Photo Courtesy of USCHO.com
It has been done twice before. Scott Pellerin (’92) and Paul Kariya (’93) won back to back Hobey Baker Memorial Awards for Maine while Tom Kurvers (’84) and Bill Watson (’85) won the award for Minnesota Duluth. Can DU accomplish this rare feat?
The first barrier, especially in today’s environment, is having multiple stars on a team – because one or both are likely to bolt the program the following year for an NHL contract. With senior Will Butcher graduating, the obvious next choice as a potential Hobey Baker candidate on the Denver squad is Henrik Borgström.
However, a number of factors will come into play for the rising sophomore centerman to be in the running next year. Borgström needs to return to Denver for one more year of development before he exits for the NHL. A number of factors could influence that decision such as coaching changes, his development at the college level, the needs of the Florida Panthers, his desire to complete another year of school, finances, etc.
Over the 36 years of the Hobey Baker award, 15 have gone to centers, the most for any positions. Ironically, Minnesota Duluth has had the most recipients with 5. The only non-North American to win the award was Colorado College left wing Peter Sejna from Czechoslovakia in 2003. No player has ever won the award more than once.
The first-round pick of the Florida Panthers from Helsinki, Finland has received nearly every accolade possible for a first-year player, receiving USCHO rookie of the year in addition to being named to the College Hockey News All-Rookie Team and NCHC Rookie First Team. But his biggest award was the American Hockey Coaches Association All-American designation which elevated Borgström as one of only two freshmen to receive this lofty status. Defenseman Adam Fox from Harvard was the only other freshman to earn All-American status.
There are other factors and criteria that drive the Hobey Baker Award other than on-ice achievement. First, more often than not, the team must perform at a high level to create visibility for the candidate. Second, obviously, the player must have a standout year that is superior to that year’s pool of candidates. And finally, the player must meet the formal criteria (below) outlined by the Hobey Baker committee to include character, individual & team contributions, academic achievement, and compliance.
Hobey Baker Criteria:
- Strength of character, on and off the ice
- Contribution to the integrity of the team and outstanding skills in all phases of the game
- Scholastic achievement and sportsmanship
- Compliance with all NCAA rules, including being a full-time student in an accredited college or university and completing 50 percent or more of the season
So, a player could be the best college hockey player and still not win the award. Add the complexity of being from a foreign country and the challenges of communication and expected volunteerism and it becomes clear why only one non-North American has won the award. It appears unlikely that Borgström will win the award but a superior sophomore season may just place him on the stage as one of the Top Three candidates.