After compound fracture, St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc’s hard work pays off with Hobey Baker Award

PITTSBURGH -- St. Cloud State senior forward Drew LeBlanc couldn't quite sit still in his chair at center ice inside CONSOL Energy Center as he awaited the announcement of the 2013 Hobey Baker Award winner. His face managed to hold back the nerves, something his legs were unable to do as they bounced for most of the 30-minute ceremony.

"I was so nervous, and still am, and my stomach is still in knots. My legs are still twitching," LeBlanc said after being named the 2013 Hobey Baker Award recipient, which was shortly before it was announced he had inked a 1-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.

With the trophy to sitting to his left on the podium at his press conference, where LeBlanc's career was just two-and-a-half years ago makes his 2012-13 season remarkable.

The night of Nov. 5, 2011, during a game against Wisconsin, LeBlanc suffered a compound fracture of his left leg. His rehab was long and arduous. But it paid off.

"It was sad. Right when I hit I knew I broke it," LeBlanc said. "I rolled over, tried to get up. My leg was literally laying on the ice. It wasn't good and at that time, as it turns out it was a blessing in disguise. To come back this year, to play alongside those guys all year, we had a tremendous ride. It was incredible."

In his final season with the Huskies, LeBlanc captained the team to its first ever Frozen Four appearance, finished with 13 goals and 50 points, and was named both the Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year and Player of the Year, a first in the history of the WCHA.

"It's been a season of firsts for St. Cloud State," LeBlanc said. "This is a good one to have, too."

Part of LeBlanc's daily schedule since January has been student-teaching three classes a day at a local high school, a career he said he'd like to pursue once his life in hockey is over.

LeBlanc debated after junior season and before his redshirt senior year about whether or not to turn pro. Fortunately for the Huskies, he was persuaded to stay.

"I was just coming back hoping to contribute to a good team and what unfolded was something really special," LeBlanc said.

It was special. The Huskies finished atop the WCHA with a 18-9-1 record (25-16-1 overall) and dispatched Notre Dame and Miami University in the NCAA tournament regionals to qualify for their first ever Frozen Four. The dream season ended on Thursday night with a 4-1 loss to Quinnipiac, and while he was named the 33rd Hobey Baker Award winner, another first in St. Cloud State history, LeBlanc was still thinking about the loss.

"I'd still trade this trophy in tomorrow to play for the national championship," said LeBlanc.

"No disrespect to Hobey himself. I'm sure he would, too."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy