While it’s been a tough six weeks for the Colorado Avalanche at the NHL level, there is one future Av that is giving fans a lot to be excited about as he dominates the NCAA.
After surprising some by going back to college for his sophomore season, Cale Makar has taken a huge step in his development and is showing why he is one of the best prospects not in the NHL. With eight goals an 16 assists through 20 games with the No. 1 ranked UMass Minutemen, the fourth-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is likely only a few months away from joining the Avalanche.
Before he gets to the NHL, Markar has some work to do at UMass - that includes getting his team to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever as well as winning the 2019 Hobey Baker Memorial Award.
Not only has Makar been the most dynamic defender in college hockey this season, but he’s been the leader of a team that is reaching heights they’ve never seen. A big reason why Makar went back to school for a second year was that he wanted to help build the UMass program into a national powerhouse - and he’s been doing just that. With a record of 17-3, the Minutemen have a legitimate chance of winning the Frozen Four this season.
The Hobey Baker isn’t simply awarded to the best player in a given season, it is supposed to go to a player who “contributes to the integrity of the team and outstanding skills in all phases of the game." That description fits Cale Makar perfectly.
Here is the convoluted process by which the Hobey Baker winner is selected:
The selection process for the award is in three parts. First, the head coaches of NCAA Division I schools nominate the top three players in their league and the top three players in the nation. College hockey fans can also vote online at this time—and fan voting can be an important factor in the balloting outcome. Price Waterhouse Coopers tabulates the votes and the top 10 candidates are announced.
Voting then commences for the “Hobey Hat Trick,” which is a narrowing of the field from ten players to three, from which the winner is selected. The primary voting in this part of the process is by the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Selection Committee, a geographically balanced group of 27 individuals representing print and electronic sports media, college hockey coaches and officials, and NHL scouts. Fans may also vote online for their favorite candidate during this phase of the process.
Now that the first round of nominations have been made, Avalanche fans can make sure Makar isn’t overlooked for the biggest award in NCAA hockey. You can go and vote for Makar (or anyone else you feel is deserving) here.
Update: Cale Makar is currently leading the Hobey Baker voting but we can always build on that lead.
As of mid-January, Makar has to be one of the favorite to win the award but here are a few names that will likely end up on the short list at the end of the season:
Evan Barratt, Penn State - C - 19GP/13G/17A/30P
The second leading scorer in the NCAA, Barratt leads a Penn State team that has struggled since conference play started. Now that he’s back from the World Juniors, the Chicago Blackhawks third round pick will look to build his resume as he prepares his Nittany Lions team for the Big-10 tournament.
Joey Daccord Arizona State - G - 26GP/2.24GAA/.930SV%
One of the best stories in college hockey over the last few years is the emergence of Arizona State as a legitimate Division-1 program. Earlier this season, ASU was ranked for the first time ever and a huge reason for that is the play of Joey Daccord in net. The former Ottawa Senators draft pick has played more than any other goaltender in the NCAA while putting up an incredible .930 sv%.
Adam Fox, Harvard - D - 15GP/7G/16A/23P
After having his NHL rights traded to Carolina last summer, Fox leads all NCAA defenders in points per game played. The 20-year-old Junior leads Harvard in scoring and has been a highlight in an otherwise underwhelming season for a team that sits at .500 in conference play.
Alex Limoges, Penn State - C - 22GP/11G/19A/30P
Limoges currently sits tied with teammate Evan Barratt for second in NCAA scoring. The 21-year-old sophomore is having a breakout season that should put him on the radar of a few NHL teams this summer.
Chase Priskie, Quinnipiac - D - 22GP/13G/14A/27P
Thought by some as the current front-runner, Priskie is having an senior season. The captain of his team, Priskie has already set a new career high with 27 points - a total that puts him ahead of all other defenders in the NCAA, including Makar and Fox.
Odeen Tufto, Quinnipiac - C - 22GP/11G/18A/29P
Playing for one of the best teams in the nation, Tufto has already exceeded his goal output from a year ago. His 11 goals and 29 points lead Quinnipiac in both categories as the Bobcats sit at the top of the ECAC.
Johnny Walker, Arizona State University - RW - 25GP/19G/8A/27P
He should probably win for the name alone right?
Walker leads the NCAA with 19 goals so far this season while scoring more than twice as many as any of his teammates.