Gaudreau, Hartzell and Leblanc named Hobey Baker finalists

By DJ Powers

Drew Leblanc - St. Cloud State University

Photo: St. Cloud State forward and captain Drew Leblanc (R) bounced back from an injury-shortened 2011-12 campaign to turn in what could be a Hobey Baker-worthy season in his senior year (courtesy of Scott W. Grau/Icon SMI)

The top three finalists for this year’s Hobey Baker Award have been announced. Boston College sophomore and Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau, Quinnipiac senior Eric Hartzell and St. Cloud State red-shirted senior Drew Leblanc comprise this year’s “Hobey Hat Trick”. Each year, the award recognizes the top collegiate player who excels both on and off the ice.

The winner of the 2013 Hobey Baker Award will be announced on Apr. 12th during the Frozen Four weekend at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and will be televised live on the NHL Network.

Johnny Gaudreau, LW
Sophomore, Boston College

Gaudreau looks to become just the fourth sophomore and the first since 2007 to win the Hobey Baker Award. The last sophomore to win the award was former North Dakota standout Ryan Duncan.

After leading the nation in rookie scoring last season with 44 points, Gaudreau topped that this season, finishing with 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 35 games while leading the Eagles to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. His 51 points currently leads the nation in scoring among underclassmen. Gaudreau’s 1.46 points per game leads the nation overall. The Carney Points, NJ native was one of the nation’s most consistent point producers, having been held pointless in just nine games all season. Gaudreau’s stellar sophomore campaign earned him numerous honors, including the Hockey East Player of the Year. He is one of seven Calgary Flames prospects that played in the NCAA this season.

At the 2013 U-20 World Junior Championship (WJC), Gaudreau led Team USA with nine points (seven goals, two assists) and helped guide the Americans to their third gold medal.

Off the ice, Gaudreau is a communications major at Boston College. He actively participates in numerous team-affiliated functions throughout the Boston community.

Eric Hartzell, G
Senior, Quinnipiac University

Hartzell looks to become just the third goaltender and the first since 2001 to win the Hobey Baker Award. The last goaltender to win the award was former Michigan State Spartan and current Buffalo Sabre, Ryan Miller. Hartzell is the son of former University of Minnesota player and current Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) head coach Kevin Hartzell. The younger Hartzell played three seasons (2006-09) for his father.

The White Bear Lake, MN native has been a workhorse for Quinnipiac this season, having already logged 2,402:38 minutes between the pipes. And he is a big reason behind the Bobcats’ successful run to their first-ever Frozen Four appearance. Hartzell currently leads the nation with 29 wins and possesses an overall record of 29-6-5 that includes five shutouts in 40 appearances. His 29 wins and five shutouts are also new school single-season records. Hartzell’s most remarkable stat is the fact that he has allowed three or more goals in just six games to date. Hartzell was especially good in ECAC play this season, where he backstopped Quinnipiac to their first ECAC regular season title. He led the conference in both wins (17) and winning percentage (.841) en route to capturing both the ECAC’s Player of the Year honor and the Ken Dryden Award for that conference's top goaltender.

Hartzell’s sensational senior campaign has also caught the attention of a number of NHL teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers, whose prospect camp Hartzell attended last summer.

Off the ice, Hartzell is a Marketing major at Quinnipiac University and is an active volunteer in the Hamden, CT community.

Drew Leblanc, C
R-Senior, St. Cloud State University

Leblanc has become the best comeback story in college hockey this season. After a leg injury in Nov. 2011 abruptly ended his 2011-12 season, Leblanc has re-emerged this season as one of the nation’s top playmakers and a driving force behind St. Cloud State's successful run to their very first Frozen Four.

The Hermantown, MN native currently leads the nation with 37 assists and ranks seventh with 50 points in 41 games to date. Leblanc excelled in WCHA play this season, posting 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 28 conference games en route to being named the WCHA Player of the Year and guiding St. Cloud State to claim a share of the MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA’s regular season co-champions.

Leblanc’s outstanding season hasn’t been lost on NHL teams, either. He has been on the NHL radar since his sophomore season and among the teams having already taken notice of the Huskies co-captain are the Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Leblanc’s excellence on the ice is matched by his excellence off the ice. He maintains a 3.64 cumulative grade point average as a math education major and was named the WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year. Leblanc is the first player in WCHA history to capture both the Player and Student-Athlete of the Year honors in the same season. He also volunteers his time in numerous events throughout the St. Cloud, MN community.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF