Hobey Baker Award Underdogs: Part one

This year, as is normal , the national conversation for the proposed winner of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award is centering around the NCHC, and Big 10 for the most part. While some of that is well justified, given the success of players like Shane Pinto and Cole Caufield, the lack of a discussion around many deserving players in these two leagues is not, and we will seek to provide more of that discussion for deserving players. We will work to highlights 2-3 players in each article to begin to scratch the surface of the true depth that Atlantic Hockey, and the WCHA have in Hobey Baker conversation.

For today, we will look at three players, Colin Bilek, junior forward for the Black Knights of Army West Point, senior defenseman Brennan Kapcheck and senior forward for AIC Tobias Fladeby. While Fladeby was not nominated in part due to his returning from an after missing more than a few weeks of hockey due to injury, that does not change his importance to Eric Lang’s group. W e have no doubt that the pace he was on would have earned him further consideration if healthy, and given his senior status and leading role in getting some of Kapcheck’s statistics, he merits some time of coverage here. Both Kapcheck and Fladeby will earn professional contracts when they are ready to make the leap to the next level, and at the beginning of the year, Fladeby’s pace had him high on our early consideration list for this award.

Colin Bilek

Of the top ten goal scorers in the country, only three of them have goals at even strength, shorthanded, and on the power play. They are Shane Pinto of North Dakota, Johnny Evans of the University of Connetoicut, and Bilek. He is everywhere his head coach Brian Riley needs him to be. He also has the 12 goals on the seaon on just 57’s hotss. Given his ability to find the net in somewhat limited shots per game, Bilek has become a key contributor on an Army West Point team looking to snag an at-large bid this season. In addition, he only has 12 penalty minutes for the year, showing the disciplined game he plays. He is the biggest scoring threat for Riley’s team on the ice, and off the ice is a leader at West Point. Look for Bilek’s national accolades to match the success of Army West Point down the stretch. As Riley said of Bilek ” the big thing when i think about Bilek.. he is more than just a goal scorer.. I think you’re a real good player when you make others around you better.. and he does that… he has an energy level like nobody that I’ve ever seen.”

Brennan Kapcheck

We do not know everything about AIC Hockey, to find a person that comes a lot closer to that ideal you would have to talk to Seth Dussault, AIC Communications Coordinator and one of the many good humans that work with this hockey team. Despite that, we can suspect that Kapcheck is one of or the most NHL ready player to come through this program in any iteration. As Eric Lang noted, about half of the NHL has already talked to him about Kapcheck, and it is possible in the right situation that Brennan could crack an opening night roster next season. He is a smooth skating defender with one of the most underappreciated hockey games in the country. He is about as smooth of a skater as as Troy Stecher, and just as fast.

Kapcheck’s intelligence and ability to generate offense make him a key part of a group looking to earn an at large bid. He has 14 assists through 16 games and sports a plus 12. He will not score as many goals as some defenders under consideration, but AIC is not where it is without Brennan Kapcheck setting so many looks up, and playing the sound game on the back end that he does. If the folks making the decision on the top 10 list want an offensive defender that is able to setup a lot of his team, he would be our suggestion.

Tobias Fladeby*

The senior forward from Norway has been one of the biggest reasons why Eric Lang’s team is in a good spot for at large consideration. He plays with speed of a scoring forward, but is also able to track back quite well, and plays on a good line featuring Chris Theodore among others. In only 13 games played, he already has nine goals. If you have not seen him, his play has some elements of Caulfield’s to it. That is, he plays with consistent speed, and generates a strong attack for his team, and is relentless to play against. His consistency on the first line has made players like Kapcheck better, and given Kapcheck’s consideration for the award, combined with Fladeby’s hard work, some notation of his work here is needed, if AIC makes a run to the Frozen Four, we suspect Kapcheck and Fladeby will be big parts of it.

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