Ten finalists for 2007 Hobey Baker award

By DJ Powers

On Mar. 15, the ten finalists for the 2007 Hobey Baker Award were named. Seven of the ten finalists are drafted by NHL teams. This year’s finalists for college hockey’s most prestigious individual award are comprised of one defenseman, three goaltenders, and seven forwards. The CCHA has the most players of any conference with four, followed by the ECACHL and WCHA with two each, and one each from Atlantic Hockey and Hockey East. Six of the 10 finalists are seniors, while three are juniors and one is a sophomore.

The recipient of the 27th Annual Hobey Baker Award will be announced on April 6 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO during the 2007 Frozen Four.

Below is a closer look at finalists in alphabetical order by last name (all stats listed are current as of Mar. 25).

Drew Bagnall, D

Senior, St. Lawrence University
NHL Rights: Florida Panthers

St. Lawrence senior Drew Bagnall is the lone defenseman named as a Hobey Baker finalist this year after guiding the Saints to an ECACHL regular season title. The St. Lawrence team captain was also recently named the ECACHL Player of the Year and the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Defenseman. Bagnall became just the eighth defenseman in ECACHL history to be named the league’s Player of the Year. He also the second consecutive St. Lawrence player to win the award after forward T.J. Trevelyan did it last season.

The Oakbank, MB native led all St. Lawrence defensemen in scoring with 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) and leads the team in plus/minus (+10). Of his six goals, five came on the power play. His 25 points are the best of his career.

Bagnall’s contributions to the Saints this season go much deeper than just his 25 points. His strong leadership and steadying presence helped to solidify a predominantly young but talented defensive corps. Bagnall is amongst the team leaders in ice time, averaging roughly 25 minutes per game, and plays in a variety of situations.

The Dallas Stars originally drafted Bagnall in 2003 (sixth round, 195th overall). His NHL rights were traded to the Florida Panthers on March 4, 2004 as part of the Valeri Bure deal.

David Brown, G

Senior, University of Notre Dame
NHL Rights: Pittsburgh Penguins

One of the best stories to emerge this season has been the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s stingy defense has helped propel the team to claim both their first ever CCHA regular season and Mason Cup Championships in the program’s history as well as coming within one game of advancing to the Frozen Four.

The man backstopping the great Irish defense is senior David Brown. The Stony Creek, ONT native was recently named both the CCHA’s Player of the Year and Top Goaltender.  He currently leads the nation with 30 wins and a goals against average of 1.58. His six shutouts and .931 save percentage both rank tied for second in the nation. All are also new school single-season records as well.

Earlier in the year, Brown backstopped the Irish to win the inaugural Lightning College Hockey Classic when he posted a 2-0 shutout win over Air Force in the championship game back on Oct. 28 and in the process made it into the school record books with his seventh career shutout. He would go on to rewrite those same Notre Dame goaltending history books. His 12 shutouts, 2.67 goals against average and .910 save percentage are all new school career records.

In Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over Ferris State back on Feb. 24, Brown reached the 50-win mark. His 52 career wins ranks second all-time in school history. When Brown graduates this spring, he will leave South Bend as one of the most decorated players in the history of Notre Dame hockey.

John Curry, G

Senior, Boston University
NHL Rights: Undrafted

It’s been a banner final season for senior John Curry. The Shorewood, MN native was recently named the RBK/CCM Hockey East Player of the Year. He is the first Terrier since Chris Drury to win the honor. Curry was also named the ITECH Goaltending Champion after posting a sparkling 1.85 goals against average in league play. Last month, Curry took both the MVP and Eberly Award honors for his outstanding play in the Beanpot Tournament, backstopping the Terriers to successfully defend their crown with their 28th Beanpot Championship. Most recently, Curry was named the winner of the 55th annual Walter Brown Award, which is given to the top American-born player at a New England college.

Though the Terriers struggled offensively this season, they were one of the nation’s best defensive teams this season thanks in no small part to Curry. With Boston University’s 2006-07 season now complete, the senior netminder concludes his final year with a 17-10-8 record with a nation co-leading seven shutouts. Curry leaves Boston University with his name firmly etched in the program’s illustrious history books, tying the school career record for shutouts (13) and ranking third all time in wins (59).

Part of what makes Curry’s feats so impressive is the fact that he is a walk-on, meaning he is a non-scholarship athlete. In his rookie season, he played a grand total of 5:10 minutes. In the three years since, Curry has played over 6,100 minutes.

