Early candidates for the 2006 Hobey Baker Award

By DJ Powers

The race for the 2006 Hobey Baker Award is shaping up to be a fiercely contested one with some excellent early candidates that include a goaltender, two defensemen and an underclassman.

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the top collegiate player, was established in 1981 and named after the legendary Princeton Tigers player Hobart A.H. “Hobey” Baker. The first recipient of the prestigious award was Neil Broten from the University of Minnesota. Broten was the first among several recipients of the award that would go on to have successful NHL careers, including Paul Kariya (University of Maine), Brendan Morrison (University of Michigan) and Chris Drury (Boston University).

This year’s Hobey Baker Award will be presented in April during the Frozen Four, which will take place at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI.

1. Brian Elliott, G

Junior, University of Wisconsin
NHL Rights: Ottawa Senators

One of the questions that was raised during the offseason as far as the Wisconsin Badgers were concerned was how would Brian Elliott fare as the new starting goaltender. The Newmarket, Ontario native has not only answered the call, but has already begun to rewrite the Wisconsin hockey history books. Over the years, Wisconsin has produced some top-flight goaltenders that have gone on to the NHL, including Mike Richter and Curtis Joseph. Elliot could become the latest Badger to join them in the not-so-distant future.

Elliott’s numbers are incredible to say the least. He has an 18-2-2 record that includes three shutouts, and leads the nation with an astounding .864 winning percentage. Elliott ranks second in the nation both in goals against average (1.40) and save percentage (.944). Perhaps the most remarkable statistic of all is the fact that he has allowed three or more goals in just two of his starts. Elliott also backstops the nation’s top defensive team that has allowed just 23 total goals in 22 games (lowest in the nation). All of this accomplished by the player taken next to last in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Elliott has already eclipsed the Wisconsin school records in career goals against average and save percentage. He is also closing in on Wisconsin’s single season shutout record, needing just one more to tie it.

The methodical and modest Elliott has earned numerous accolades for his brilliant performances this season. Among them were being named the CSTV/Hockey Commissioners Association’s National Player of the Month back in November after leading the Badgers to a near-perfect 7-0-1 record and garnering four WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.

2. Brett Sterling, LW

Senior, Colorado College
NHL Rights: Atlanta Thrashers

At the end of last season, Brett Sterling was one of the three players chosen for the 2005 Hobey “Hat Trick” only to finish as runner-up to teammate Marty Sertich. This season, things could end the other way around.

The small, speedy winger has picked up right where he left off last season. Sterling currently ranks third in the nation in scoring with 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists). His 22 goals lead the nation while his 11 power play tallies and 0.85 goals per game co-lead the nation. Sterling also ranks sixth in the nation in points per game (1.46).

Entering play this coming weekend, Sterling has accumulated 99 career goals. His next goal will put him in some elite company in the Colorado College record books, as he’ll become just the fifth player (and the first in about a decade) in the program’s 66-year history to amass 100 or more career goals.

The Pasadena, CA native was named the CSTV/Hockey Commissioners Association’s National Player of the Month for October after posting at least a point in all eight games, capping off the month with his second career hat trick (along with an assist) to help lead Colorado College to a 7-3 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato back on October 29th.

3. Ryan Potulny, C

Junior, University of Minnesota
NHL Rights: Philadelphia Flyers

On a Minnesota team loaded with outstanding talent (14 of which are current NHL prospects), Ryan Potulny has had no trouble making his presence felt. The Grand Forks, ND native isn’t just putting up points this year. He is doing it with remarkable frequency and in bunches. To date, he has had nine multi-point games this season as well as four multi-goal games. In his 24 games, there have been only six games where he didn’t tally a point. All of those games ended in either ties or losses for Minnesota.

The offensively explosive Potulny currently ranks tied for sixth in the nation in scoring with 33 points (19 goals, 14 assists). Where Potulny has really been force has been on the Golden Gophers top-ranked power play. Of the 19 goals that he has scored, 11 have come with the man-advantage. Potulny’s 19 overall goals rank second in the nation, while his 11 power play tallies co-lead the nation.

One of Potulny’s most memorable performances came back on November 25th versus Michigan in the College Hockey Showcase. In the contest, he netted his second career hat trick to help lead Minnesota to a 6-3 win. Potulny has been named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week twice this season and was named to the Dodge Holiday Classic’s All-Tournament and earning the tournament’s MVP honor back on December 30th.

4. Matt Carle, D

Junior, University of Denver
NHL Rights: San Jose Sharks

The reigning national champion Denver Pioneers went through some very significant roster changes during the offseason and nowhere were the changes felt more this season than on defense. With the graduation of Nick Larson and Matt Laatsch along with the early departure of Brett Skinner, the task of leading the crimson and gold’s defense fell to junior Matt Carle.

