For the second time in as many seasons, the Northeastern Huskies will have a forward in the Hobey Hat Trick. Junior Adam Gaudette was named to the prestigious final three along with Ryan Donato of Harvard, and Henrik Borgstrom of Denver, signaling the top three vote-getters among the ten finalists. All three forwards have signed professional contracts, with Donato already having debuted for Boston, Gaudette debuting tonight with Vancouver, and Borgstrom debuting soon with Florida.
Consensus among college hockey writers is that it is Gaudette’s award to lose, however each player in the Hat Trick has interesting reasons as to why the voters may have chosen them for the award. We’ll look at each candidate below.
For our money, Gaudette has been the best player in the nation. He thrived as the central pillar of a dangerous Huskies offense and powerplay, but did not work as the sole provider of offense, dishing out assists just as often as he scored goals himself. Gaudette was trusted by his coaching staff in all aspects of the game, including the penalty kill, the powerplay, offensive zone starts, and defensive zone starts. In fact, per Ryan Lambert of Yahoo Sports and College Hockey News, in the games he saw Gaudette play, Gaudette started more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone, which makes his offensive output even more impressive.
One of the more powerful arguments for Gaudette is the way he stepped up for the Huskies in their biggest games of the season. Detractors will point towards his performances against Michigan and Providence as strikes against him, but two games does not outweight a season of production, particularly when the two games prior to Providence saw Gaudette put up three points against Massachusetts. And then there is his performance in the Beanpot, which has already been documented across the college hockey landscape, including by us HERE and HERE. In those two games, Gaudette had four goals and two assists, earning the Beanpot MVP award and bringing the Beanpot back to Northeastern for the first time in 30 years.
Gaudette also has been awarded the Walter Brown Award as the best American playing in New England, the Hockey East Player of the Year award, as well as the College Hockey News Player of the Year Award. He has been a leader for the Huskies, even without a letter being sewn onto the front of his jersey. He has been an ambassador for Northeastern University all three of his seasons on Huntington Avenue. He is the rightful winner of the 2018 Hobey Baker Award.
Another Harvard guy?! Seems like our neighbors from Cambridge pump out Hobey candidates like they do fabricated grades. The truth is, Donato deserves to be among the Hobey discussion. He was one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the nation, and multiple time this season single-handedly took over games to keep the Crimson in contention. Harvard had a down year overall, however, and ultimately was eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention after they lost to Clarkson in the ECAC Tournament Semifinals.
From a pure statistical standpoint, Gaudette smokes Donato in every category that is not shots on goal. Particularly telling is the disparity between their assist totals, which one can argue is because Donato had less talent around him, thereby necessitating him to do more himself. A counter-argument to that is that a Hobey Baker player is supposed to make those around him better, and it’s hard to argue that he did when his linemates had 25 points (Ty Pelton-Byce) and 20 points (Nathan Krusko) in a full season.
The case for Ryan Donato winning the Hobey Baker is almost entirely substantiated by his performance for Team USA in the Winter Olympics, and for the Boston Bruins in the NHL. In my opinion, these performances should be null and void when considering these players for the Hobey Baker Award. Some proponents of including them will say that these performance show “character,” or that it shows that Donato performed well regardless of level of competition. Still others may that he “contributed to the integrity” of multiple teams, which helps his case. I think these arguments are straw-man arguments at their absolute best. Donato’s performances outside of wearing a Harvard hockey jersey should have no more impact than Gaudette’s performance on the wiffleball field. These players should be evaluated based on their performance as college hockey players against college hockey players when being considered for a college hockey player award. While Donato did succeed in the Olympics, it is impossible to know if Gaudette or Borgstrom would have done similarly because they were not selected for the Games. Having an uneven field for comparison does a disservice to the playeres and to the award itself, and as such any games played outside of college hockey should have been immaterial for the Hobey Baker voting committee.
Borgstrom is the player that I will write the least about, since I have seen him play a grand total of one game this year. From what I have gathered from those who have watched him, he was easily the best player west of the Mississippi River this season, winning the NCHC Player of the Year Award. Borgstrom has been among the college hockey elite since he arrived at Denver last season, and this year improved his production nine points as Denver made its bid for a repeat national championship. Unfortunately, Denver was defeated by Ohio State in the Midwest Regional Finals, cutting those dreams short.
Similar to Donato, Gaudette is superior to Borgstrom from a statistical standpoint in every measure listed above, and that is with Gaudette playing two fewer games than Borgstrom. One argument that I can see being made for Borgstrom is his performance in the NCAA Tournament; whereas Gaudette went pointless in Northeastern’s lone game, Borgstrom scored one goal and had one assist against Penn State before going pointless against Ohio State. It’s not a good argument, but I could see where some voter foolishly used those two games to pick Borgstrom over Gaudette.
One point raised within our blog group chat is that while Donato may have taken some of Gaudette’s vote from the east, Borgstrom likely had to survive the western vote being split among himself, Cale Morris (who is the best goaltender in the country this year), and Jimmy Schuldt (best defenseman, arguably). So when considering how much the votes may have been split up, Gaudette seems to still be the clear favorite.
Obviously we are all sitting first class on the Gaudette hype train. He simply has been the best player in the country this year. We unfortunately will not be in St. Paul when the award is given out, but we will be covering the ceremony as closely as possible.
Good luck to all three candidates, but mostly good luck to Adam. As always, go Huskies!