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Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey, left, is the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner (photo: Jim Rosvold).

TAMPA, Fla. — In a ceremony at the historic Tampa Theatre, built in 1906 and located just a mile away from Amalie Arena, Jimmy Vesey of Harvard was named the winner of the 2016 Hobey Baker Award.

“I’d like to take a moment to thank the Hobey Baker committee for selecting me as this year’s winner,” Vesey said in his acceptance speech. “It’s definitely a huge honor. Definitely joining elite company as well.”

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Unlike last year, when Boston University’s Jack Eichel was all but assured of winning, Vesey was an underdog winner, and won a wide-open contest over two finalists who had equal claims to 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,” said Vesey. “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.”

Vesey, who also was named a first-team All-American on Friday, was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist for the second straight season. Over the last two seasons, he leads the country in goals scored with 56, including 24 this season.

He repeated this year as the Ivy League player of the year, ECAC Hockey player of the year, a ECAC first-team all-conference selection and as the Walter Brown Award winner as top American-born player in New England.

Vesey notched 46 points in 33 games this year. He also helps with community service, including as a fundraiser for the Travis Roy Foundation.

“As a parent, I’m proud to see my son win that award,” said Vesey’s father, Jim, who played in the NHL. “He was close last year, and I know how it feels when you go last year and don’t win and the candidates this year are just as good. Kyle Connor and Thatcher Demko are great hockey players. Everybody won tonight.”

In introducing Vesey as the winner, 2016 Hobey Baker Award chair Chris Bonnell said Vesey was joining a “fraternity of past recipients, from Neal Broten of Minnesota to Jack Eichel of Boston University, that has continued to set the bar high.”

Vesey became the fourth Harvard skater to win the award, and the first since Lane MacDonald in 1989, who coincidentally played with Vesey’s coach, Ted Donato, on Harvard’s only NCAA championship-winning team.

Vesey said the desire to play for a national championship was one of the factors that brought him back to Harvard for his senior season.

“I definitely knew it was a possibility, because I was a finalist last year, but ultimately I came back not for an individual award, but to hopefully go for the national championship with my teammates,” said Vesey. “Unfortunately, we fell short of our goal. We would have liked to have been playing this weekend, but this is definitely a huge honor for me.”

After finishing as a Hobey Hat Trick finalist last year, Vesey, a third-round draft choice of the Nashville Predators, thought about signing with the Predators but returned for his senior year.

“It shows that he was in it for the right reasons, that he wanted to get his degree,” said Jim Vesey Sr. “It meant a lot to him at Harvard University. That’s why he went there, to get his degree. He realized hockey can end at any time, after a year, whatever it is, but after that you have a lot of life left. … I know he wanted to do it for his mother, too.”

Vesey recently said he’d become a free agent later this summer and not sign with Nashville, and he has not decided what he will do immediately after college.

“At the end of the day, in my heart I wasn’t really ready to sign a contract,” said Vesey. “At this point, I’m just going to try to enjoy my last month or so as a college kid and have some fun with my classmates and make sure I’m at graduation to receive my diploma. And then this summer I’m going to train as hard as I ever have and get myself in great shape so I can pick a team in August and go into training camp.”

Vesey beat out goaltender Demko of Boston College, who was named an second-team All-American before the Hobey ceremony, and forward Connor of Michigan, who won the Tim Taylor Award as the nation’s top rookie and was named a first-team All-American.

An interview during the ceremony with Connor’s dad, Joe, seemed to indicate Connor might be leaving school after this year, as he talked about Connor playing at Yost Arena in the past tense.

  • GoBlue!

    Wow

  • Let’sPlayHockey

    Wow. Did the committee watch hockey this year?

    • Ron IsNotMyRealName

      Clearly not since Boeser wasn’t even on the list.

  • Ron IsNotMyRealName

    Well if the Hobey wasn’t already a joke, it sure is now. Last I pay attention to it.

    A player that didn’t deserve the award on a team that didn’t deserve to be in the tournament. Must be nice to have the Harvard name behind you. It’s what you pay for there, not the education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.

    • John Devine

      Well, Vesey can walk away from hockey and still do better than you or I did.
      He was a good forward and leader on a team whose PWR rating had them in the NCAAs since January but in turn auto-qualified by beating a then 2 loss team and NCAA finalist in the league tournament.
      You guys do realize that they play college hockey east of Buffalo, right? If not, look at the list of NCAA champions since 2007 (and yes, Duluth is there, but still.)

      • Ron IsNotMyRealName

        I didn’t realize you got the Hobey for being better than people that didn’t play college hockey. It all makes sense now.

        The Hobey has been a joke for quite a while, but this really puts the cap on it. It’s just laughable. He didn’t even have the year he had last year.

