Four prospects among top ten Hobey Baker finalists

By DJ Powers
Photo: Scoring at a .85 goals-per-game pace, Matt Frattin has been among the top collegiate players in the nation. There is great hope among Leaf faithful that his goal-scoring ability will translate to the professional level. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The ten finalists for the 2011 Hobey Baker Award have been announced, and among them are four NHL-drafted prospects. This year’s field, listed in alphabetical order by last name, is comprised of nine forwards and one defenseman. Six of the ten finalists are seniors with three juniors and one sophomore rounding out the group. The list of ten will be narrowed down to the top three ("Hobey Hat Trick") on Mar. 31. The winner of this year’s Hobey Baker Award will be announced live on ESPNU on Apr. 8 during the Frozen Four weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Mar. 24.

Cameron Atkinson, RW
Junior, Boston College
NHL rights: Columbus Blue Jackets

After a 53-point season that led the Eagles to claim the national championship last year, Atkinson has simply picked up from where he left and has Boston College in position to potentially claim another national title this year after guiding the team to win both the Hockey East regular season and tournament championship titles.

The Greenwich, CT native currently ranks tied for tenth in the nation with 51 points (30 goals, 21 assists) playing in all 38 games to date. Atkinson has posted multiple points in 16 games thus far this season, including seven multi-goal games. He is also only one of two players in the country with 30 or more goals coming into the NCAA Tournament as well. Atkinson is the first Eagle since Brian Gionta to post 30 or more goals in back-to-back seasons.

Where Atkinson has proven especially valuable to Boston College in his last two seasons has been in scoring timely goals and on special teams. Of his 30 goals scored to date, 12 have come on special teams – eight on the power play and four shorthanded. Both lead the Eagles and his four shorthanded tallies lead all NHL prospects. He has also posted five game-winners as well.
One of Atkinson’s most memorable games this season came in the Hockey East Tournament championship game versus Merrimack. In that contest, he netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner and added an assist to lead Boston College to their second consecutive and league-leading tenth overall championship crown.

Carter Camper, C
Senior, Miami University
NHL rights: N/A

Camper is one of two RedHawks named as a top ten finalist for this year’s Hobey Baker Award. This is the second time he has been named a finalist after having achieved the feat two years ago. The Rocky River, OH native continues to be one of the nation’s best point producers on one of the nation’s most offensively explosive teams. Camper currently ranks third in the nation with 56 points (19 goals, 37 assists) playing in all 38 games to date. Where he has really excelled this season has been on special teams. Of his 19 goals, 11 have come on special teams – nine on the power play and two shorthanded. Camper’s nine power play goals currently lead Miami and ranks tied for 17th in the nation. Of the 38 games that he has played in to date, Camper has been held pointless in only seven of them. He has also posted multiple points in 16 games as well.

Camper has been one of the team’s guiding forces this season, helping to propel Miami to their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. In CCHA conference play, Camper finished the season behind teammate Andy Miele in scoring with 39 points. His outstanding final season earned Camper a spot on the All-CCHA First Team for the second time in his career.

In addition to excelling on the ice, Camper has also excelled in the classroom as well. He was named the CCHA’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year carrying a 3.62 GPA as a Psychology major. Camper has also been named as a finalist for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award as well, which recognizes the top senior’s achievements on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community.

Jack Connolly, C
Junior, University of Minnesota-Duluth
NHL rights: N/A

After a stellar sophomore campaign leading Minnesota-Duluth last season, Connolly has followed it up with an even better junior year. The Duluth, MN native has been instrumental in getting the Bulldogs back into the NCAA Tournament after missing last year’s big dance.

Connolly leads Minnesota-Duluth with 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) playing in all 38 games to date. His 55 points currently rank tied for fourth in the nation and are the most points accumulated by a Bulldog since Junior Lessard’s 63-point, Hobey Baker-winning season in 2003-04. He is also the first Minnesota-Duluth player named as a finalist since Lessard as well. In the past two seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11) combined, Connolly has posted more points (104) than any other player in the WCHA. He was named to the All-WCHA First Team for the second consecutive year after finishing second in scoring with 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 28 conference games.

In his three years at Minnesota-Duluth, Connolly has become one of the most consistent point producers in the nation. Coming into the NCAA Tournament this season, he has been held pointless in only six games and has posted 14 multi-point games. The last time Connolly was held without a point in consecutive games was midway through his sophomore campaign last season. He is also the Bulldogs’ reigning "iron man", having played in all 121 games since his arrival at Minnesota-Duluth.

Connolly centers one of the nation’s most exciting and prolific top lines, playing alongside fellow junior Mike Connolly and senior Justin Fontaine. The trio has accounted for 44 percent of the Bulldogs’ entire offensive production thus far and all are ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring. Minnesota-Duluth is just one of two teams in the nation (Miami is the other) that boasts three players among the top 15 points producers.

