We’re approximately four months from the start of the 2012-13 season, but here at Inside College Hockey we can’t resist casting our gaze toward the future. As you well know, a lot can change between now and the drop of the puck in October, but that won’t keep us from rolling out our 10 For ’13 feature.
Previously, we unveiled the teams that make up our way-too-early top 10 for the upcoming campaign, and later this month we’ll take a closer look at 10 issues we feel will have an impact on the upcoming season. Right now, however, it’s time to introduce you to the 10 players we’ve pegged as the top contenders for the 2013 Hobey Baker Award.
|Biega has been one of the nation’s best defensemen over the last two seasons and does a little bit of everything for the Crimson. You could argue that his omission from last year’s list of top-10 Hobey finalists when four other defensemen made the cut was one of the biggest oversights of the season. He’s back for a senior season after posting 30 points as a sophomore and 35 as a junior, with a plus-14 rating in 2011-12. If Harvard can build on a promising season last year and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, Biega will be a big part of that and be a major candidate for prestigious individual awards.|
|After scoring 12 goals as a freshman, Bjugstad netted 25 goals last season. No one is predicting the 6-foot-5 forward will make a similar leap as a junior, but assuming he doesn’t forego his final two seasons of college eligibility, Bjugstad could surpass the 40-goal plateau. The Gophers are arguably college hockey’s highest-profile team; if they emerge as national title challenger in 2012-13, Bjugstad will spend plenty of time in the spotlight.|
|Carr is a big goalie and a big deal. He was one of the main reasons for UMass Lowell’s emergence last year with an impressive stat line that included a 2.13 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and four shutouts. He backstopped 22 of Lowell’s 24 victories on the year. If the River Hawks can build upon last year’s impressive season, or at least sustain themselves in the upper half of Hockey East and among teams chasing an NCAA Tournament berth, Carr will be a big reason for it.|
|It’s our belief that in order for a player to have a legitimate shot at winning the Hobey, there must be some reputation as an elite player before the season begins. It might have been a factor in 2012, and one day after Jack Connolly won the Hobey, Gaudreau inserted himself into the nation’s conscience with a highlight-reel goal to effectively seal BC’s national title. That rep will help him, and he’s a prolific scorer. As a freshman, he ranked second to only Chris Kreider in points for the Eagles, as Gaudreau posted 21 goals and 44 points in 44 games.|
|Atlantic Hockey has produced a Hobey finalist in all but one of the last six seasons, and Gensler’s our pick to represent the league in the top 10 in 2013. The junior-to-be led Atlantic Hockey in goals (23), assists (27), and points (50) last season, and even a modest uptick in production puts him in line for a 60-point campaign. The Falcons welcome back their top-seven scorers and top goaltender, so look for Bentley to improve on its sixth-place showing in the league last season with Gensler leading the way.|
|Grosenick is the only one of last year’s top-10 Hobey finalists expected to return to college hockey for the 2012-13 season, which should provide some sort of head start in terms of national recognition for the Union goaltender. He played a big part in Union’s success last year with a .936 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average, five shutouts, and 22 wins. Not a lot of people knew much about Union outside of their league, but a Frozen Four appearance might have helped change some perceptions. The Dutchmen should be in the mix again, and Grosenick will be a big part of that.|
|After an impressive freshman campaign in which he tied for team lead in both goals (16) and points (33), Guptill returns to a loaded Wolverines team that has the look of national title contender. Michigan should score in bunches which would definitely help Guptill’s bottom line, but the Wolverines have an embarrassment of riches at forward which could prevent Guptill from piling up Hobey-caliber numbers. Either way, it’s a dilemma Michigan fans would be happy to encounter.|
|North Dakota is similar to Michigan in that it could have a balanced scoring attack that could result in a handful of forwards putting up solid—but not Hobey-worthy—point totals. That said, we’ll double down on Kristo, who bounced back from a subpar sophomore campaign to lead NoDak in assists and rank second on the team in goals and points. North Dakota forwards seem to turn in terrific senior seasons; assuming Kristo maxes out in his final year in Grand Forks, he’ll easily be a Hobey finalist.|
|There were times in the first half of the 2011-12 season when goaltending seemed to be the weakest link in an otherwise exemplary Boston College team. But once Parker Milner figured things out, goaltending became one of the team’s greatest strengths. Milner settled in and took over the number-one job in late January, and posted a 1.09 goals-against average and .960 save percentage with five shutouts in BC’s last 19 games, and all of them were wins.|
|Though Notre Dame was a disappointment last season, Tynan lived up to the lofty standard he set as a rookie, scoring 13 goals and adding a CCHA-best 28 assists during his sophomore campaign, good for second in the conference scoring race behind Miami’s Reilly Smith. Assuming linemate Anders Lee (five goals over the Irish’s last 29 games) rediscovers his scoring touch, Tynan should approach the 23-31—54 totals he racked up as a freshman.|