      • Bob Neal

        No they don’t. There seems to be a lot of bloggers like ‘Ron’ who believe that college hockey only exists in the Midwest. Somehow an Eastern team has won most of the titles in the last 10 years. IF UND loses Saturday, some of these guys may never get out of their mother’s basement…

        • Ron IsNotMyRealName

          Well most of the teams are in the east so that really just stands to reason.

          None of anything you said has anything to do with the reality of this being a substandard choice.

          Oh well, I’m sure UND would rather have the big prize.

  • Brandon

    Wow. What a joke. It’s not a career award and Connor had about 20 more points than him. I don’t know how you explain this one.

  • Glen Holt

    Let’sHaveClass. #’s don’t describe it all. Great honor for all three!

    • Ron IsNotMyRealName

      Rather have one of oh I dunno at least the 10 best players in the country win it. No class deserved for this awful awful choice.

      North Dakota has one line with 3 guys better than him.

      • TakeArestBoys

        Ever think that because of last year’s #’s he was playing this year with a body draped on him every game or even a defensive strategy to stop him? Vesey STILL had good #’s and a number of key/winning goals. Again, #’s don’t describe it all!

        • Ron IsNotMyRealName

          Getting bitched up in the first round of a tournament you didn’t deserve to be in does, though.

          • TakeArestBoys

            That makes no sense. Here’s a thought. Maybe they got there “because” of him.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            Still didn’t deserve it. Consistently beaten against tournament caliber opposition. A human committee would have seen this and left them out.

            Guess you have to remember the Hobey Baker story. He was a rich kid from back east that got into Princeton despite not being thought of as particular bright by his aristocratic peers and thought he was too good to get his hands dirty. I guess through that lens, this choice is perfect. But that means you basically can’t say that the Hobey is about being the best player anymore.

          • TakeArestBoys

            My boy was fortunate to receive enough financial aid (I’m not rich and even grew up in a 3 family so don’t bother going there) that it allowed him to attend a prep where he played hockey for 4 years (played vs Vesey when @ Belmont Hill) and St Paul’s was a school we visited annually. I would read about Hobey Baker every year. It explained how his father had lost all his money and only would be able to pay for one of two sons to attend college. He was forced to decide between them and Hobey was chosen. At the time this occurred, allowing his father another year to recover somewhat financially, he stayed at St. Paul’s (PG?) even though he could have gone to Princeton right away. As far as your comment goes “…not being thought of as particularly bright…” keep in mind he was at Princeton, starred in both football and hockey and still graduated with “above average grades”. The story went on to say that while admittedly records weren’t well kept back then, Baker’s personal stats averaged 3 goals/3 assists a game over the course of his college hockey career at Princeton. While doing this he only had one penalty during that time so I’m guessing that’s where the “…too good to get his hands dirty” line came from. Pretty sure all this blows up your last statement. He’s got all the qualities required to win the award (NCAA player who best “exhibits strength of character both on and off the ice” and “contributes to the integrity of the team and displays outstanding skills in all phases of the game”. All I can say is Congratulations Jimmy Vesey, you worked hard and deserved to win the award!

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            I don’t know what you thought you were proving or disproving. But you didn’t do it.

          • St

            I think he was defending Hobey Baker, not Vesey.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            I’m sure there’s stuff said abotu Baker that isn’t true…kid getting himself killed after being a war hero, bound to have embellishments.

            I don’t buy all the stuff about oh he sacrificed a year or whatever to let his dad make money — he went to college at 18, nothing out of the ordinary there. He worked for JP Morgan after graduating from Princeton as a 3rd generation legacy — nothing out of the ordinary there.

            Easy to be a gentleman when you never had to work for anything in your life.

          • reardensteel

            Actually, by definition, they did deserve to be there.
            It was known by all competitors that winning a conference tourney earns an automatic bid to the NCAAs.
            It’s not a subjective matter.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            Um…no. That doesn’t mean they deserved it any more than Ferris State did. Conference tournaments are pretty well worthless as a predictor of NCAA success.

        • Ron IsNotMyRealName

          Btw numbers have nothing to do with UND having at least 3 players better than him. They’d be better if they were somewhere else. 2 first round picks and a Canadian that will almost certainly find an NHL home shortly after the season (probably Ottawa). Clearly I’m not the only one that thinks the 3 of them are better.

      • Bob Neal

        Vesey had more points per game than all of your ‘better’ players…..

        • Ron IsNotMyRealName

          LOL proves you know nothing.

          Come out west and play in a big boy league and see how many points your rich kid has.

          Against tournament teams, he had 7 points in 10 games. Much like his team, he couldn’t do it against the good teams. Putting up 3-4 points against Dartmouth, Brown, St. Lawrence, Colgate and Rensselaer doesn’t impress me much.