Nathan Davis, C

Junior, Miami University
NHL Rights: Chicago Blackhawks

The Miami RedHawks headed back to the NCAA Tournament again this year thanks in no small part to the sensational performance of junior Nathan Davis. The Rocky River, OH native has been one of the nation’s most consistent players throughout the first half. What makes it even more remarkable is that Davis’ consistent play has been in virtually all situations and in all three zones of the ice.

In Miami’s 42 games this season, Davis had registered at least a point in 27 of them. He currently ranks tied for seventh in the nation in scoring with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists). He was named the CCHA’s Player of the Month for October after posting a league-best 14 points (nine goals, five assists) while guiding the RedHawks to the top of the conference standings. Davis was recently honored by the CCHA when he was selected to the All-Conference Second Team.

As good as Davis has been in even strength situations, he has been even better on special teams. Of his 21 goals, eight have come on the power play and three have come short-handed.

Ryan Duncan, F

Sophomore, University of North Dakota
NHL Rights: Undrafted

Though he hasn’t garnered nearly the attention that his linemates T.J. Oshie (STL) and Jonathan Toews (CHI) have outside of the college hockey world, Ryan Duncan has far and away been the most consistent of three players all year long. The diminutive winger is the lone underclassman named as a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this year. He is also the first North Dakota player to be named a finalist since Zach Parise and Brandon Bochenski were back in 2004.

Duncan recently captured the WCHA Player of the Year honor after leading the conference in overall scoring with 51 points (29 goals, 22 assists). His 29 goals, 16 power play goals and eight game-winners also led the WCHA. He currently ranks fourth in the nation in scoring with 57 points (31 goals, 26 assists) and is sixth in the nation in points per game (1.36). His 31 goals and 17 power-play goals both rank second in the nation. With North Dakota heading to the Frozen Four next week, Duncan could become the third player to hit the 60-point mark this season.

While some may view Duncan’s 5’6 frame as a potential deterrent to NHL team interest in him, it is difficult to ignore the many outstanding qualities that he brings to the table. His remarkably consistent point production combined with his speed, superb on-ice vision and playmaking ability are just some of the invaluable assets that Duncan has brought to his North Dakota team that have been so crucial to the team’s success.

Eric Ehn, C

Junior, Air Force Academy
NHL Rights: Undrafted

Air Force junior Eric Ehn is perhaps the least known of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, but he has taken the college hockey world by storm this season. The Dexter, MI native was instrumental in helping to guide the Falcons to their first ever Atlantic Hockey Championship and bid into the NCAA Tournament after moving over from the CHA. He was recently named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the All-Conference First Team.

Ehn currently ranks second in the nation with 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists), as well as in points per game (1.60) and plus/minus (+28). Ehn has been one of the nation’s most consistent point-producers this season. In 40 games this season, he has posted points in 30 of them, including 17 multi-point games.

Ehn is the first ever player from not only the Air Force Academy but from either of the U.S. military academies to be named as a Hobey Baker finalist. In addition, he is the just fourth player outside of the four major conferences and the first in two years to be chosen as a finalist.

Ehn’s 64 points and 40 assists are the most by a Falcons player in three decades. He also set a new Atlantic Hockey single-season record with 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) in conference play.

Bobby Goepfert, G

Senior, St. Cloud State University
NHL Rights: Pittsburgh Penguins

Senior goaltender Bobby Goepfert backstopped St. Cloud State to their best regular season finish ever in WCHA play, finishing second overall. He was also instrumental in helping to guide the Huskies to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. Recently, Goepfert was named to the WCHA All-Conference First Team for the second year in a row after posting a conference-best .932 save percentage and the conference’s second-best 2.08 goals against average. The Kings Park, NY native finished his final season with a 17-10-7 record that included three shutouts in 35 appearances. He also finished with three points (all assists), which ranks amongst the most in points by a goaltender.

Goepfert was the backbone of a St. Cloud State defense that held their opponents to an average of 2.48 goals per game, which ranks 11th in the nation, this season. Part of what made Goepfert so valuable to his team was his ability to stop the tremendous number of shots he faced in a given game. Though he plays for on one of the nation’s top defensive teams, Goepfert was also one of the nation’s busiest, facing an average of 31.1 shots per game, thus making his save percentage all the more impressive.