The Anchorage, AK native currently leads the nation in scoring among defensemen with 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists). His 11 goals also lead all defensemen. He ranks second among defensemen in points per game (1.38). He also leads Denver in points, shots (106) and plus/minus (+9).

In last Saturday’s 5-1 win over St. Cloud State, Carle became the 89th player in the program’s history to join the Pioneer Century Club (players with 100 or more career points). He is on pace to make a serious run at breaking the Pioneers single-season record for points and assists by a defenseman. The current single season points record is 54, while it is 40 in the assist category.

The offensively talented defenseman has garnered two WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors for the weeks of December 5th and 12th. Carle’s most memorable performance thus far this season came on the weekend of December 2nd versus archrival Colorado College, when he had seven assists in the two-game series.

5. Alex Foster, LW

Sophomore, Bowling Green State University
NHL Rights: Undrafted

If there were one reason to watch the Bowling Green Falcons this season, it would be to catch the exciting sophomore dynamo Alex Foster.

Foster, the son of former NHLer Dwight Foster, is enjoying a sensational season that seems to just get better every week. He currently leads the nation in scoring with 40 points. Foster’s 32 assists also lead the nation. He ranks second in assists per game (1.28) and is ranked fourth in points per game (1.60). Foster has had multiple points in 14 of the 25 games he has played in thus far. His outstanding numbers are made even more impressive by the fact that he has tallied at least a point in all but three games this season. Foster is currently on a torrid 11-game point streak.

Foster, along with fellow sophomore Jonathan Matsumoto (who is eligible for the NHL Draft this year) and senior Mike Falk give the Falcons one of, if not the most lethal line combination in the CCHA. The trio accounts for nearly 37 percent (36.8) of the Falcons total point production.

Among the many accolades that Foster has received, include being named the CCHA’s Offensive Player of the Month for November after posting 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists) during the month. He was also the MVP of the Toyota UConn Holiday Classic, posting four points (all assists) to help lead BGSU to the tournament championship back on December 30th.

6. Scott Parse, LW

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

When the Los Angeles Kings drafted Scott Parse after his freshman season in the summer of 2004, few outside of the Nebraska-Omaha community knew who he was. Today, Parse may be one of college hockey’s most underrated forwards. He is making a very strong case for CCHA Player of the Year, despite some heavy competition coming from Bowling Green’s Foster.

The offensively gifted left-winger currently ranks second in the nation with 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) and in points per game (1.62). He leads Nebraska-Omaha in several categories including points, assists, shorthanded goals (2) and plus/minus (+15). Parse has tallied at least one point in all but four games this season. One of the more intriguing aspects about Parse’s statistics is the fact that he alone accounts for nearly one-quarter of the entire Mavericks team assists total.

Last season, Parse set several school single-season records, including points (49) and assists (30). This season, he is on pace to break his own records and set some new school career records as well. His 123 current career points and 76 career assists both rank him second in the program’s history. The Portage, MI native needs 22 more points and just five more assists to set new school records in each category.

7. Marty Sertich, C

Senior, Colorado College
NHL Rights: Undrafted

The winner of the 2005 Hobey Baker Award looks to be making another strong run to make it two in a row, a feat that has never been achieved in the history of the award. Colorado College team captain Marty Sertich is enjoying another outstanding season that is made even more extraordinary by the fact that he lost his mother to cancer last May.

The superb playmaking Sertich ranks second on the team and fourth in the nation in scoring with 35 points. His 24 assists lead the Tigers. Sertich is currently in the midst of an eight-game point streak, the longest of the season. His most memorable performance of the season came in the Great Lakes Invitational back on December 29th and 30th when he helped lead the Tigers to the tournament championship. He was one of four Colorado College players named to the All-Tournament team.

The Roseville, MN native is currently Colorado College’s “iron man” and is the lone senior on the roster who has played in every game since arriving in Colorado Springs three seasons ago. Coming into this weekend, Sertich has played in 150 consecutive games for the Tigers.

8. Chris Collins, LW

Senior, Boston College
NHL Rights: Undrafted

Of the losses that Boston College suffered this past offseason, none were bigger than that of Patrick Eaves. His tremendous offensive production and leadership were two qualities that were missed. This season, those same qualities can be found in alternate captain, senior Chris Collins. The Fairport, NY native has been a key component in driving the predominantly young Eagles to the top of the Hockey East standings thus far.

Collins currently leads Boston College as well as Hockey East in scoring with 29 points (17 goals, 12 assists). His 17 goals are a new career high. Where Collins has been particularly dangerous has been on special teams. Of his 17 goals, five have come on the power play and four have come shorthanded. His four shorthanded tallies co-lead the nation.

Collins most memorable performance came back on the weekend of December 9th and 10th versus UMass, when he recorded his first career hat trick. He earned Hockey East’s Player of the Month honor for December after tallying at least a point in five of Boston College’s six games during the month.