          • Bob Neal

            I am from a big boy league, Hockey East. Remember them. Winners of 7 of the last 10 Titles. Are you making fun of the ECAC? They won 2 of the last 3 including an all HE FF 3 years ago. Sorry if facts get in the way.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            Hockey East isn’t winning it this year! Hockey East and NCHC are obviously the two best leagues. I would say the NCHC is more competitive up and down the list (Neb Omaha would have made the regionals in any other league, take a look at their closing schedule…), and HE got more than a bit exposed this year in the tournament, but it’s still a solid league. It’s worth noting that Vesey didn’t play in it.

            ECAC doesn’t have the depth of competitiveness and talent throughout the league. This year they were really a 2 team league. One of them is in the final, but that doesn’t make it a power conference. I feel like Sagarin rankings would do a good job of exposing this, but he doesn’t do them for college hockey. Harvard was something like 2-7-1 against tournament teams (so, the top 25%, basically). Yale hardly played any, they were 2-2-1 with 4 of them being league games. St. Lawrence was 1-7-1. They just weren’t as good. Neb Omaha and Miami probably finish 2nd or 3rd in this league. If not for Quinnipiac, it would have been pretty much indistinguishable from the WCHA — playing Q 2-3 times gave everyone in the conference a boost in the rankings, even though they usually lost (same way with the farcical ranking St. Cloud had).

          • Bob Neal

            I agree with most of your points. I believe that the ECAC is top heavy, but deeper than just 2 teams. Just my opinion. Hockey East is a little weak at the bottom ( too many teams ? ) , but one of them ( Maine ) tied North Dakota. Would like to see a Hockey East – NCHC Challenge Cup. Maybe 4 games against each other with the top 8 from HE playing 2 here and 2 there with NCHC. Used to have a HE – WCHA challenge back in the day.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            Some years the ECAC is deeper than it was this year, sure. Rarely if ever is it as deep as the top 2 leagues. This year beyond Q there really wasn’t much there, though. Yale hadn’t really played much of anyone, and Harvard and St. Lawrence had and had done a lot of losing.

          • Beaver Fever

            Stop making yourself look so stupid sour grapes. The ECAC has proven they are a top notch league the last few years. Also, being the best all around player involves more than just numbers and dirty play. You may not be impressed, but fortunately for the the rest of us, the NCAA doesn’t ask for your opinion.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            What does the NCAA have to do with the award?

        • Ron IsNotMyRealName

          Boeser against NCAA tourney teams: 19 points in 15 games
          Caggiula against NCAA tourney teams: 19 points in 15 games
          Schmaltz against NCAA tourney teams: 16 points in 15 games

          Case closed.

          • Bob Neal

            I guess those 3 should have been the finalists. Stupid me…

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            If the choices were them vs. Vesey, then sure; no brainer, really. But you wouldn’t go wrong picking any of those 3 — they all performed well all year in a tough, tough league, and they all maintained or even picked up their game against the better teams they played.

          • Bob Neal

            But Vesey was kind of a one man team and North Dakota has 12 draft picks. Those 3 have each other, all very talented. Vesey would be a star on ND as well. About to sign this Summer with my crappy Bruins team…

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            I don’t think Vesey would be first line at UND. He would be a very big 2nd line player though lol.

      • corn2990

        So does Michigan.

      • USANTDP

        I’m sorry but Connor was the best playe. Caggiula and Demko were my second best. The ecac was at a low this year as quinnipiac had no competition. Teams like stawrence and Dartmouth are ranked too because they also play even weaker teams. There was one team in the ecac this year. It doesn’t touch the nchc or even hockey east. Not saying it’s a complete joke still good hockey to be played and always a great team , but as a whole if you defend it compared to these leagues you’re lost.

        • Ron IsNotMyRealName

          Connor didn’t look like anything special against UND and didn’t stand out against any of the big boy teams they played. The Big Ten was probably worse than the ECAC even, so I don’t know how that supports anything you said.

          But you could see in the postseason how big the gulf was between the NCHC and everyone else, and how much better the CBS line was than everyone else.

          St. Cloud’s Kossila had over a point a game against the non-automatic bids in the tournament. Once DU put their big line together, Heinen averaged 2 points a game against the same measuring stick. Jake Guentzel of Omaha had 21 in 16 against the top competition.

          Meanwhile, Connor had 0 goals and 3 assists in 4 games against BU, UND and Notre Dame. For the season, Connor had 8G, 12A in 16 non-conference games (7 of the goals against Mercyhurst, Niagara and Ferris). 27G, 24A in 22 games in the defense-optional Big Ten.

          Bottom line is the Big Ten was horrendous and Connor got exposed when he played the big boys. Boeser rose to the challenge against the best competition and got better and better through the season. Boeser and Caggiula were the two best players, and then the argument is for 3rd.