Matt Frattin, RW
Senior, University of North Dakota
NHL rights: Toronto Maple Leafs

Frattin has become one of the best stories coming out of the WCHA this season. After being dismissed from the team and having his scholarship taken away last season, Frattin returned to North Dakota with a renewed sense of commitment and shows no signs of slowing down either. That commitment has also paid big dividends for the Fighting Sioux this season as well. Frattin has been instrumental guiding the Fighting Sioux to claim both the WCHA’s MacNaughton Cup as regular season champions as well as the Broadmoor Trophy as the conference’s tournament champions.

The Edmonton, AB native currently leads the nation with 35 goals and is averaging just under a goal (0.85) per game. Overall, he ranks second in the nation with 57 points appearing in all of North Dakota’s 41 games to date. He has established himself as one of the nation’s top clutch scorers. His ten power play goals are the most among all NHL-drafted prospects while his six game-winners are tied for the most.

Frattin has played much of the season on North Dakota’s dominant top line, alongside fellow seniors Brad Malone (COL) and Evan Trupp. The trio has accounted for 39 percent of the Fighting Sioux’s goal scoring thus far.

Frattin was named the WCHA’s Player of the Year after leading the WCHA in conference scoring with 40 (22 goals, 18 assists) points. He is also one of the hottest point producers coming into the NCAA Tournament, bringing in a 13-game point streak in which he has amassed a whopping 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists).

Andy Miele, C
Senior, Miami University
NHL rights: N/A

No player in the NCAA has been as consistent as Miele has this season. He currently leads the nation with 71 points (24 points, 47 assists) playing in all 38 games to date, and averages 1.87 points per game. His 47 assists also lead the nation. The Grosse Point Woods, MI native finished the CCHA season atop the conference’s scoring list with 56 points (16 goals, 40 assists) and was named the CCHA’s Player of the Year. His 56 points are the most in conference play since the 1991-92 season. Earlier this season, Miele was named the CCHA Player of the Month for January and February, and was also named the HCA National Player of the Month in February.

Miele’s consistency as a point producer this season has been incredible. Of the 38 games that he has played in, he has been held pointless in only five of them. He has also posted multiple points in 22 games and at least in goal in 20. Miele is on pace to break the school’s single-season scoring record of 74 points, which was set by Gary Delonge back in the 1978-79 season.

Miele centers Miami’s excellent top line, playing alongside sophomore Reilly Smith (DAL) and junior Trent Vogelhuber (CBJ). His exceptional playmaking ability has helped boost the offensive numbers of his linemates to new career highs.

Gustav Nyquist, RW
Junior, University of Maine
NHL rights: Detroit Red Wings

The lone returning Hobey Hat Trick finalist from a year ago has enjoyed another a banner year at Maine this season. The Malmo, Sweden native served as an assistant captain and led the Black Bears in scoring for the third consecutive season. He was the first Maine player to accomplish the feat since Steve Kariya did it in the late 1990s.

Nyquist finished his superb junior campaign tenth in the nation with 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists) playing in all of 36 games. His 33 assists rank tied for fourth in the nation and currently leads all NHL prospects as well. Of the 36 games that he played in this season, Nyquist posted at least a point in 30 of them. He was a unanimous selection to the All-Hockey East First Team after finishing third in the conference with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 27 league games this season.

On Feb. 12 versus Vermont, Nyquist set a new school record for the quickest goal scored to start a game when he did it just six seconds into the contest. Maine went on to win the game 4-2. Eight days earlier on Feb. 4 at New Hampshire, Nyquist posted his first career hat-trick, netting all of the Black Bears goals in the 6-3 loss.

Nyquist played on one of the nation’s best two-way forwards lines, alongside junior Brian Flynn and senior Tanner House (EDM). The trio accounted for 36 percent of the Black Bears scoring that included 15 power play tallies and four shorthanded goals. Nyquist alone posted six power play goals and two shorthanded goals.

Chase Polacek, C
Senior, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
NHL rights: N/A

Polacek is one of three players this year that are repeat Hobey Baker finalists. The Edina, MN native was named as a top ten finalist last season as well. He becomes only the second RPI player to accomplish the feat and the first since Joe Juneau did it in 1990 and 1991.

This season, Polacek has been one of the catalysts that have helped the Engineers earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1995. He currently leads RPI with 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) playing in all 37 games to date. His 48 points ranks tied for 14th in the nation, while his 1.30 points per game average also rank 14th. To date, he has posted multiple points in 16 games. Polacek was named the ECAC’s Player of the Year for the second straight year after leading the conference with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 22 league games. He becomes just the third player in league history to accomplish the feat and the first to do it since 1986.

