For the first time in a while, there was a bit of controversy about the Hobey Baker Award.
Jimmy Vesey, a Harvard senior, finished the season with 46 points in 33 games, the seventh-most per game in the NCAA this year. He also scored 24 goals (fourth in goals per game), which is a lot, and ran his total for the last two seasons to 56. That helped earned him the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate men's player.
He was a big reason — if not the biggest — that Harvard was a force in the ECAC this season, and certainly why the Crimson made the NCAA tournament once again this year.
“It’s definitely a huge honor. Definitely joining elite company as well,” Vesey said in accepting the award. “I didn't know what to expect. Obviously, Kyle Connor had such a great year, and Thatcher [Demko] had 10 shutouts; that’s pretty amazing. I wasn’t really expecting much. I was just happy to be a finalist again. I’m lucky enough that they chose me, and like I said, it’s a huge honor.”
But in the end, it feels more like this was a career achievement award than one that was granted for just how he performed this season. He was two-time ECAC Player of the Year, and two-time Walter Brown Award winner as the best American-born college player in New England. And because of that, there was apparently no way the Hobey voters were going to let him lose to a freshman once again this year. However, by any logical examination, he was not the best player in college hockey this season. He was perhaps not even in the top five.
The obvious choice for the award was Michigan's Kyle Connor, a freshman who led the nation in goals (35) and points (71), and tied for third in assists. He was also held without a point just three times in 38 games. But he did it that in a weak conference, and he was, again a rookie. In general, the Hobey Baker goes to upperclassmen, and Vesey lost to Jack Eichel — who had the same number of points and fewer goals in two additional games played than Connor — just last year. Connor was at least named National Rookie of the Year.
Vesey also finished ahead of Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko, who led the nation in shutouts this season and entered the Frozen Four tied for second nationally in save percentage (.936). There was not a better goaltender in the nation, certainly, than the junior from San Diego. But historically, unless they are miles ahead of the field, let's say it's an honor just to be nominated. Instead, Demko was honored with the Mike Richter Award, as the nation's top goaltender.
Vesey is a great college hockey player, there's no question about that. And this award takes into account some off-ice things that likewise could have tipped the vote in the Crimson senior's favor. So too did the fact that he didn't sign with the Nashville Predators last summer, and instead returned for his senior year. (And while the reason why has since become plainly obvious, because he wanted to test free agency, as opposed to just kind of obvious, one supposes voters just wanted to thank him for his service to college hockey.
Vesey is the fourth ECAC and fourth Harvard player to win the award. He's also the third straight winner playing in the Boston area (after BC's Johnny Gaudreau two years ago and BU's Eichel last year).
Demko wins Mike Richter Award
Shortly after the Hobey Baker ceremony, Demko won the third-ever Mike Richter Award that was clearly due to him as the nation's best goaltender.
He finished ahead of Yale's Alex Lyon, UMass Lowell's Kevin Boyle, North Dakota's Cam Johnson, and St. Cloud State's Charlie Lindgren. As mentioned above, Demko finished with the second-best save percentage in the nation, but led in shutouts, and was also third in both total wins and winning percentage. There was also a stretch this year in which Demko recorded six shutouts in seven games.
It's the second time a Hockey East goalie has won the award in the three seasons since it was created, with UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck winning the inaugural award, and North Dakota's Zane McIntyre taking it last year.
Air Force goalie Dylewski named Hockey Humanitarian
Each year, the Hockey Humanitarian award is given to the player in either Division I or III who does the most away from the rink to help their communities and beyond. Air Force's Chris Dylewski fit the bill perfectly.
He founded a nonprofit to develop leadership in kids who want to work in their communities, as well as an organization designed to bring attention to genocide and other atrocities, and a campus program designed to help newcomers adapt to “cadet life” after one freshman committed suicide. He also helped with another Air Force cadet's organization to fight sex trafficking and help victims. And he has helped with the Wounded Warrior sled hockey team. And he is editor of the school's literary journal. And he volunteers with a number of other groups.
And he goes to school. And gets good grades. And is a Division I athlete.
This kind of thing is legitimately incredible.
And here are your All-American teams
How was Demko the best goalie this year but only second-team East? What a country!
EAST FIRST TEAM
Goal: Alex Lyon, Yale
Defense: Matt Grzelcyk, Boston University
Defense: Jake Walman, Providence College
Forward: Sam Anas, Quinnipiac
Forward: Andrew Poturalski, New Hampshire
Forward: Jimmy Vesey, Harvard
WEST FIRST TEAM
Goal: Charlie Lindgren, St. Cloud State
Defense: Ethan Prow, St. Cloud State
Defense: Zach Werenski, Michigan
Forward: Brock Boeser, North Dakota
Forward: Kyle Connor, Michigan
Forward: Tyler Motte, Michigan
EAST SECOND TEAM
Goal: Thatcher Demko, Boston College
Defense: Gavin Bayreuther, St. Lawrence
Defense: Rob O'Gara, Yale
Forward: Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College
Forward: Mark Jankowski, Providence College
Forward: Danny O'Regan, Boston University
WEST SECOND TEAM
Goal: Cam Johnson, North Dakota
Defense: Will Butcher, Denver
Defense: Troy Stecher, North Dakota
Forward: Drake Caggiula, North Dakota
Forward: JT Compher, Michigan
Forward: Alex Petan, Michigan Tech
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