          • USANTDP

            Yeah I see your points but you obviously at a Und fan, so you know how good they are depth wise. Nobody was scoring against them and Connor is the best skilled played in the nation hands down. I agree even the ecac was a lot better than the big ten, but not almost 30 points better. I also agree totally that those two were snubbed big time and not even being nominated was ridiculous. You put some Und kids on teams that aren’t so deep like they were this year they wouldn’t be as special either. Michigan atleast won a game Harvard looked hideous and vessey did nothing.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            I don’t think Vesey was anywhere near the best in the country, so I don’t know what you’re getting at there. To me Vesey’s not even in the conversation. Good not great numbers, and neither he nor his team did it when it mattered.

            Heinen got 7 points in a weekend against UND during the season. So not sure about no one scoring against UND. Compher got 2 goals against them too. Heinen had 15G and 22A in the last 25 games, playing much better competition.

          • USANTDP

            I was getting at that’s why I picked him as the final three as the best option. I have said multiple times und had better options not sure where you’re getting at.

  • fox5.2

    Wow.The Hobey and The Heisman what a joke.The kid had a look of what I won.His opening statement should of been I don’t deserve this.

  • Nick DuRose

    Wow can say I am more then surprised on this one. Connor got snubbed big time.

  • Bob Neal

    I love the western hockey bias in every blog. From what I read North Dakota must have won every title recently and the eastern teams never deserve to be in the NCAA tournament. Funny. Vesey is a worthy Hobey Baker winner. All 3 were great, but the committee seems to resist giving it to a Freshman.

    • streaker

      Jack Eichel?

      • Bob Neal

        Eichel was the ‘IT’ guy from the start. In general a Freshman gets snubbed. Connor was awesome, but like Eichel he is about to leave school. Bummer for Michigan and college hockey in general.

        • streaker

          He was the IT guy in NCAA with same stats as Connor. Same style, except Connor is a decent student and not a party animal.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            Connor didn’t do it in a power conference and didn’t do it against a power team when he got the chance.

          • streaker

            Ah, the B1G is weak argument. Got it. And one game doesn’t make a season. Seems he had a big part in Michigan even being in that game.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            What game were you watching? In the game? When?

            Compher was the only one of the 3 that I thought stepped up to the challenge.

          • streaker

            What I meant was, without Connor’s contributions, Michigan would not have won the B1G tourney, been 7th in the PWR, beat Notre Dame to PLAY UND. He did disappear in that game, (had a 2×1 he muffed right off the opening faceoff) but that should not define his whole season. It is like saying UND lost to Wisconsin and therefore shouldn’t be in the NC game.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            Difference is UND played a lot more games that were representative of tournament competition. Michigan didn’t.

          • streaker

            This is not about how great and mighty the fighting whatevers and the NCHC is. If that was the case they would have already won a NC and have a Hobey in the 3 seasons the league has been around. Connor played the schedule he was given. So did Demko. I thought they deserved better, Vesey is a good player but if you look at them individually for this season, it doesn’t stack up. The only candidate that consistently played the same type of competition that UND did all season was Demko, if that is your sole criteria.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            I’m just saying that if you don’t play a tough schedule, you need to stand out when you do get the chance to show against the best. I’m not going to go through everyone, but I imagine there are guys from middling leagues that did that better than Connor, possibly including his teammates. In 4 games against BU, UND and Notre Dame, he had 0 goals and 3 assts. That’s not going to eliminate any doubts about quality of schedule anyone may have had.

          • streaker

            He went three games the entire season without a point. Three. Given his circumstances I don’t know what else the kid could do. Led the NCAA in points and goals. Top five in PP. +/-. Outside of maturing and being tougher on the puck and backchecking, he has NHL skills now. I don’t how you can say others from “middling leagues” can put up what he did. Motte and Compher are special college players, but they weren’t even matched up on the same line until 10 games into the season. I don’t think people saw him enough- like the Hobey committee for one- but got an eyeful of the other two. I’m not discounting your point, but I think you are giving it too much weight and not enough credit to the schedule Michigan did play. Even good players will struggle against equal or better talent. UND has exceptional talent, so maybe it deserves credit too.

          • Ron IsNotMyRealName

            He probably could have scored a goal against a good team. That would have been something else he could have done. I imagine there are plenty of guys that averaged 0.75 or more points per game against good teams. I named a few in other posts just from the NCHC, like Guentzel, let alone from lower leagues.

            Stats rolled up in the Big Ten are pretty close to worthless.

  • Sparky

    Wow, this is surprising. There is no question Kyle Connor is the best CH player in the country. This is nothing short of highway robbery….much like Matt Frattin was robbed.

  • Ron IsNotMyRealName

    Case closed, again. Caggiula and Boeser – spectacular.

  • USANTDP

    Vesseys a solid top tier player. I guess I don’t see the “elite” level like others do. Caggiula not being up and Connor losing out seems wrong.

  • Brian

    When did the Hobey Baker Award become a career achievement reward?