NCAA Prospects Notebook, March, 2015: Hobey Baker nominees, postseason hardware recipients, and pro signings

By DJ Powers
Mike Reilly - University of Minnesota

Photo: University of Minnesota defenseman and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Mike Reilly was among the top 10 finalists for the 2015 Hobey Baker Award (courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)


The final 2014-15 edition of the NCAA prospects notebook takes a look back at some excellent collegiate hockey prospect performances and other noteworthy items. Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are current as of April 1st.

Hobey Hat Trick announced

Boston University freshman Jack Eichel, University of North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre (BOS) and Harvard University junior Jimmy Vesey (NSH) have been named this year’s Hobey Hat Trick finalists.

Jack Eichel, the top collegian eligible for the upcoming 2015 NHL Draft, has been the catalyst for Boston University’s turnaround this season. He has helped guide the Terriers to their first Frozen Four appearance since 2009. The North Chelmsford, MA native is one of the nation’s most consistent players this season, capturing both the Hockey East Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors. He currently leads the nation in a number of categories including points (67), assists (47) and plus/minus (+49). Should Eichel win the Hobey Baker Award, he would become just the second freshman and first since former University of Maine standout Paul Kariya in 1993 to accomplish the feat.

Zane McIntyre is the backbone of a North Dakota team that has consistently ranked among the top teams this season, and is headed back to the Frozen Four. The Thief River Falls, MN native was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year and is one of the finalists for this year’s Mike Richter Award. McIntyre sports a 29-9-3 record that includes one shutout. His 29 wins currently lead the nation and his 41 games played co-lead the nation. His .931 save percentage and .744 winning percentage both rank in the top 10 nationally. This season, McIntyre rewrote much of North Dakota’s goaltending record books. His career goals-against average (2.08) and career save percentage (.927) set new team records, with McIntyre also poised to tie or beat the school’s single-season record for wins (30) and games played (42).

Like Eichel, Jimmy Vesey was one of the nation’s most consistent players this season. The North Reading, MA native currently leads the nation with 32 goals and ranks third with 58 points in 37 games. One of Vesey’s most remarkable stats is the fact that he was held pointless in just three games this season with a Harvard team ravaged by injuries. During the ECAC playoffs, Vesey set a new conference tournament record for most goals (9), breaking the previous mark set back in 1973. His stellar junior campaign earned him numerous awards including both the ECAC and Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Most recently, Vesey was named this year’s recipient of the Walter Brown Award.

The winner of the 2015 Hobey Baker Award will be announced on April 10th during the Frozen Four weekend in Boston, MA.

Handing out the hardware

In addition to the aforementioned McIntyre and Vesey, several other prospects also took home some hardware.

In the Big Ten, Minnesota junior defenseman Mike Reilly (CBJ) was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, while Michigan freshman Dylan Larkin (DET) was named the Big Ten Rookie of the Year.

Reilly was the big standout on the Golden Gophers’ all-NHL prospect blueline this season. The Chanhassen, MN native capped a superb junior campaign leading the nation in scoring by a defenseman with 42 points (six goals, 36 assists) in 39 games en route to being named one of the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Reilly’s 42 points also led Minnesota.

Larkin was as good as advertised this season. The Waterford, MI native finished his sensational freshman campaign leading the Wolverines and the Big Ten in rookie scoring with 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 35 games. His 47 points ranks second nationally among all rookies. Larkin’s 32 assists also co-led Michigan.

In the ECAC, Yale junior defenseman Rob O’Gara (BOS) was named the conference’s Best Defensive Defenseman and Cornell senior center Cole Bardreau (PHI) was named the conference’s Best Defensive Forward.

O’Gara was one of the stalwarts on an excellent Bulldogs blueline this season, helping to propel the team back to the NCAA Tournament. The Nesconset, NY native finished the year leading Yale in scoring by a defenseman with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) while tying for the best plus/minus (+15) rating playing in all 33 games.

Bardreau, who recently signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, established himself as one of the nation’s best defensive forwards during his collegiate career. The Fairport, NY native capped his excellent senior campaign, leading Cornell with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 30 games.

In the Hockey East conference, Vermont senior Mike Paliotta (CHI) was named the conference’s Best Defensive Defenseman. The Westport, CT native was an absolute rock on the Catamounts’ blueline this season, contributing to the team’s success both offensively and defensively. Paliotta, who recently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, finished his terrific senior campaign leading Vermont in both assists (27) and points (36) while playing in all 41 games. Paliotta is also one of the 10 finalists for the 2015 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

In the NCHC, Denver senior Joey LaLeggia (EDM) and freshman Danton Heinen (BOS), North Dakota seniors Mark McMillan (MTL) and defenseman Nick Mattson (CHI), and St. Cloud State senior Nick Oliver (NSH) all took home some of the conference’s hardware.

