I tried to flesh out some of the award candidates this week, but in some cases, I made the picture cloudier for myself.
After a couple hours spent Saturday looking at the ballot, moving people around, and complaining about the decisions on Twitter, I've filled out a complete ballot.
As usual, I encourage all the other voters in the media to be open about their votes, but each person can make that call for themselves. Fans are free to use the comments area or hit me up on Twitter to ask questions or just vent because they think I'm an idiot.
Then again, they're always free to do that.
Here is my ballot, complete with explanations and all that jazz.
Jack Connolly, UMD
Brock Nelson, North Dakota
Travis Oleksuk, UMD
Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
JT Brown, UMD
Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
Drew Shore, Denver
Jason Zucker, Denver
Terry Broadhurst, Nebraska Omaha; Jordan George, Bemidji State; Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State; Erik Haula, Minnesota
There were several difficult decisions in this group, even once I narrowed the group down to nine players. Hanowski was probably tenth. I liked Nelson over Bjugstad largely because of his consistency in the league games I've seen UND play, along with the production he's put up despite North Dakota's lack of scoring depth versus Minnesota. That was probably the toughest call, followed up by Zengerle being on the second team when he was so good this season. Oleksuk got the nod over teammate Brown for the first team because of the improvement in his all-around game, along with prowess on faceoffs.
In the end, I took Jaden over Rylan because of his points per game totals. He's done a lot in a more limited number of total games.
Ben Blood, North Dakota
Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
Brad Hunt, Bemidji State
Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Brady Lamb, UMD
Nate Schmidt, Minnesota
Gabe Guentzel, Colorado College; Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
Generally not as difficult as the forwards, but a couple tough calls, especially on the second and third teams. Schultz is way ahead of everyone in this group, and I think Blood is a clear second. Schmidt doesn't make it over Jensen by much, but I don't care where the points come from. It's hard to not look at a defenseman with 30 assists.
Kent Patterson, Minnesota
Kenny Reiter, UMD
Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College
Pretty straightforward here. Only issue was small number of legitimate candidates. Patterson and Reiter have won games and have been consistent throughout the season, and that should count for something in a year where so many teams struggled to keep goalies healthy and playing well.
Caleb Herbert, UMD
Jean-Paul Lafontaine, Minnesota State
Kyle Rau, Minnesota
David Johnstone, Michigan Tech; Jayson Megna, Nebraska Omaha
Rau and Herbert are easy picks. I ended up taking Lafontaine over Megna in the end because I was more impressed by Lafontaine when I saw him, and his numbers in WCHA play are better than Megna's. Very tough decision, though.
Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Andrew Prochno, St. Cloud State
Chris Casto, UMD
Casto's played a ton of minutes and played well, but I think Prochno has been a little better. LaLeggia is a slam-dunk here, being that he leads WCHA rookies in points.
Ryan Faragher, St. Cloud State
Faragher stepped in for an injured Mike Lee, and while SCSU still needs a win and help to get home ice, the Huskies would probably not be anywhere near the home ice chase were it not for the play Faragher has given them in goal.
WCHA Player of the Year
Jack Connolly, F, UMD
Connolly is an easy pick, with a convincing WCHA scoring championship and points in nearly all of UMD's games this season. There isn't a better playmaker in college hockey, and he's helped a number of UMD players achieve career years this season. Justin Schultz would be second on the ballot if we voted a top three or something like that. Schultz is the best defenseman in the country, bar none.
WCHA Rookie of the Year
Joey LaLeggia, D, Denver
Spent a lot of time on this one. Wrote a blog about it this week. In the end, I'm choosing LaLeggia, largely because
But it's hard for me to turn away from that kind of play from a freshman defenseman in the toughest league college hockey has to offer.
WCHA Coach of the Year
Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
Mel Pearson and Michigan Tech had a great year, but you can't coach health. Pearson benefited from a healthy team, something Hakstol never had. Throw in JT Miller bolting for major juniors, and it's been a cruel year for North Dakota. Oh, and there's the nickname flap, too, and you can't tell me it didn't have some impact on the players. Hakstol got his guys to keep going, leaned on his high-level guys for a lot of minutes, and coaxed a fourth-place finish out of a team that started slow and had no depth (17 skaters right now).
Another tough choice, and Pearson will probably win. I like the guy a lot, so I'm not going to scream if that happens. But I like Hakstol, too, and I really like what he's done this season.