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Kyle Connor leads the country with 54 points (photo: Michael Dubicki).

We’re kicking off Hobey Watch with a panel of USCHO writers voting the top five contenders for this season’s Hobey Baker Award.

Six USCHO writers, one covering each of the Division I men’s conferences, picked their top five players nationally, with a first-place vote counting for five points, a second-place vote providing four points, and so on.

We’ll update this weekly as the candidates’ stock rises and falls.

1. Kyle Connor, Michigan

Could a freshman win the award for the second year in a row? Connor is certainly making his case, leading the nation with 54 points on 26 goals and 28 assists. His 1.80 points per game is slightly ahead of the pace that Jack Eichel set last year (1.77).

2. Jimmy Vesey, Harvard

The lone holdover from last season’s Hobey Hat Trick, Vesey has seen his numbers fall a bit below last season’s. Still, he’s 10th in the nation in scoring and has five game-winning goals.

3. Tyler Motte, Michigan

Connor’s linemate, Motte leads the nation with 29 goals. He’s also strong in his own end, recording 57 blocked shots so far.

4. Alex Lyon, Yale

When will another goalie take home the Hobey? It’s been 15 years since Ryan Miller was honored in a season that saw him post a .950 save percentage and a 1.32 GAA. Lyon’s numbers are in the same ballpark, leading the nation in save percentage (.941) and GAA (1.51).

5. Thatcher Demko, Boston College

The junior has posted nine shutouts this season, tops in Division I. He’s tied for third in wins (23), and is alone in third for save percentage (.937) and GAA (1.77).

Others receiving votes: JT Compher, Michigan; Kevin Boyle, UMass-Lowell; Michael Garteig, Quinnipiac; Kalle Kossila, St. Cloud State; Andrew Poturalski, New Hampshire; Jake Guentzel, Omaha; Greg Gibson, Robert Morris; Ethan Prow, St. Cloud State; Zac Lynch, Robert Morris.

Our panel includes current and former Hobey voters.

The 10 nominees as selected by a vote of coaches and a separate fan vote will be announced on March 17. Voting by the selection committee happens on March 28 and 29, with the Hobey Hat Trick announced on March 31.

The winner will be announced on April 8 at a ceremony at the Tampa Theatre during the Frozen Four.