, though, as he saw his point streak come to an end. Even with the playoff loss, I would be surprised if Gaudreau does not win the Hobey Baker this year after his incredible season.

In his own conference, Gaudreau dominated the competition, scoring 1.80 points and .90 goals per game. Overall, he notched 38 points in just 20 games in the conference, five coming against BU. To say the least, he is a dominate force that deserves to win the coveted award in 2014.

Some, including Gaudreau, Wilcox and Gostisbehere have already been drafted by teams in the NHL, with Gaudreau and Wilcox being taken in the same 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After being named a finalist award, many would think that these players, especially Gaudreau, will achieve greatness at the professional level. Based on the performance of some previous players, this point seems valid.

Some notable Hobey Baker Award winners include St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller of Michigan State University, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant captain Matt Carle from the University of Denver, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold from the University of Minnesota and former New York Rangers captain Chris Drury from here at Boston University.

Even though many great players in the NHL have won the award in college, winning the award does not guarantee success at the next level of hockey. Sometimes, players will even fall into obscurity after winning the award. Last year’s Hobey Baker award winner — St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc — went undrafted due to injury; he was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks, but has only played two games.

Ryan Duncan won the award with the University of North Dakota in 2007, but has not played a single game in the NHL. He went undrafted, signed an Amateur Tryout Contract with the New York Islanders and played just two games with their AHL affiliate. He now plays in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) for the EHC München.

Boston University’s most recent Hobey Baker winner, Matt Gilroy, won the Hobey Baker as his Terriers won the National Championship in 2009. He led all defensemen in the Hockey East in scoring, and ranked third nationally among defensemen during the 2008-09 season. He has yet to prove his worth in the NHL, however, and has already played with three teams in just four seasons in the NHL.

So, to conclude, I’m not sure how well Gaudreau, Gostisbehere or Wilcox will do in the NHL. They may not even play a single game at the top level. I expect them to be the stars of tomorrow, especially Gaudreau, who is simply sensational to watch. Then again, LeBlanc, Duncan and Gilroy were superstars in college, too. So, we will just have to wait and see what happens with this year’s Hobey Baker finalists.

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