Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WCHA Mid-Season Awards and Such

Every year, I usually kill some time during mark the midseason break in college hockey by taking a stab at what my actual WCHA awards ballot would look like, if I had to fill out such a thing now.

This year is no different, so let's get a move on this. We'll start with the all-league teams.

First team
Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
Jack Connolly, Minnesota Duluth
Jason Zucker, Denver 
Brady Lamb, Minnesota Duluth
Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
Kent Patterson, Minnesota

Second team
J.T. Brown, Minnesota Duluth
Erik Haula, Minnesota
Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College
Brad Hunt, Bemidji State
Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
Kenny Reiter, Minnesota Duluth

Third team
Brock Nelson, North Dakota
Kyle Rau, Minnesota
Matt White, Nebraska Omaha
Wade Bergman, Minnesota Duluth
Nate Schmidt, Minnesota
Josh Robinson, Michigan Tech

All-Rookie Team
Caleb Herbert, Minnesota Duluth
JP LaFontaine, Minnesota State
Kyle Rau, Minnesota
Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Andrew Prochno, St. Cloud State
Juho Olkinuora, Denver

Player of the Year: Jack Connolly, F, Minnesota Duluth
Defensive Player of the Year: Justin Schultz, D, Wisconsin
Rookie of the Year: Kyle Rau, F, Minnesota
Coach of the Year: Mel Pearson, Michigan Tech

For starters, I expect this to change a lot as the season wears on. It's always easier for me to evaluate players when I see them in person, and I still have not seen a lot of notable teams (Nebraska Omaha, Colorado College, St. Cloud State, North Dakota) in person.

(For example, I left SCSU's Ben Hanowski off the list, though I've been impressed by the numbers he's put up since Drew LeBlanc went down. I haven't seen SCSU since then, and have only seen them on television once.)

If I could leave the second defense spot on the first team blank, I would. Schultz is that much better than everyone else I've seen to this point. I'd venture that he's the best defenseman in the college game right now, without a close second. There isn't anything he doesn't do well.

Connolly started a bit slow by his standards, but he's been the best player on the hottest team in the country for about two months. Picking him over Bjugstad and Schultz wasn't easy, but it wasn't difficult, either. Somewhere in between. Bjugstad is a hell of a player, and the leap he's made since I last saw him last season is very impressive. I've already talked up Schultz. Connolly was in a tough spot entering this season, having lost his two-year linemates, but he's been carrying this team, scoring big goals and making big plays for a large chunk of the first half of the season.

Rau is the best rookie in the league, and it's not terribly close. LaFontaine and Herbert have been rock-solid, though, and deserve inclusion on that team. Apologies to Bemidji's Andrew Walsh, but Olkinuora wasn't expected to play much, and he's done a fine job in my view of keeping that ship afloat while the other main goalies have battled injuries.

There's only one Michigan Tech player listed, but let's not discount what's happening in Houghton. Pearson isn't just coaching a team. He's trying to change a culture, and while the work he's done so far is very much worthy of recognition, it's just the start.

I'm sure everyone will hate this list. Maybe I'll get called a Gopher fan. So fire away.

(Note: A Badger fan -- presumably -- chimed in to remind me about Mark Zengerle. Oops. When I file my final vote in March, it's after I've taken notes on each team. I haven't done that yet because I still haven't seen every team in a game either in person or on television. Anyway, I did this without notes, and forgot about Zengerle. He should be on the second or third team, probably second. I'm not taking someone off at this point, so consider this my humble apology, Badger fans. It wasn't out of some disrespect or anything. Just an oversight that again proves my humanity to you.)


John said...

So a guy who is only 2 points off the lead nationally in points isn't even in your top 9 in the WCHA? Lol!

Bruce Ciskie said...

No, I just had a total case of cranial flatulence. He's second/third team in my view, based on what I've seen. Sorry about that!

Goon said...

Bruce, looks good but I can't see how Corbin Knight's not on your vote.

vizoroo said...

Think Drew Shore should get a mention.