The most decorated of the aforementioned players was LaLeggia, who captured the conference’s Player, Defenseman and Offensive Defenseman of the Year honors. The Burnaby, BC native finished his stellar final year with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) in 37 games. His 40 points also rank third nationally among all defensemen. LaLeggia, who recently signed with the Edmonton Oilers, was one of the top 10 finalists for this year’s Hobey Baker Award as well.

LaLeggia’s teammate Heinen became one of the best stories coming out of Denver and the NCHC this season. The Langley, BC native capped his sensational rookie campaign leading the Pioneers with 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) and was the only forward on the team that played in all 40 games. Heinen’s 45 points also ranks third nationally among rookies.

MacMillan was in the midst of his best collegiate season before a knee injury on Feb. 28th ended it. Nevertheless, he was named the conference’s Defensive Forward of the Year. The Penticton, BC native finishes his senior campaign with 25 points (16 goals, nine assists) in 29 games. MacMillan is one of the 10 finalists for the 2015 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award as well as a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

MacMillan’s teammate, Mattson, was named the conference’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Mattson carries a cumulative GPA of 3.92 as a management major. On the ice, he has posted 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 32 games to date. The Chanhassen, MN joins MacMillan as one of the 10 finalists for this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

Oliver was named the recipient of the conference’s Sportsmanship Award. The Roseau, MN native captained St. Cloud State to their third straight NCAA Tournament berth this season. Oliver finished his final collegiate season with five points (three goals, two assists) and was one of only five Huskies to play in all 40 games this season.

In the WCHA, Alaska junior defenseman Colton Parayko (STL) was tabbed as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. The St. Albert, AB native capped his outstanding collegiate career leading the Nanooks’ defensemen in scoring with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 34 games. Parayko, who recently signed with the St. Louis Blues, was especially good on Alaska’s power play where his team co-leading five power play tallies were scored.

Phillips joins McIntyre as Richter finalist

Michigan Tech junior Jamie Phillips (WPG) was named one of the five finalists for this year’s Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goaltender. Phillips and North Dakota junior Zane McIntyre are the only two NHL-drafted players named as finalists.

Phillips was brilliant between the pipes for Michigan Tech this season, backstopping the team to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1981. The Caledonia, ON native finished his sensational junior campaign posting a 28-9-2 record that included six shutouts in 41 games. Phillips’ six shutouts set a new Michigan Tech single-season record.

Vesey and Coleman top performers in March

No prospects were hotter in the month of March than Harvard junior Jimmy Vesey and Miami senior Blake Coleman (NJD).

Vesey posted 14 points (10 goals, four assists) in the Crimson’s eight games during the month. In three of those games – all ECAC Tournament contests – Vesey also posted the game-winners.

Just behind Vesey was Coleman, who finished with 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in the RedHawks’ eight games. The Plano, TX native did not play in the East Regional semi-final versus Providence College due to an automatic one-game suspension for receiving his third game-misconduct of the season. Coleman finished his senior campaign with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 37 games. He also finishes the season leading the NCAA with 99 penalty minutes.

Record-setting performances

During the month of March (and in addition to McIntyre and Phillips), three other goaltending prospects set new individual records.

In the marathon Hockey East first round game between UMass and Notre Dame, freshman Cal Peterson (BUF) of Notre Dame set a new NCAA record for the most saves in a single game with 87. The game, which lasted 151:42 minutes and went five overtimes, was the longest in NCAA history.

Harvard junior Steve Michalek (MIN) set a new school single-season record for career saves (1,029) while backstopping the Crimson to the ECAC Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. Michalek’s 21 wins this season rank second all-time in Harvard hockey history.

Minnesota State-Mankato junior Stephon Williams capped a remarkable 2014-15 campaign, setting a number of new school records while backstopping the Mavericks to the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Fairbanks, AK native finished the season with a 25-6-3 record that included four shutouts. Williams, who recently signed with the New York Islanders, set new Minnesota State-Mankato career records in goals-against average (2.01), save percentage (.917) and shutouts (10).

More NHL signings

With only four NCAA teams still playing in the 2014-15 season, the pro signings are well underway.

Players such as Quinnipiac forward Matthew Peca (TBL), and Minnesota forwards Seth Ambroz (CBJ), Kyle Rau (FLA) and Travis Boyd (WSH) have all signed with the NHL teams that hold their rights after exhausting their collegiate eligibility. But many more, specifically juniors, have opted to forego the remainder of their eligibility to sign with their respective NHL teams. Those include St. Cloud State winger Jonny Brodzinski (LAK), Michigan center Andrew Copp (WPG), Maine defenseman Ben Hutton (VAN), Boston College defenseman Michael Matheson (FLA), New Hampshire defenseman Brett Pesce (CAR), Maine center Devin Shore (DAL), and Minnesota defenseman Brady Skjei (NYR).

Among the notable free agents signing NHL contracts were Penn State junior Casey Bailey (TOR); Colgate junior Kyle Baun (CHI); Miami senior Austin Czarnik (BOS); and Western Michigan junior defenseman, Kenney Morrison (CGY).