OK, so it took me a while to get the second part of this done, but the season starts in earnest this weekend, so it’s time for me to finish this thing off in time for the start of the season.
Last time, we started our look at 25 potential Hobey Baker candidates with 14 forwards from the five conferences, and now it’s time to look at the defensemen and goalies. All but one of these players were all-conference honorees last season, which is a solid, if imperfect, indicator of success in the season ahead.
Zach Redmond, Sr., D, Ferris State – A second-team all-CCHA performer last season and a first-team preseason selection this year, Redmond doesn’t have eye-popping numbers – he was 24th in defenseman scoring last season – but he led FSU’s defensemen in plus-minus and was fourth on the team in that category. He’s not necessarily the kind of defenseman who wins the award, but he is the sort of guy whom coaches notice and can come as a surprise when the Hobey finalists are announced. Drew Bagnall, anyone?
Evan Stephens, Sr., Dartmouth – Stephens was a third-team All-ECAC Hockey selection last season on a Dartmouth team that finished near the bottom of the standings. The Big Green did come on strong in the second half and return the majority of their key performers this season. As with Redmond, the numbers aren’t outstanding, but Stephens is another candidate to grab a finalist spot if the breaks go his way.
Taylor Fedun, Sr., Princeton – Fedun’s numbers didn’t even rate among the top 50 scoring defensemen, but he was picked for the All-ECAC Hockey Second Team over Stephens. His +7 led a Princeton team that posted a sub-.500 record this year, and isn’t predicted to do much better this season. The polls have been wrong before, though, and if Guy Gadowsky’s team comes back strong, Fedun could find himself contending for a below-the-radar finalist spot.
Jeff Dimmen, Sr., Maine – Ah, here’s a guy with some numbers! Dimmen was a second team All-Star in Hockey East last season, and with 12 goals among his 30 points, he seems to have the right kind of game for a defenseman who’s going to win the Hobey. Of course, that’s the kind of thinking that had me envisioning Brendan Smith as the front-runner for the Hobey last season, and we saw how that worked out. Still, Dimmen is worth keeping an eye on this season on a Maine team that should continue to improve.
Blake Kessel, Jr., New Hampshire – A first team Hockey East All-Star, Kessel was second only to Brendan Smith in scoring among defensemen last season, averaging a point per game on 10 goals and 28 assists. The nation’s top returning scorer from the blueline is a no-brainer for consideration, and barring catastrophe, I’d expect him to have an outstanding season for the Wildcats, delaying the day when “Kessel” becomes a dirty word throughout New England (although he could easily have some folks in Boston cursing anyway).
Chay Genoway, Sr., North Dakota – Genoway was named to the All-WCHA third team despite playing a grand total of nine games due to a concussion sustained at the hands of St. Cloud’s Aaron Marvin, but was granted a medical redshirt to complete his college career at North Dakota. In those nine games, he had four goals and six assists, and was generating his share of Hobey talk. Given a full, healthy season on a North Dakota team that always seems to get hot at the right time of year, he should be able to contend for the award again.
Cody Reichard, Jr., Miami – Some interpreted Reichard’s selection as a Hobey finalist last year as a team honor for a RedHawks squad that was so balanced and so successful it was hard to identify a Hobey candidate in the bunch. That said, Reichard did finish the season as the national leader in goals-against average, and ninth in save percentage behind his teammate, Connor Knapp. The reality is that either goalie could post the superior statistics if the Miami platoon remains intact, so keep an eye on both Reichard and Connor.
Allen York, Jr., Rensselaer – York was a second team All-ECAC Hockey selection last season after posting a .910 save percentage and 2.54 GAA for the resurgent Engineers. As I mentioned when looking at the forwards, it remains to be seen how resurgent Seth Appert’s team is without Jerry D’Amigo and Brandon Pirri – although poll voters seem to like them to stay steady – so a “wait and see” approach is right here.
Keith Kincaid, So., Union – The All-ECAC Hockey third team and All-Rookie team goalie last season, Kincaid backstopped a Dutchmen team that came as close as it ever has to an NCAA tournament berth. If they get it this season – and they’re predicted to be right back in the mix in ECAC Hockey – Kincaid could be rewarded with a Hobey finalist spot if the numbers are there. Of course, there is also Corey Milan to consider, so we’ll have to see how Union’s goaltending situation plays out.
Brad Eidsness, Jr., North Dakota – Eidsness was an All-WCHA second team pick last season after finishing eighth nationally in goals-against average and 23rd in save percentage. The return of Chay Genoway to the UND blueline corps should be helpful, and while it’s always tricky to pick goalies, Eidsness is one worth looking at.
Mike Lee, So., St. Cloud – Dan Dunn is the senior, and was an all-WCHA third team pick last season, but Lee has already done the impossible once in his SCSU career – he backstopped the Huskies to an NCAA tournament win (ba-dum-dum) – so if I were picking a St. Cloud goalie to succeed where every college netminder since Ryan Miller has failed, I’d go with Lee, who also has that lovely World Juniors performance on his résumé. He had his growing pains as a freshman, but he should be primed for a breakout sophomore season, one that could earn him Hobey consideration.
So, now we have our group of 25. How many of these will earn finalist spots? Who will flop? Who will come out of nowhere? Only one way to find out: drop the puck.