The college hockey season may have looked a little different this year, but award voting went on anyway. Today, the Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalists were announced. The trophy is given to the top NCAA player in the country and has an impressive line of winners over the past few years. In 2014, Johnny Gaudreau took home the award as a junior for Boston College, followed by Jack Eichel in his only year for Boston University in 2015. Jimmy Vesey, Will Butcher, and Adam Gaudette don’t bring quite the same impact but are still NHL regulars after winning from 2016-18.
2019’s winner was University of Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar, who has gone on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie and is now dominating the league with the Colorado Avalanche. Last year the award was given to Scott Perunovich, but his NHL debut has been postponed thanks to a major shoulder injury.
The award also has several top NHL alumni in its small fraternity, including Neal Broten, Tom Kurvers, Paul Kariya, Chris Drury, Ryan Miller, and Brendan Morrison. With that group behind them, this year’s winner is certainly not someone to take lightly.
Earlier this year, more than 50 players from the NCAA ranks were nominated for the award, and ten finalists were announced last month. Those ten players have been narrowed to just three, your Hat Trick finalists:
Cole Caufield – University of Wisconsin (Montreal Canadiens)
Already signed to his entry-level contract with the Canadiens, Caufield is the overwhelming favorite to win the award. The 15th overall pick in 2019, he led the nation in goals (30) and points (51) and routinely showed he was on a different level skill-wise. The diminutive winger also took home the gold medal with Team USA at the World Juniors and has simply dominated at every level throughout his hockey career. His tenure at Wisconsin is over no matter what happens with the Hobey Baker, as he’ll start his pro career in the coming days.
Shane Pinto – University of North Dakota (Ottawa Senators)
Caufield wasn’t the only impressive forward in the country though and Pinto’s place in the final three is well deserved after another strong season. The 20-year-old center scored 32 points in 28 games for UND while routinely being asked to check the opponent’s best. Though he had more offensive players on his team, there might have been no one as valuable given how many important situations Pinto was deployed in. An elite faceoff man, dogged back checker, and strong offensive facilitator, his game should translate quickly to the pro level.
Dryden McKay – Minnesota State University-Mankato (undrafted)
Not to be forgotten is McKay, the small undrafted goaltender who just keeps stopping the puck. From the moment he stepped foot on the ice for the Mavericks he has been among the best in the country, posting a .934 save percentage in 96 games. His record of 75-14-4 speaks for how strong the team around him has been during that stretch as well, but there’s no reason to doubt McKay’s contributions. For the second straight season he posted 10 shutouts, this time in just 25 games. Though his size may keep him from being an NHL starter in the long run, his college career has been almost completely unblemished to this point.
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