NCAA names 2023 Hobey Baker Award finalists, and it's a stacked field
Logan Cooley, Adam Fantilli, Matthew Knies and Lane Hutson are among the top NHL prospects in the mix for college hockey's most prestigious individual award.
The top 10 finalists for the 2023 Hobey Baker Award — given annually to the best player in college hockey — were announced on Wednesday, featuring prominent NHL prospects such as Adam Fantilli and Logan Cooley.
Here’s a rundown of the 10 candidates, with their last names in alphabetical order.
Cooley, 18, was the third pick of the 2022 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. As a freshman with Minnesota, Cooley notched 18 goals and 50 points in 34 games. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Cooley the 17th-best player/prospect under 23 years old, raving about his skating and skill, plus some unexpected snarl from a smaller player.
Fantilli, 18, could go as high as second overall in the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft. As a freshman with Michigan, Fantilli scored the second-most goals in the NCAA (27) and easily topped all players with 60 points in 32 games. He also helped Canada win gold at the 2023 world juniors.
The 21-year-old Harvard junior scored 20 goals and ranked third in points with 51 in 31 games. The Montreal Canadiens selected the playmaking forward in the fourth round (124th overall). The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler ranked Farrell as the Habs’ second-best prospect.
Graf, 20, ranked second in NCAA scoring with 54 points (including 20 goals) in 36 games for Quinnipiac. As an undrafted player, it’s possible he could get a look as an NHL free agent.
Noted as the only defenseman among the 2023 Hobey Baker finalists, the 19-year-old put up the sort of scoring numbers that would make a forward proud: 44 points in 34 games. A late second-rounder (62nd overall) in 2022, Wheeler ranked Hutson the Canadiens’ top prospect over Farrell. Hutson was named Hockey East rookie of the year for his strong work for the Boston Terriers.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Lane Hutson is the Hockey East Rookie of the Year!#ProudToBU pic.twitter.com/OZUraaCgyq
— BU Men's Hockey (@TerrierHockey) March 15, 2023
From Golden Gopher to Maple Leaf? It’s quite possible for the 20-year-old, who could end up being a steal (Toronto selected Knies 57th overall in 2021). While his point totals (21 goals, 40 points in 35 games) impress, the hope is that he can convert his mix of size and skill to immediate dividends in the NHL. Either way, Knies ranked among the best players in the NCAA in 2022-23.
Levi, 21, has taken quite the journey since being a seventh-round pick (212th overall in 2020) by the Florida Panthers. Following strong play at the 2019 world juniors, Levi was part of the Buffalo Sabres’ return for Sam Reinhart. After an outstanding 2021-22 season (21-10-1, ridiculous .952 save percentage), Levi was almost as dominant for Northeastern in 2022-23. His record slipped to 17-12-5, but he maintained an excellent .933 save percentage, becoming Hockey East’s player of the year.
Perets, 23, generated an impressive 30-3-3 record and .927 save percentage tending net for Quinnipiac.
The 2nd ranked @QU_MIH team heads to Lake Placid to take on Colgate Friday in the @ecachockey tourney semi-finals! Record setting goalie Yaniv Perets & his Bobcat teammates have already turned out another 30 win season @WTNH @QUAthletics pic.twitter.com/MVwuZMbmeP
— John Pierson (@JPPierson) March 15, 2023
Pietila, 23, produced a 23-10-3 record and .929 save percentage for Michigan Tech, earning CCHA goalie of the year honors. Pietila posted 10 shutouts, more than Perets (nine) and Levi (six) this season.
With 29 goals, the 23-year-old topped all NCAA performers in 2022-23. The undrafted forward generated 46 points in 38 games, gaining some recognition for his two-way play.
Western Michigan’s Jason Polin is a Hobey Baker finalist, the lone NCHC player to make the last ten. Polin’s 29 goals - and 5 hat tricks (!!) - lead the nation, but the senior is more than just offense. An outstanding two-way forward who’s also up for NCHC Player of the Year. https://t.co/wJJ5h18Xjh
— Alex Heinert - Midco Sports (@AHeinertMidco) March 15, 2023
Recent Hobey Baker Award winners include some impact NHL players
Goalie Dryden McKay took home the 2022 edition of the award, which is given to the “top” NCAA men's ice hockey player. Two of the three other recent winners (Cole Caufield in 2021 and Cale Makar in 2019) are impact NHL players, while 2020 winner Scott Perunovich is in the Blues’ system.