On Friday NCAA Hockey’s most prestigious award was handed
out. The Hobey Baker Award annually recognizes the
player who displays exemplary talent, sportsmanship, integrity, academic
achievement and strength of character both on and off the ice. Many of the past
recipients of the prestigious award have gone on to have professional playing
careers in the National Hockey League. Among them: Chris Drury (Boston
University), Paul Kariya (University of Maine),
Brendan Morrison (University of Michigan) and Neal Broten
(University of Minnesota) who was the award’s very first recipient in 1981.
On Friday, University of Minnesota-Duluth senior forward Junior Lessard
was named the recipient of the 2004 Hobey Baker
was the only candidate among the three finalists that included now former Brown
University Goaltender Yann Danis and
now former University of North Dakota centerman Zach Parise
still playing collegiate hockey after the “Hobey Hat Hat Trick” (three finalists) was announced. Danis and Parise signed
professional contracts before March 31st.
currently leads the nation in scoring with 63 points (32 goals, 31 assists).
His 32 goals, which also include 14 power play goals, also lead the nation in
both respective categories. His 31 assists tie him for sixth in the nation. He
also ranks fourth in the nation in points per game with 1.40. Lessard, an All-American West First Team selection, has
been one of the catalysts in the success of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs this
came into the 2003-04 season with a whole new outlook on life after nearly
losing his life in August of 2003. A fierce riptide in
shore including Lessard, teammate Evan Schwabe
and their girlfriends. Schwabe somehow made it back
to shore to get help. A good samaritan answered Schwabe’s call for help. After pulling out the players’
girlfriends, the rescuer retrieved the nearly unconscious Lessard,
who was barely clinging to life. The rescuer pulled Lessard’s
body to shore and he was then taken to a nearby hospital. Lessard’s
recovery took several weeks, but by then everything had changed.
The native of
has become not only the heart and soul of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs this
season, but has also become its consummate team player. Lessard
is a player who leads by example and possesses a great work ethic coupled with
a competitive nature. He has made great strides in improving his overall game
in each of his four years with Minnesota-Duluth. He possesses great hands,
scoring ability and hockey smarts. Lessard is an
excellent player both around the net and along the boards. He appears bigger
than his 6’1”/195 frame and has tremendous strength,
especially evident when protecting the puck. Perhaps the weakest part of Lessard’s game is his speed. While he is a good skater, he
isn’t necessarily the fastest guy on the ice.
In addition to winning the Hobey
Baker Award, Lessard was also named WCHA Player of
the Year and US College Hockey Online (USCHO) Player of the Year. With Lessard’s achievements and his team’s appearance in the
Frozen Four, comes the attention of many NHL scouts. Several NHL teams are
reported to have a great interest in signing the Minnesota-Duluth sensation,
but only one will be fortunate enough to land this exceptional individual.