We are one step closer to crowning the top player of the 2020-21 college hockey season as the finalists have been narrowed down to three. Plus, we check in on two members of the 2020 class as prospects of the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames had big nights on Thursday.
Hobey Baker Award Finalists Revealed
The process to name the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, given to the best player in college hockey, has become quite drawn out. Earlier in the season, 50 players were nominated for the award before being trimmed down to 10. On Thursday, the Hat Trick finalists were revealed.
Cole Caufield – University of Wisconsin
Let’s be honest; if anyone besides Caufield wins the Hobey Baker, it will be a major upset. He led the entire nation with 30 goals and 51 points and was the NCAA’s most dynamic player from the opening puck drop. He has dominated every level he has played at and took home a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championship this past January.
Shortly after Wisconsin’s quick exit from the NCCA tournament, Caufield signed his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him with the 15th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Shane Pinto – University of North Dakota
If it weren’t for Caufield’s huge season, Pinto would be a shoo-in for this award. He put up 15 goals and 32 points in 28 games for the Fighting Hawks, whose season came to an end in a historic five-overtime loss to Minnesota Duluth. In addition to scoring, he did so many other things that led to North Dakota’s success. He put up elite numbers at the faceoff dot, played great defense with a relentless backcheck and became a fantastic playmaker. Thursday was a huge day for Pinto as he also signed his entry-level deal with the Ottawa Senators. They drafted the 20-year-old center in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Dryden McKay – Minnesota State-Mankato
The only non-forward to be a Hat Trick Finalist, McKay is coming off an incredible season that isn’t over yet. The undrafted goaltender posted a 21-3-1 record with a .931 save percentage, 1.39 goals-average and 10 shutouts. The most recent shutout came against the heavily favored University of Minnesota to get the Mavericks to their first-ever Frozen Four. The 23-year-old doesn’t have the size today’s NHL teams are looking for. A just 5-foot-11, he might have been born 20 years too late. However, those numbers are too good for a team not to take a flyer on him despite his lack of height.
Luke Evangelista Gets First Pro Point
With the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) yet to begin, Evangelista made his professional debut with the Chicago Wolves last Sunday. He was back on the ice Thursday afternoon as the Wolves took on the Grand Rapids Griffins. Midway through the opening period, he picked up his first pro point by setting up defenseman Frederic Allard’s second goal of the season.
Scouts have touted his playmaking skills and his ability to find his teammates in space, which is exactly what he did on this play. The Predators were impressed enough by his skillset to use their second-round pick (42nd overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to add him to the organization. They signed him to an entry-level contract back in November. The second cousin of Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan had 23 goals and 61 points for the London Knights in 62 OHL games last season.
Connor Zary Goes Bardown
The Flames used the 24th overall pick of last October’s draft to select Zary, mainly because of his quick and deadly shot. He showed his killer release during the Kamloops Blazers’ four-goal second period in their 6-1 win over the Prince Cougars.
It is a pretty safe bet that will not be the last water bottle he knocks off a net. Zary has produced at every level he’s played at this season. He started in American Hockey League (AHL) with the Stockton Heat, where he had three goals and seven points in nine games. In three Western Hockey League (WHL), he has two goals and six points. The Flames signed Zary to an entry-level contract back on New Year’s Eve.