9. Reid Cashman, D

Junior, Quinnipiac University
NHL Rights: Undrafted

Despite their current 4-11-0 record in conference play, the Quinnipiac Bobcats’ transition from the Atlantic Hockey conference to the ECACHL has been relatively smooth. One Bobcats player who has had no trouble adjusting to the new league is dynamic offensive defenseman Reid Cashman. The Red Wing, MN native, who captured the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year honor last season, was also a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker award. This year, he looks to be a prime candidate again.

Cashman currently ranks fourth in the nation in scoring among defensemen with 28 points (two goals, 26 assists). He also ranks third among all defensemen in points per game (1.28). His 26 assists ranks third overall in the nation. Like Denver’s Matt Carle, Cashman also leads his team in scoring. In ECACHL play, Cashman leads in the league in overall assists (16) and scoring among all defensemen with 17 points (one goal, 16 assists).

One of Cashman’s most memorable performances thus far came in the Quinnipiac Cup (Q-Cup) Tournament back in October. In the tournament, he racked up five points (one goal, four assists) and was named to the All-Tournament Team as well as honored as the tournament MVP. Most recently, Cashman was named a finalist for the New Haven Register’s 2005 Sports Person of the Year.

10. T. J. Hensick, C

Junior, University of Michigan
NHL Rights: Colorado Avalanche

Michigan (along with Minnesota-Duluth) was a team that went through massive personnel changes during the offseason. With the changes came the need for some new leadership and one player that the Wolverines turned to was the electrifying junior and alternate captain T. J. Hensick. The Howell, MI native currently leads Michigan in scoring with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists). In addition to points, Hensick also leads the team in assists and shots (69). His ten goals, which include five power play tallies, are both tied for first on the team.

Back on December 29th versus Colorado College in the Great Lakes Invitational, Hensick reached a milestone when he played in his 100th career game. He is also on target to reach another milestone as he needs just four assists to move into Michigan’s top 25 career assists list. Hensick currently has 86 career assists.

Hensick has been a relatively consistent performer this season for Michigan. He has tallied points in 15 of his 22 games this season. Of the 15 games that he has tallied at least a point in, ten were multi-point games. His best outing of the season thus far came back on October 16th versus non-conference opponent Merrimack. In the contest, Hensick tied a career-high four points (one goal, three assists) to lead the Wolverines to a 9-2 victory.

Honorable Mentions

Kevin Croxton, F
Senior, RPI
NHL Rights: Undrafted

The Calgary, Alberta native has been superb in leading the Engineers as well being one of the team’s go-to guys this season. It is a feat made even more impressive by the fact that RPI is missing one of their top forwards in Kevin McDonald, who has taken a medical redshirt this season. Croxton currently leads RPI and the ECACHL in scoring with 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists). He was named a hockey Commissioners Association National Player of the Month honorable mention for October after posting 14 points (five goals, nine assists) during the month.

Joe Fallon, G
Sophomore, University of Vermont
NHL Rights: Chicago Blackhawks

The 2005 draft selection of the Chicago Blackhawks has been one of, if not the biggest reason behind Vermont’s successful transition to the always-competitive Hockey East conference. The Bemidji, MN native currently sports a 13-5-2 record. Of his 13 wins, six have come by shutout. Fallon’s six shutouts lead the nation. He also ranks third in the nation in goals against average (1.48) and is tied for ninth in save percentage (.926).

Andy Greene, D
Senior, University of Miami (OH)
NHL Rights: Undrafted

One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2005-06 season thus far is the performance of Miami, who currently sit atop the CCHA standings and is ranked third in this week’s national polls. One of the stalwarts behind the RedHawks early success is excellent senior defenseman and team captain Andy Greene. The Trenton, MI native currently leads his team in scoring with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists). His 11 assists also co-lead the team.

Jamie Hunt, D
Junior, Mercyhurst College
NHL Rights: Undrafted

During an interview with Hockey’s Future prior to the start of the season, one of the players that head coach Rick Gotkin said he wanted to get more production out of this season was junior defenseman Jamie Hunt. The Calgary, Alberta native has answered the call in a big way. The offensive-minded defenseman currently leads all Atlantic Hockey players in scoring with 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists). He also leads the nation overall in points per game (1.68), while his 32 points rank second in the nation among defensemen.

Paul Stastny, C
Sophomore, University of Denver
NHL Rights: Colorado Avalanche

With the losses of key players such as Jon Foster, Luke Fulghum and Kevin Ulaski to graduation, one of the players being relied upon to carry the offense this season in Denver is sophomore sensation Paul Stastny. Last year’s WCHA Rookie of the Year has gotten off to a very good start that is likely to get better as the season moves towards the WCHA and NCAA playoffs. Stastny currently is second on the Pioneers roster with 31 points (six goals, 25 assists). His 25 assists, along with his 55 penalty minutes lead the team.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.