Tomorrow night kicks off the final weekend of conference tournaments in the NCAA, with Selection Sunday setting the stage for the NCAA Tournament beginning next week. With the collegiate regular season a thing of the past, the conferences haves used the gathering of their top teams ahead of this weekend’s games as a chance to hold end of the year banquets and announce award winners. To no surprise, many notable NHL prospects were also among those honored.
Perhaps the top pro prospect in the NCAA and the favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award this year, it was predictable that Cale Makar (COL) would first be unanimously named the Hockey East Player of the Year. The dynamic defenseman was the No. 4 overall pick by the Avalanche two years ago and has lived up to the hype through two seasons at the University of Massachusetts. Makar was one of six UMass players to also be named all-league players, including Mario Ferraro (SJ) and John Leonard (SJ) and scoring champion Mitchell Chaffee. 2018 first-round pick Joel Farabee (PHI) was named Hockey East’s Rookie of the Year following a point-per-game freshman campaign for Boston University. Similarly impressive teenager Cayden Primeau (MTL) was named Goaltender of the Year, backstopping Northeastern University with a .935 save percentage and 2.02 GAA. Providence College’s Vincent Desharnais (EDM) and the University of Maine’s Chase Pearson (DET) were also honored as the Defensive Defenseman and Defensive Forward of the year, respectively.
In the Big Ten Conference, recent Red Wings signing Taro Hirose (DET) out of Michigan State University was named Player of the Year, as well as scoring champion as the NCAA’s leading point-getter. The University of Minnesota’s Sammy Walker (TB) was named Freshman of the Year after the seventh-round pick surprised many this season. Quinn Hughes (VAN) of the University of Michigan and Evan Barratt (CHI) of Penn State University were other notable Big Ten stars, earning first-team all-conference considerations.
Elsewhere, a trifecta of NHL hopefuls won both Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year for their conference. Adam Fox (CAR) is the most notable, as the Harvard University product enjoyed yet another dominant year in the ECAC and could be an impact player immediately once he joins the Hurricanes. Jimmy Schuldt hopes to do the same wherever he ends up, as the priority free agent from St. Cloud State University was named both Player of the Year and Defensive Defenseman of the Year for the NCHC and will push for a National Championship this year before turning his attention to the pros. Finally, Atlantic Hockey’s undisputed top player was Joe Duszak (TOR) of Mercyhurst University, who recently signed with the Maple Leafs after leading all NCAA defensemen in scoring.
Other awards of note include the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Scott Perunovich (STL) winning the NCHC’s Offensive Defenseman of the Year Award for the second year in a row and Cooper Zech (BOS) being named the WCHA’s Rookie of the Year despite already leaving Ferris State University after just one year for the AHL’s Providence Bruins. With the NCAA postseason still to come, there will be more honors on the way for college hockey’s top players, but the conference awards already show that the best of the collegiate ranks includes many NHL draft picks and free agent signings, who will hopefully go on to continue their strong play at the next level.