NCAA Prospects Notebook, March, 2016: Hobey Hat Trick finalists, end of season awards, and NHL signings

By DJ Powers
Jimmy Vesey - Harvard University

Photo: Harvard University forward Jimmy Vesey has completed his senior season with the Crimson, one in which he has received a second consecutive Hobey Hat Trick nomination as one of the finalists for college hockey’s top individual award (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)

 

 

The final full month of the 2015-16 college hockey season is in the books, with only the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four remaining on the schedule. With season’s end comes the presentation of major awards, as well as the end of college hockey careers for a number of seniors and players signing with NHL clubs.

Hockey’s Future looks back at some of the memorable moments and news involving collegiate prospects from the month of March. Unless otherwise noted all stats are current as of Mar. 31.

Three prospects comprise Hobey Hat Trick

University of Michigan freshman winger Kyle Connor (WPG), Boston College junior goaltender Thatcher Demko (VAN) and Harvard University senior winger Jimmy Vesey comprise this year’s Hobey Hat Trick, the top three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Connor, the Big Ten Player and Rookie of the Year, is coming off a sensational freshman campaign where he led the nation in both goals (35) and points (71) as a member of Michigan’s prolific “CCM” line. The Shelby Township, MI native could potentially become the second straight freshman to win both the Hobey Baker and National Rookie of the Year honors. Former Boston University standout and current Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel accomplished the feat last year.

Demko, the Hockey East Co-Player of the Year, backstopped Boston College to their first Frozen Four appearance since 2014. He is the first California native since Colorado College’s Brett Sterling in 2005 to be named to the Hobey Hat Trick. Demko currently sports a 27-7-4 record that includes an NCAA-best 10 shutouts in 38 games. From Oct. 16th to Nov. 8th, the San Diego, CA native posted an astounding six shutouts in seven games during that stretch.

Vesey is the only repeat Hobey Hat Trick finalist of the group, having accomplished the feat last year. The North Reading, MA native was named both the ECAC and Ivy League Player of the Year, leading the Crimson to another NCAA Tournament appearance this season. Vesey finished his final collegiate season leading Harvard in both goals (24) and points (46). He was also recently named the recipient of the Walter Brown Award for the second consecutive year as the top American-born player playing at a New England-based school. Although Vesey’s collegiate career has come to an end, he has yet to sign with the Nashville Predators, who hold his NHL rights. Vesey has notified the Predators that he does not intend to sign with them. Should Vesey remained unsigned by Nashville through Aug. 15th, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

Handing out the hardware

Numerous NHL collegiate prospects were recognized for their excellent seasons in March with top individual conference awards.

Yale senior defenseman Rob O’Gara took home the ECAC Defensive Defenseman of the Year honor and was one of three players that were unanimous selections to the All-Ivy League First Team. O’Gara, who recently signed with the Boston Bruins, was one of the nation’s best all-around rearguards. He finished his final season co-leading all Bulldogs defensemen with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 30 games.

Frozen Four-bound Boston College had three players recognized by Hockey East. In addition to Demko, freshman Colin White (OTT) was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year while junior Steve Santini (NJD) was named the conference’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year.

White is in the midst of a stellar freshman campaign where he currently ranks fourth nationally in rookie scoring with 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) in 32 games to date. Earlier in the season, White helped guide Team USA to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship, posting seven points (three goals, four assists) in seven games.

Santini, one of the most improved defensive prospects in the NCAA this season, has been a rock on the Eagles blueline. The Mahopac, NY native has amassed 19 points (one goal, 18 assists) playing in all 40 games to date. His 18 assists rank second amongst all Boston College defensemen.

Dynamic University of North Dakota freshman Brock Boeser (VAN) was named the NCHC Rookie of the Year. The Burnsville, MN native is currently tied for second among all rookies nationally with 46 points (26 goals, 20 assists) in 36 games. He also leads the nation’s freshmen with a whopping +33 rating. Boeser, a member of North Dakota’s lethal “CBS” line, has been one of the nation’s most consistent point-producing rookies this season.

Miami University senior Sean Kuraly was named the NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year. The Dublin, OH native was one of the bright spots on a RedHawks team that struggled to find consistency this season. Kuraly, who recently signed with the Boston Bruins, finished his final season leading Miami with 17 assists and ranking fourth with 23 points in 36 games.

Michigan Tech senior netminder Jamie Phillips (WPG) was named the recipient of the WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year honor. The Caledonia, ON native backstopped the Huskies to a share of the WCHA regular season title and finishes his stellar senior campaign with a 23-8-5 record that includes three shutouts in 36 appearances. In addition to excelling on the ice this season, Phillips also excelled in the classroom. He sports a 3.52 GPA and will graduate later this spring with a degree in Exercise Science.

Ducks prospect helps propel Denver to the Frozen Four

Freshman Troy Terry (ANA) isn’t a part of the University of Denver’s electrifying “Pacific Rim” line but he has been a significant contributor throughout the season, paying big dividends in the Pioneers success. The Denver, CO native plays on Denver’s terrific second line alongside senior Quentin Shore (OTT) and junior Evan Janssen. But, as good as Terry was during the regular season, he has been even better in the postseason where he has posted five points (all assists) so far in the NCAA Tournament and is among the tournament scoring leaders heading into the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four.

Werenski heads list of notable early departures

So far this spring, a number of NHL prospects have opted to forego the remainder of their collegiate eligibility to sign with the teams that hold their NHL rights. The following are some of the notable early departures.

Michigan sophomore and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Zack Werenski heads the group. The Grosse Pointe, MI native signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Mar. 29th. He helped guide the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title and a return to the NCAA Tournament. Werenski, who also helped guide Team USA to a bronze medal at the recent 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, finishes his final season leading all NHL-drafted defensemen with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 36 games.

Werenski was one of two non-graduating Wolverines to turn pro on Mar. 29th. The other was junior Michael Downing, who signed with the Florida Panthers. The hard-hitting rearguard from Canton, MI finishes his final season with 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) in 35 games. He also led Michigan with 66 penalty minutes. His +20 rating finished second among all Big Ten defensemen.

University of Nebraska-Omaha junior Jake Guentzel opted to forego his senior season to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Mar. 22nd. The Woodbury, MN native is coming off a stellar junior campaign where he led the Mavericks in a number of categories including assists (27), points (46) and plus/minus (+6) en route to earning a spot on the All-NCHC Second Team. Guentzel was especially lethal on Nebraska-Omaha’s special teams. Of his 19 goals, eight came on special teams – five on the power play and three shorthanded.

Juniors Eamon McAdam and Kyle Schempp opted to forego their final collegiate eligibility to sign with the New York Islanders.

McAdam signed with the Islanders on Mar. 23rd after backstopping Penn State University to a strong third place finish in the Big Ten. The Perkasie, PA native was one of the most improved drafted goaltenders in the NCAA this season, finishing with an excellent 13-8-1 record that included one shutout in 22 appearances. McAdam capped his final season with a spot on the Big Ten All-Second Team.

Schempp was a key cog in Ferris State’s remarkable postseason run that was ended at the hands of Denver in the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional final. On Mar. 29th, two days after the Bulldogs season ended, Schempp signed with the Islanders. He finishes his final season with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 41 games for Ferris State. One area where Schempp really excelled this season was on faceoffs, where he won nearly 54 percent of his draws.

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