Will Johnny Gaudreau Win The Hobey Baker?
Is The Junior BC Forward Set To Win College Hockey's Top Award, Or Will Kevin Hayes Steal It?
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 02:01
While Johnny Gaudreau is the early front runner for the Hobey Baker Award with a nation-leading 50 points, his teammate, and linemate, Kevin Hayes is hot on his tail with 45 points of his own. As Hayes' senior-season momentum grows, and Gaudreau's point-scoring exploits continue, the final battle for the Hobey could very well be a contest of Eagles.
Gaudreauby Baker Is Near-Certainty
Mike Hoff | For The Heights
Boston College junior winger Johnny Gaudreau will most likely win the Hobey Baker Award primarily because he should.
Drew LeBlanc, the player to whom Gaudreau finished as runner-up in last season’s vote, had 50 points the entire season. Rylan Schwartz led the country that year with 53 points. If Gaudreau racks up as many points against Providence Friday night as he did in the last matchup against the Friars—four—he will have passed last season’s leading scorer before the Beanpot.
Perhaps most impressive about Gaudreau’s gaudy numbers are the circumstances in which he has produced. Besides linemate Bill Arnold, there were not many proven weapons for BC heading into the season. The Eagles are the youngest team in Division I, and Kevin Hayes was not a certainty coming off an injury that he said could have ended his career. Teams knew coming into the season that to stop BC, they had to stop No. 13, and none of them have been able to do it. Gaudreau is obviously not big, but any team that has tried to rough him up has failed.
The teams that haven’t taken that strategy have also failed, and that is due to Gaudreau’s consistency—he has had at least a point in 24 of his last 25 games, and in each of his last 20—and he shows continuous improvement.
“He’s at the very top of his game,” said head coach Jerry York after that first Providence game on Jan. 10, in which Gaudreau struggled at times yet still managed two goals and two assists. “He’s improved every year ... You know, people were saying last year, what more can Johnny do? [But] John wants to get better in every facet of his game. I think he’s stronger on the puck, he’s better defensively, he’s shooting the puck better. It’s an awful lot of fun for us to watch him play.”
That game highlighted another argument that furthers Gaudreau’s case: his competition. Excluding BC, Hockey East has seven of the top 22 teams in the pairwise rankings (Providence, Northeastern, UMass-Lowell, Notre Dame, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire). BC has played eight games against those teams, and Gaudreau has eight goals and 17 points in those games.
Hockey East also boasts the best collection of goalies the country has to offer, but Gaudreau has made fellow Hobey Baker candidates Jon Gillies, Clay Witt, and Martin Ouelette look as helpless as anyone else.
The only possible holes in the New Jersey native’s candidacy are the quality of his current linemates and that, well, stats aren’t everything. Besides that, Gaudreau tore up opposing defenses with freshman Austin Cangelosi on his right wing before Hayes replaced the freshman. BC still does as its best player does: it’s 15-0-1 in games he’s scored a goal.
Gaudreau’s statistics and offensive highlights stand for themselves, but while Gaudreau may resemble the NCAA version of Patrick Kane in the offensive zone at times, he does not in the other two. Gaudreau has even been a regular fixture on college hockey’s best penalty kill all season.
Gaudreau will garner votes for other reasons. For one, his name is possibly the most recognizable of any player in the sport. A runner-up last season for the award, he was an integral part of BC’s 2012 national championship team as a freshman, and his memorable highlights will resonate in a sport in which live coverage is not always easy to find. Plus, voters can vote for Gaudreau without thinking that they are voting for the same player as last year because of his improvement on the stat sheet and the more subtle areas York mentioned.