Two of the most remarkable feats that Polacek has accomplished in his career have been his consistent point production and appearances in games. With the exception of his rookie season, Polacek has led RPI in scoring in every season that he has been there. Furthermore, he is also one of the Engineers’ two reigning "iron men". He has played in 153 consecutive games at RPI and has never missed a game in his career to date.

One area where Polacek has been very effective throughout his collegiate career has been in scoring timely goals. Of his 21 goals on the season thus far, 13 have come on special teams – 11 on the power play and two shorthanded. His 11 power play tallies currently rank tied for fifth nationally. Polacek has also posted nine game-winners as well, which leads the nation and is just one shy of the NCAA record.

In addition to his many accomplishments on the ice, Polacek has also excelled off the ice as well. He currently carries a 3.46 GPA as a Business and Management major and has been named to the ECAC’s All-Academic team three times. He was named as one of the ten finalists for this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes a senior’s accomplishments on the ice, in the classroom and in the community.

Justin Schultz, D
Sophomore, University of Wisconsin
NHL rights: Anaheim Ducks

Schultz is both the only defenseman and underclassman among this year’s Hobey Baker finalists. He is also the third Badgers defenseman in as many years to be named a finalist.

The West Kelowna, BC native leads the nation in defenseman scoring with 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) playing in all 41 games this season. His 47 points also led the Badgers as well. Schultz’s 18 goals are the most by any defenseman in the country since 2003. He also etched his name in the Wisconsin hockey record books, tying the school record for most goals in a single season by a defenseman. Schultz was also one of the nation’s most consistent point producers this season. Of the 41 games that he appeared in, he was held pointless in only 12 of them. One area where Schultz was particularly dangerous was on the power play. Of his 47 points, 27 came on the man-advantage this season.

Schultz was named the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Year and selected to the All-WCHA First Team after leading the conference’s defensemen with 29 points (ten goals, 19 assists). His 29 points also tied him for eighth overall in the WCHA.

Schultz, along with Jake Gardiner (TOR), comprised the nation’s top defensive pairing. The duo accounted for a quarter of Wisconsin’s point production this season. Schultz’s most memorable game came back on Nov. 27 versus Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase. In that contest, he posted his first career hat-trick and the first hat-trick by a Badgers defenseman in 18 years, guiding Wisconsin to a 4-1 victory.

Although Schultz had the opportunity to sign with Anaheim when the Badgers season ended recently, he has opted to return for his junior season in the fall.

Paul Thompson, LW
Senior, University of New Hampshire
NHL rights: N/A

When Thompson went undrafted in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft some in the scouting community were quite surprised. Nearly four years later, he has blossomed into one of college hockey’s best and most dynamic players.

The Derry, NH native was instrumental in leading New Hampshire to their 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this season. He leads the Wildcats with 52 points (28 goals, 24 assists) playing in all 37 games to date. His 52 points rank tied for seventh in the nation, while his 28 goals rank tied for fourth. One area where Thompson proved to be especially dangerous has been on the power play. Of his 28 goals, 12 have come on the man-advantage and currently ranks tied for second in the nation. He also has posted seven game-winners, which also ranks tied for second in the nation as well.

Thompson has also been one of the nation’s most consistent point producers this season and his numbers are astounding. Of the 37 games that he has played in, Thompson has posted at least a point in 28 of them and at least on goal in 20 of them. He has also registered 17 multi-point games and six multi-goal games – that included two hat-tricks, as well.

Thompson was named the Hockey East Player of the Year after leading the league with 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in 27 conference games. He was the only player in the conference to post 40 or more points in league play this season. In addition to overall league points, Thompson either led or co-led Hockey East in several other categories including points per game average (1.56), power play goals (9) and game-winning goals (7).

Thompson plays left wing on New Hampshire’s dominant, all-senior top line that includes Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone (WSH). The trio has accounted for 40 percent of the Wildcats offense thus far this season, including over half of the team’s power play goals (19).

Paul Zanette, LW
Senior, Niagara University
NHL rights: N/A

Until March, Zanette had led the nation in goal-scoring for much of the season. He finished his final year with 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists), nearly tripling his numbers from last season, playing in all 35 games for the Purple Eagles. His 55 points tied a school record for most points in a single season. Zanette’s 29 goals currently rank third in the nation. Of those, ten have come on the power play and three have been shorthanded. Zanette’s most impressive stat is the fact that he has posted at least one goal in 21 of Niagara’s 35 games this season. And his stellar year hasn’t gone unnoticed by NHL teams either.

Zanette was named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year after leading the conference with 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists). He was twice named the league’s Player of the Month for November and February. Zanette played on one of the nation’s most potent forwards lines this season, alongside fellow senior Bryan Haczyk and sophomore Giancarlo Iuorio. The trio accounted for 39 percent of Niagara’s total offense.

The Nobleton, ONT native is just the second player in the history of the Niagara program to be named a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and the first since 2003.