April 27, 2005
10 For '06: The Hobey

We're only a few weeks removed from the 2005 national championship game, but here at Inside College Hockey we can't resist casting our gaze toward the future. A lot can change between now and the drop of the puck in October, but that doesn't stop our 10 For '06 feature.

We already took an early look at the top 10 teams headed into next season; in the coming days we'll offer our thoughts on 10 big questions headed into next season. Now we take an early look at who will be next year's contenders for the Hobey Baker Award.

Last year only one Hobey finalist returned to college hockey, and Michigan State’s Jim Slater struggled, like his team, for much of the season. The result was a wide-open field of new stars under consideration for the sport’s highest individual honor.

Next year’s Hobey race seems much more in focus, at least heading into the summer, with six of the 2005 finalists slated to return to college hockey. Even the top newcomer, Minnesota’s Phil Kessel, is already a household name in college hockey circles.

So you’ll probably recognize each of the names that follow. Opposing coaches certainly do.



Matt Carle
The excuse that his chances would be hindered by playing on the same team as another likely Hobey candidate in Gabe Gauthier clearly doesn’t hold water (see Sertich, Marty). Nor can the claim that playing in the relative obscurity of the Mile High City – Carle is anything but anonymous after scoring a goal and three assists in two Frozen Four games, including a jaw-dropping slalom through four North Dakota defenders punctuated by a no-look pass for a goal in the Pioneers’ 4-1 championship game victory. Defensemen with that measure of offensive skill are truly rare.
Patrick Eaves
Boston College
The Ottawa Senators sound like they’re bound and determined to get Eaves in their system for next season, and for good reason: his combination of skills make him ready for the pro game, perhaps moreso than any skater on this list besides Carle. Holding back the Sens’ plans, however, is the ongoing NHL lockout, which prevents teams from making any signings. That could spell trouble for the rest of Hockey East, as the league would welcome back its reigning Player of the Year. With Andrew Alberts and Ryan Shannon graduating, the Eagles will unquestionably be Eaves’ team in 2005-06 – if he can lead them to a level anywhere near their recent success, he’ll be a Hobey favorite.
Gabe Gauthier
If you subscribe to the theory that Hobey Baker favorite status can be secured at the previous year’s Frozen Four, then Gauthier may have grabbed it the afternoon before Marty Sertich actually picked up last year’s trophy. Gauthier’s 2-1—3 performance against CC was just part of a brilliant playoff run in which he showed that he could be the best two-way forward in the game. Overshadowed by his rivals to the south and Michigan Tech’s Colin Murphy in 2004-05, Gauthier should grab the WCHA spotlight from the start of the season next fall.
Jimmy Howard
Before last year, you couldn’t have gotten odds on the chances that there would be four goalies among the Hobey finalists and none would be named Jimmy Howard. But while a series of setbacks – mononucleosis and leg injuries – slowed Howard in the first half of the year, by the end he was back to his normal self. He allowed more than two goals only three times after New Year’s Day, and almost carried the Black Bears to upsets in the Hockey East semifinals and the NCAA Tournament. In each case Maine lost low-scoring games in overtime: 2-1 in double OT to Boston College, and 1-0 in OT to Minnesota.
Phil Kessel
As if the kid needs to live up to any more expectations. Of course, he’s met every challenge that’s been thrown his way thus far. The majority of those who saw him play in U.S. Under-18 Team exhibition matches against Division I opponents said he was the best player on the ice … for either team. Kessel’s got the complete package – good skating skills, a terrific shot, tremendous passing ability, big enough to withstand physical play and, perhaps most important, is a regular guy who loves the game.
David McKee
Plenty of people were dismissive of the Big Red’s success last season, as Cornell posted the nation’s best record and won two league titles, but still didn’t earn a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed. No one could ignore McKee’s contributions, however, as the Texan assumed the throne as the latest in Cornell’s legacy of outstanding goaltenders. He’ll enter 2005-06 carrying the momentum of an impressive performance at the NCAA West Regional and a spot in the Hobey Hat Trick, not to mention all those times he gets mentioned for breaking Ken Dryden’s records.
Brady Murray
North Dakota
The return of Murray, who missed roughly half of last season because of injuries, provides an extra boost of momentum for a team riding a considerable wave of mojo into 2005-06. Despite the on-again, off-again sophomore campaign, Murray still managed to score 20 points in 25 games. He played in a myriad of roles last season – on the left with the graduating Rory McMahon and Colby Genoway, centering a unit alongside Chris Porter and Rastislav Spirko, and as a wing on a line with Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford. If Dave Hakstol keeps that last trio together next season and Murray is healthy, his point totals should be enormous.
Marty Sertich
Colorado College
Well, duh. He did win it this season, so it’d be ludicrous to think he wouldn’t be among the leading candidates for the honor next year. Linemate Brett Sterling may be the more gifted goal scorer, but CC coach Scott Owens, among others, told anyone who’d listen that Sertich’s versatility is what separates him from the pack. Sure, he’s a first-line center and on the Tigers’ top power-play unit, but he’s also out there killing penalties and taking key faceoffs.
Brett Sterling
Colorado College
Sitting at a press conference with Sertich and McKee after this year’s Hobey Baker presentation, one writer wondered aloud if – following the Sejna-Sertich CC pattern – Sterling was the odds-on favorite for 2005-06. He laughed and offered a humble response, but Sterling’s game is not so easy to dismiss. He scores big goals, as evidenced by his playoff team MVP honors for the Tigers this season, and is more than happy to take his 5-foot-8 frame into tough areas like the corners or the front of the net. And with his running mate Sertich returning, you can be sure that he’ll continue to get the puck in good position to score.
Jeff Tambellini
By the time Tambellini got on a roll last season, the buzz regarding the CCHA’s top Hobey candidate was already surrounding his teammate, T.J. Hensick. And while Hensick was solid down the stretch for the Wolverines, Tambellini was absolutely flammable, scoring 21 points in the team’s last 10 games. If he can duplicate – or improve upon – last year’s success and help a Michigan team with a lot of new faces make a seamless transition into a Frozen Four contender, he’ll be on the list in March.

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