Another attribute that helped establish Goepfert as one of the nation’s finest netminders is his ability to steal games and step up in big matches. While he wasn’t able to accomplish that in post-season play, he was able to do that throughout the regular season. One of the best examples of that came in the Huskies four meetings with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, where he helped lead St. Cloud State to a 2-0-2 record against the maroon and gold this season.

T.J. Hensick, C

Senior, University of Michigan
NHL Rights: Colorado Avalanche

With the University of Michigan having recently concluded their 2006-07 season, one of the players that they will bid a fond farewell to will be senior T.J. Hensick. The Howell, MI native will leave Ann Arbor as the most decorated Wolverine in a decade and one of the greatest to ever don the maize and blue. Hensick currently leads the nation in scoring with 69 points (21 goals, 46 assists) and points per game (1.68). Though there are still four teams still playing in what is left of the 2006-07 season, it is unlikely that any of those teams’ players will tie or surpass Hensick’s point total. One of Hensick’s most remarkable stats this season is how few games he was held pointless. Of the 41 games that he appeared in, Hensick was held without a point in only nine of them and never went more than two games without a point. Recently, he was named to the CCHA All-Conference First Team. This was Hensick’s third All-First Team selection in his career, becoming just the seventh player in CCHA history to accomplish the feat.

Hensick leaves the collegiate ranks having also joined some elite company in the illustrious history of Michigan Wolverines hockey. He became just the 12th player in the program’s history and the first in a decade to reach the 200-point mark. His 138 career assists ranks tied for fourth all-time.

While his tremendous point production have helped guide the Michigan Wolverines to another NCAA Tournament appearance this season, it is some of the other lesser-discussed aspects of his game that are perhaps more noteworthy. Hensick’s strong leadership, vastly improved defensive side and ability to make those around him better have not only contributed to his team’s success but has also helped teammates such as junior Kevin Porter (PHO) and sophomore defenseman Jack Johnson (LA) to enjoy more offensively productive seasons as well.

David Jones, RW

Junior, Dartmouth College
NHL Rights: Colorado Avalanche

Dartmouth junior David Jones got off to a fast start this season and never looked back. The North Vancouver, BC native became the first player in Dartmouth hockey history to be named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. He was instrumental in helping to guide the Big Green to a share of the Ivy League title as well as a strong third place finish in the ECACHL. Jones finished the season leading the team with 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists). His 44 points are the most by a Big Green player since Lee Stempniak‘s 49 and Hugh Jessiman‘s 47 points back in the 2002-03 season. Jones’ outstanding season earned him numerous honors including unanimous selections as the Ivy League Player of the Year and to the ECACHL All-Conference First Team. Of Jones’ 44 points, 31 points came in ECACHL play, which led the conference.

In his three seasons at Dartmouth, Jones has steadily improved his point production with each year. While that may be the one area that most who do not follow the Big Green will focus on, it is only a glimpse into just how far Jones has emerged and matured as both an individual and player. His strong leadership and commitment have been key components in Dartmouth’s success this season. Jones’ continued development in areas such as defensive responsibility and creativity with the puck has enabled him to blossom into a more complete player that can be utilized in a variety of situations. And as good as Jones is now, the best is still yet to come.

Scott Parse, LW

Senior, University of Nebraska-Omaha
NHL Rights: Los Angeles Kings

When the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha resume play this fall, it certainly won’t be the same without Scott Parse. The Portage, MI native completed his collegiate career earlier this month and will leave Omaha as the greatest player that the program has ever produced. He is the only repeat Hobey Baker finalist this year. Parse capped his senior campaign leading the team for the fourth straight season with 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists). He holds nearly all school records by a forward including career points (197), goals (79), assists (118), power play goals (24) and career games played (159). Parse was recently selected to the CCHA All-Conference First Team for the third time in his career, becoming just the eighth player in CCHA history to accomplish the feat.

To fully understand and appreciate the player that Parse is, one needs to look far beyond his excellent statistical numbers. He has not only been the driving force behind the Mavericks team but has also set the standard by which all others have had to follow. He has always answered the call playing in a whatever situation he was needed in, including time on the Nebraska-Omaha blueline filling in for a depleted Mavericks defensive corps about midway through the season. Parse’s versatility and ability to adapt to any situation helped to not only make him a more prized asset to UNO, but could potentially do the same for his future team at the professional level as well. 

Update: Parse has signed an ATO contract with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins, affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.