Saturday, September 1
It’s seems fitting that on the first day of the 2012 college football season we take a look at the upcoming college hockey season. In this article I’ll share my pre-season favorites for the Hobey Baker Award, which is hockey’s Heisman. I’ll also share my assessment of their future fantasy potential.
Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota- Bjugstad decision to return to school was a bit of a surprise, spurning a contract and likely roster spot with the Florida Panthers for an opportunity to lead the Golden Gophers to another trip to the Frozen Four and a shot at the National Championship. Bjugstad is a huge, strong power forward with an array of NHL-quality shots and a quick release. He had 25 goals in 40 games and will have talented teammates to play with again, so that number is likely to increase. Bjugstad is my favorite for the Hobey Baker, and best fantasy prospect on this list.
Brett Gensler, Bentley- The leading returning scorer in college hockey, Gensler had 50 points in 40 games as a sophomore to lead Bentley in scoring. The Missouri native also had a solid freshman season with 24 points in 33 games so last season was no fluke. The 5’9 forward was overlooked following two so-so seasons in the USHL, but is coming into his own. Gensler is not a top prospect at this point, but it would be prudent to monitor his development.
Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College- Arguably the best freshman in the country last year, Gaudreau exploded onto the scene, helping lead the Golden Eagles to the National Championship. His 44 points in 44 games was only one point less than current NHLer Chris Kreider’s 45 for B.C. Gaudreau will garner plenty of attention from opponents this season, but will likely still do more than enough for Hobey consideration before the season’s end. He needs to add more size to his frame to be considered a top prospect.
Kyle Rau, Minnesota- The best freshman not named Gaudreau last season, Rau could still take another step forward this year as he has adjusted to the college game. Rau had better than a point per game for the Gophers, finishing with 43 in his first 40 collegiate games. He is a dynamic skater with speed to burn and very good one on one moves. Rau is also very effective on the power-play, scoring nine times with the man-advantage. Lack of size keeps him from being an elite fantasy prospect, but the skill is there.
Danny Biega, Harvard- Biega returns for his senior season as the captain of Harvard, and as one of the top defensemen in the country. Strong defensively, Biega also has considerable offensive ability, including a hard,accurate shot and a crisp first pass out of the zone. Biega has totaled an impressive 65 points in his last 68 collegiate games, and quarterbacks the power-play with great efficiency. Biega was selected in the 3rd round by Carolina in the 2010 entry draft, and is a very good fantasy prospect.
Danny Kristo, North Dakota- Kristo bounced back from a disappointing sophomore campaign (eight goals) to net 45 points for North Dakota. He oozes offensive ability and uses his teammates quite well, and is a shifty skater who creates space for himself. Kristo will be back for his senior year at Grand Forks and is a top prospect in the Montreal system.
Alex Guptill, Michigan- Guptill was a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines last season, leading the team with 33 points en route to being named the CCHA rookie of the year. At 6’3, 212 pounds Guptill has great size, skates very well, and has offensive instincts to go with nice puck skills. Yet another college player selected by Dallas, Guptill plays with an edge and has a future in the NHL.
Troy Grosenick, Union- Last fall, nobody predicted that Union would be playing in the Frozen Four in April, but there they were, with Grosenick leading the way. The Wisconsin native received plenty of accolades following the season, including All-American, First-Team All-ECAC and Goaltender of the Year, and Hobey Baker Finalist. Grosenick finished whis sophomore season with some very gaudy numbers- 1.65 GAA and .936 save percentage in 34 games in his first season as the starter at Union. He’ll need to put up similar numbers and for the team to have success to win it, but he will likely be in the Hobey Baker chatter.
Honorable Mention: Erik Haula, Minnesota; Doug Carr, Mass.-Lowell; Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud; Joey LaLeggia, Denver; Parker Milner, Boston College