Mid-season college prospects notebook

By DJ Powers

The second half of the 2009-10 season has just begun and the first half provided us with some fantastic performances and a few surprises. Here’s a look back. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Jan. 17.

Juniors lead the list of early Hobey hopefuls among NHL prospects

Marc Cheverie and Corey Tropp lead the list of potential early candidates for this year’s Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player.

Cheverie has been impressive between the pipes for the University of Denver this season and is a big reason why the Pioneers are currently the top-ranked team in the nation. The Florida Panthers prospect has posted numbers that have been consistently near or at the top of the nation all season. Cheverie currently leads the nation with five shutouts and co-leads the nation with 12 wins in 17 appearances. His 1.97 goals against average and .932 save percentage currently leads all NHL goaltending prospects playing in the NCAA as well.

What has been perhaps Cheverie’s most impressive feat is the fact that he has only allowed three or more goals in just four games to date, most recently against Boston College in the Wells Fargo Denver Cup on Jan. 2.

After a tumultuous 2008-09 season that led to a season-ending suspension, Michigan State forward Corey Tropp has emerged as one of college hockey’s best comeback stories this season. From the start of the season, the Buffalo Sabres prospect has been near or at the top of the national points standings. Tropp currently leads all collegiate NHL prospects and is tied for third in the nation in scoring with 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) playing in all 26 games. His 17 goals also co-leads the nation.

One distinction that Tropp holds is that he is the only collegiate player this season to post two hat tricks. The first came back on Oct. 16 at Maine and the other came on Dec. 12 versus Bowling Green.

A pair of Detroit prospects races up among scoring leaders

Junior Brendan Smith and sophomore Gustav Nyquist are bringing some smiles to the faces of the Red Wings fanbase these days. And both could be potential candidates for this year’s Hobey Baker award as well.

Smith is currently on pace to become the second consecutive Wisconsin Badger to be among the nation’s leaders in scoring among defensemen. The Mimico, Ontario native currently leads the nation in defenseman scoring with 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 21 games this season. Last season, Jamie McBain (CAR) finished the season tied for second in the nation with 37 points.

Swedish sophomore Gustav Nyquist has simply picked up where he left off last season for the Maine Black Bears. The Malmo native is on track to top the 40-point mark this season. He has already equaled his 32-point point output from last season with at 13 goals and 19 assists playing in all 22 games this season. Nyquist’s 32 points is currently second among all NHL prospects playing in the NCAA this season as well.

Sharks prospects among leaders in the CCHA

As great as junior Tommy Wingels was for the Miami RedHawks last season, he’s been even better this season thus far. The Wilmette, Illinois native leads the RedHawks in scoring with 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists), playing in all 24 games. Wingels has firmly established himself a clutch scorer. Wingels currently co-leads the nation with five game-winners and leads Miami with seven special teams tallies –- six power-play goals and one shorthanded goal.

Wingels’ most memorable game of the season came back on Dec. 11 at intra-state rival Ohio State, where he exploded for four goals and added an assist in Miami’s 6-0 win.

After taking a bit of dip in the month of November, the Lake Superior State Lakers enjoyed a strong finish to the first half of the season and have been able to carry it into the second half, thanks in large part to the stellar play of junior Brian Mahoney-Wilson. The West Roxbury, MA native is playing with a renewed sense of confidence this season and that has, in turn, helped the Lakers to swim up the CCHA standings. After losing to Alaska on Nov. 21, Mahoney-Wilson and his Lake Superior State have lost only once since. That came on Jan. 8 at Michigan State.

Mahoney-Wilson has played in 24 games thus far this season, posting a 12-7-4 record that includes two shutouts. His 12 wins are currently tied for most in the NCAA and his .917 save percentage is currently ranked 19th in the nation.

Atkinson’s consistency key in Eagles first half success

You can call him Mr. Consistency because sophomore Cam Atkinson has been that for Boston College thus far this season. Atkinson has been held scoreless only three times this season, the most recent coming at Denver in the Wells Fargo Denver Cup Tournament. He leads the Eagles with 13 goals and second on the team with 22 points playing in all 20 games. Where the Blue Jackets prospect has proven to be especially effective has been in faceoffs, where he has won nearly 60 percent of his draws. Atkinson has also been dangerous on the Eagles special teams as well. Of his 13 goals, five have come on special teams – four on the power play and one shorthanded.

‘Hawks prospect a strong candidate for ECAC Rookie of the Year

While his teammate Jerry D’Amigo (TOR) has been getting much of the attention of late, fellow RPI freshman Brandon Pirri isn’t doing too badly either. In fact, Pirri currently leads the nation in rookie scoring with 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) playing in all 24 games for the Engineers to date and is a strong candidate for this year’s ECAC Rookie of the Year.

Consistency has been a big key behind Pirri’s successful rookie campaign. To date, he has never gone more than two games without posting a single point. Pirri has points in two-thirds of all the games he has played thus far as well. The Blackhawks draft pick’s most impressive outing came on Jan. 10 versus Princeton, where he had a hand in all four of RPI’s goals (four assists).

The darling of Maine

After a slow start to their 2009-10 campaign, the Maine Black Bears are back in the thick of the Hockey East race thanks to in large part to the stellar play of sophomore Scott Darling (PHX). When the season began, Darling was not tapped as the opening series starter versus Union College. But since picking things up in the month of November, both Darling and his Black Bears team are playing some of their best hockey starting the second half of the season. The Lemont, Illinois native has become one of the hottest netminder in the nation, having gone undefeated in his last eight starts (6-0-2). Darling’s last loss came back on Nov. 20 versus Boston College. Unfortunately for Maine, Darling missed the Jan. 15-16 series versus Boston College and Providence respectively, after suffering a left knee sprain in the Jan. 9 contest versus Merrimack that could sideline him for up to four weeks.

Comings and goings

The first half of 2009-10 saw one player depart and another return.

In mid-November, sophomore Robbie Czarnik (LAK) left Michigan for the CHL, joining the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. Prior to his departure, Czarnik played in 12 games for the Wolverines, posting six points (three goals, three assists).

After being dismissed from the team last August, junior Matt Frattin (TOR) was reinstated by North Dakota and returned in time to participate in the Shillelagh Tournament with his Fighting Sioux teammates on Jan. 2. Frattin enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign in 2008-09, posting 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 42 games. This season to date, Fratiin played in six games, posting a pair of assists.

On the shelf

Minnesota sophomore Taylor Matson (VAN) suffered torn ligaments in his ankle on Jan. 2 versus Bowling Green in the Dodge Holiday Classic semi-final. He will miss the remainder of the regular season but could return in mid-March for the start of WCHA post-season play.

Maine junior Robby Dee (EDM) suffered a broken foot versus Merrimack on Jan. 9 and could be sidelined from two to four weeks.