With the college hockey season winding down, the NCAA has selected its three finalists for this year’s Hobey Baker Award; given to the top collegiate hockey player. The three finalists were chosen from an initial list of of ten candidates. The process also included online fan voting.
2017 NCAA Hobey Baker Award Finalists Announced
This year’s first finalist is Northeastern University’s Zach Aston-Reese. The Staten Island native has blossomed this season and has become a dominant player in all facets of the game. In 38 games this season, the senior forward recorded 31 goals and 32 assists for 63 points. He was tied for first in the nation in scoring. Of these 31 goals, 13 have come on the power play. Aston-Reese helped Northeastern record the second highest power play percentage in NCAA hockey.
The Hockey East Player of the Year and First Team all-conference player is also getting it done on the penalty kill. Ashton Reese finished the season with a career high four short-handed goals which sees him tied in second place. The 6’0″, 190 pound forward, has had his best season to date with the Huskies. He just recently signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins for next season, as well as an ATO with Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins of the AHL for the remainder of this year.
Our second finalist is Will Butcher from the University of Denver. The Pioneers senior defenseman has been instrumental to the team’s success, helping to lead his club to it’s second straight NCAA Frozen Four appearance. After a heartbreaking defeat last year against the University of North Dakota in the semi-finals of the National Tournament, Butcher returned this season with something to prove. The 2013, 5th round Colorado Avalanche draft pick is in the midst of a career year. He has racked up seven goals and 29 assists for 41 points in 36 games this season. The NCHC’s Defenseman of the Year is the first defenseman to be named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award since 2009.
According to our own scouting report by Ben Kerr, “Butcher is quick skater. He has excellent speed in both directions. He also has very good acceleration, agility and edgework. Butcher has very good vision and the ability to thread the needle on passes both to start the transition game and in setting up plays in the offensive zone. He also has a good shot, and understands how to get it through to the net and keep it low to create opportunities for tip-ins and rebounds for his teammates.” Look for Butcher to play a key role next weekend at the Frozen Four in Chicago.
The final candidate to round out the trifecta is Mike Vecchione who plays in Schenectady, New York for Union College. The 5’10”, 184 pound forward has enjoyed much success in his collegiate career including a National Title in 2014 with the Dutchmen. After a lacklustre junior season, the senior forward has returned to his impressive form. Vecchione recorded career highs in goals, points, and assists. In 38 games this season, Vecchione put up 29 goals and 34 assists for a total of 63 points. These impressive numbers also see him tied for first in scoring with fellow Hobey Baker finalist, Aston-Reese.
Although Vecchione is dominant on the offensive side of the puck, he is a strong two-way player as well. “He’s not a one-trick pony though, as Vecchione plays an excellent two-way game. He is very good in the face-off circle. He also provides solid back pressure and helps out his teammates down low. Vecchione has been a solid penalty killer for Union as well.” (Ben Kerr) With Vecchione’s collegiate career coming to an end last weekend, look for the undrafted star to sign an NHL contract in the near future.
Although there are no standout favourites this year, there is some speculation that Mike Vecchione might be a slightly ahead of the other two finalists. In any case, the 2017 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner will be announced on April 7th in Chicago, the host of this year’s Frozen Four tournament.
Main Photo via USCO.