On Monday, nominations for the Hobey Baker award – essentially the
NCAA MVP – were unveiled yesterday. To no one’s surprise, Brock Boeser was onthe lengthy list, despite an injury hampered season. To some surprise, Will
Lockwood was also included. To great surprise, Adam Gaudette was left off the
list of nominations entirely.
So what’s the deal with that?
I’ll start out by saying that this appears very strange on the face
of it. Gaudette is having a fantastic year, in which he’s already tallied 19
goals and 43 points in just 27 games for Northeastern University. He’s seventh in
points in the entire NCAA, fourth in goals, and sixth in points per game.
Two of the six players with more points than Gaudette are his
teammates: senior Zach Aston-Reese and junior Dylan Sikura. Both of those
players, however, were given nominations for the prestigious award. All in all, five out of the six players with more points than Gaudette were nominated – as were a whopping 61 players with fewer points. Even if we take out the 10 goalies and 11 defencemen, Gaudette still outscored 40 of the forwards that received nominations.
Naturally the question of whether a given team was limited to two
nominated players apiece. If that were the case, the Gaudette would just be a
victim of bad luck, as no other team’s third highest scorer is anywhere close
in terms of rate of production.
However, that theory quickly falls apart with a quick check of other
teams’ number of nominees. In fact, the very first team I checked, the
University of North Dakota, had three nominees: Brock Boeser, Shane Gersich,
and Tucker Poolman. Various other teams, such as Harvard, Boston College, Penn State, and Minnesota Duluth also have
Of course, I could have just read the top of the voting page and
With the words “up to the top three players” plastered
right there in front of us, it sure seems that the school wasn’t prevented from
adding Gaudette if they chose to do so.
A total of nine schools have three nominees. Perhaps Northeastern wanted to include Gaudette, but only so many schools could have three players involved, in order to keep the total number of nominees at a reasonable level. A total of 66 players were nominated from 40 different schools, meaning that some teams are of course going to have fewer nominations that others. In that case, there must be a pretty high bar to meet for that third player.
But that wouldn’t explain
why Adam Gaudette wouldn’t make the cut over other teams’ third best selections like:
- North Dakota’s Tucker Poolman, a junior defenceman with 22 points in 28 games,
- Boston College’s Austin Cangelosi, a senior forward with 22 points in 28
- Minnesota’s Jake Bischoff, a senior defenceman with 21 points in 26 games, and
- Minnesota Duluth’s Dominic Toninato, a senior forward with just 17 points in 28 games.
Speaking of juniors and seniors, another potential reason for the
snub could be Gaudette’s age, or more specifically, his school year. Gaudette
is a sophomore, and the Hobey Baker clearly gears towards older students. This
is an issue that we ran into last season, when
Thatcher Demko was a Hobey Baker top-three finalist. Senior Jimmy Vesey
eventually won the award, but it wasn’t Demko, a junior, who should have felt
wronged, but Michigan’s Kyle Connor, who destroyed the NCAA as a freshman. Of
course, his bid for the Hobey Baker was likely doomed from the start. As
mentioned in an early season article about Boeser, only two freshmen have
ever walked away with the trophy: Paul Kariya and Jack Eichel – pretty heady
Of course, it’s not like Gaudette would have been the only sophomore
nominated. Brock Boeser is a nominee of course, and as much as Boeser projects to be a
much better NHL player down the road, Gaudette has undeniably had a better
season so far. Altogether there are 13 sophomores among the nominees.
Even more damning are the eight freshmen among the nominees, including
Will Lockwood. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Will Lockwood, he had a hot
start to the year, but he’s been ice cold for months, when he hasn’t been
injured, and even his early season pace doesn’t hold a candle to what Gaudette
is accomplishing in a much hard conference.
So now we’ve removed team limitations and age as possible detractors
to Gaudette’s cause, and what does that leave us with?
The Hobey Baker award takes into consideration more than just
hockey, oddly enough. This likely plays a large role in why older players are
shown perceived preference, and while Jimmy Vesey could beat Connor and Demko
last year. Here is what the official voting page has to say about the award’s criteria:
When voting for the Hobey Baker Award, please make sure to keep in
mind the qualities that a nominee must display: Exhibit strength and character,
both on and off the ice; Contribute to the integrity of the team; Display
outstanding skills in all phases of the game; Show scholastic achievement and
Let’s start with the skill aspect: Displays
outstanding skill in all phases of the game. Gaudette is certainly an
all-situations type player. Not only is he a top-six centre at even strength,
he’s a regular on the first power play unit and in the penalty kill rotation.
While the “outstanding” terminology is a high bar, remember that
we’re only discussing whether or not he should have been nominated, not whether
he should win. His skills on the ice are certainly more outstanding than a
large chunk of the players that were nominated.
As for the first two, Exhibit
strength and character, both on and off the ice and Contribute to the integrity of the team, it’s a
little more difficult to pin point Gaudette’s standing. One thing I can say is
that he’s been wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey, which is typically a pretty clear
sign of character and team leadership – often both on and off the ice. Wearing
a letter is also considered more impressive for underclassmen (freshman and
sophomore students), which contributes to this theory.
The final criterion, Show scholastic
achievement and sportsmanship, is another two-part requirement
encompassing both on-ice and off-ice attributes. As far as sportsmanship goes,
Gaudette may as well be a candidate for the NCAA’s equivalent of the Lady Byng
trophy, if there was such a thing – the two-way has taken a penalty in about
two and a half months, and has just 16 PIMs on the season.
When it comes to scholastic achievement, the data isn’t readily
available to us. I have no evidence whatsoever that Gaudette is doing poorly in
his classwork, though it seems like one of the few plausible excuses that I can
come up with at this point for why he wouldn’t be one of the 66 most valuable
players in the NCAA.
The few explanations that we can come up with might reflect poorly on Gaudette’s character – flunking classes, a poor attitude, less than desirable behaviour at school – so instead of speculating on something that we have absolutely no evidence of, we’ll just have to admit that we don’t know why he wasn’t nominated at this point.
We’ll reach out to some people who might be in-the-know when it
comes to this sort of thing, but at first blush, it certainly seems like
Gaudette is getting snubbed. While he probably would never have a realistic
chance at winning the award (again, given his age, and the success of seniors
like Zach Aston-Reese), and maybe wouldn’t even be a finalist, it’s exceedingly
odd that we won’t even be granted a chance to vote for him.