By Mary Paoletti
The Hockey East is one of the deepest talent pools in the nation. Six teams are currently peppered throughout US College Hockey Online's Top 20: No. 10 Boston College, No. 12 Maine, No. 15 New Hampshire, No. 17 Vermont, No. 18 Massachusetts and No. 20 UMass-Lowell. Boston University is also receiving votes.
But a better example of the caliber of athletes playing in the Hockey East is in the number of Hobey Baker Award candidates the league houses. To even be considered, the Hobey Baker site writes that a player must "exhibit strength of character both on and off the ice, contribute to the integrity of his team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game.''
Lofty standards for any student athlete.
Which is exactly why it's so impressive that 20 of the 70 preliminary candidates were plucked from Hockey East teams. Each is special in his own way, but all possess a standard for excellence that has placed them in this elite group.
See who made first cut.
BOSTON COLLEGE: JUNIOR FORWARD BRIAN GIBBONS
Quick Hits: 26 games played, 10 goals, 25 assists, 35 points, 1.35 pointsgame, 2 game winners, 3 power-play goals, 1 short-handed goal
Coach knows best: "He's a very explosive hockey player for us," Jerry York said. "He has terrific quickness and plays at a high tempo. He has outstanding stick skills, which I like. He competes really hard. He can hit you pretty hard for a 170-pounder. Hes clearly one of the elite players in our conference."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Earned Hockey East Co-Player of the Week Honors, Nov. 9. Is the 2009-10 recipient of the Schiller Family Scholarship.
Also flying high: Cam Atkinson - So - F - 26GP, 17G, 14A, 31Pts, 1.19PtsGm, 1GW, 7PP, 1SH
BOSTON UNIVERSITY: JUNIOR FORWARD NICK BONINO
Quick Hits: 21GP, 6G, 18A, 24Pts, 1.14PtsGm, 0GW, 2PP, 1SH
Coach knows best: "He's the key guy on our offensive end this year, no doubt about it," Jack Parker said. "Nick Bonino is a Hobey Baker candidate, he's an All-America candidate and he's an All-Hockey East candidate and nobody knows about him. He's as good a player as there will be in college hockey."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Scored his 100th career point in a three-assist performance in a 6-2 victory over UMass on Jan. 29. Bonino ranks fourth in career points (103) among current Hockey East players. Bonino is currently riding a seven-game point streak (1g, 11a). He also has at least one point in 14 of his last 16 games.
Nipping at his heels: Kevin Shattenkirk - Jr - D - 26GP, 4G, 17A, 21Pts, 0.80PtsGm, 0GW, 1PP, 1SH
MAINE: SOPHOMORE FORWARD GUSTAV NYQUIST
Quick Hits: 26GP, 14G, 26A, 40Pts, 1.54PtsGm, 3GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "Gustav is our leading scorer and can change the course of a game in a moment. He is one of the premier players in the country," said Tim Whitehead. He is a dynamic offensive player who has improved tremendously on defense as well. He's fun to watch and can bring you out of your seat with his creativity. He is not only a skilled player, he is a gritty competitor who wins a ton of loose pucks.
Highlight reel: Named Athletic Republic Hockey East Player of the Month for December. He had scored at least one point in 10 straight games between Nov. 20 and Jan. 15. Over that span, Nyquist had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. Is currently tied for 4th in scoring and 4th in assists, nationally, as well as in Hockey East play.
MASSACHUSETTS: JUNIOR FORWARD JAMES MARCOU
Quick Hits: 27GP, 9G, 32A, 41Pts, 1.52PtsGm, 1GW, 3PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "I think, clearly, James is one of the most creative players in all of college hockey. His ability to see the ice, create space and make plays is uncanny," Don "Toot" Cahoon said of Marcou. "He rises to the occasion and he does it in big moments. He stirs the drink. He finds guys in a variety of ways. People do all sorts of things to eliminate him, but he's savvy. He's found a way to get it done."
Highlight reel: Ranked 2nd overall in scoring, 1st in assists. Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award thanks to 119 points on 31 goals and 88 assists in 101 games. Oct. 12, Named Hockey East Player Of The Week, Nov. 3, Named Hockey East Player Of The Month, Nov. 10, Named HCA National Player Of The Month Runner-Up
Another sharp shooter: Justin Braun - Sr - D - 27GP, 3G, 19A, 22Pts, 0.81PtsGm, 0GW, 1PP, 0SH
UMASS LOWELL: JUNIOR FORWARD SCOTT CAMPBELL
Quick Hits: 28GP, 9G, 14A, 23Pts, 0.82PtsGm, 1GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "Scott just gets better and better," said Blaise MacDonald. "He's strong, sees the ice, has a high hockey IQ and can play in any situation and play well."
Highlight reel: Riverhawks scoring leader. Named Athletic Republic Co-Player of the Week, Jan. 11, after tallying five points on a goal and four assists in two tough Hockey East road games. Campbell assisted on both UMass Lowell goals in a 2-2 tie at New Hampshire and scored once and assisted on two other goals in a 6-5 overtime win at Northeastern.
Swooping in: David Vallorani - So - F - 28GP, 9G, 13A, 22Pts, 0.78PtsGm, 2GW, 1PP, 0SH
Nick Schaus - Sr - D - 26GP, 4G, 18A, 22Pts, 0.84PtsGm, 0GW, 3PP, 0SH
MERRIMACK: FRESHMAN FORWARD STEPHANE DA COSTA
Quick Hits: 23GP, 11G, 22A, 33Pts, 1.43PtsGm, 0GW, 4PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: Hes just got a great feel for the conceptual part of the game, for space, for time, his heads always on a swivel, Mark Dennehy said. The game is moving a lot slower for him than it is for the rest of the players. He has incredible awareness.
Highlight Reel: The only recipient of the Hockey East Rookie of the Month honor this season. Da Costa scored five goals in his second career game. He also had an 11-game scoring streak earlier this season. Currently, he continues to lead all rookies nationally with 1.38 points per game. Overall, he's ranked 5th in the conference and 8th nationally with 29 points.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: SENIOR FORWARD BOBBY BUTLER
Quick Hits: 26GP, 14G, 26A, 40Pts, 1.54PtsGm, 3GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: Hes one of our captains and hes leading by example," said Dick Umile. "Hes a goal scorer, we knew that coming in and hes got stronger and learned how to play at the defensive end."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Hockey Humanitarian Nominee, Frozen Four Skills Challenge nominee. Named Hockey East Co-Player of the week, Nov. 16 and Jan. 11. Named Hockey East Player of the Month for November. Butler has scored a point in 21 of 27 games. In league play he ranks 1st in scoring, 1st in goals, and 4th in assists.
Clawing to the top: Brian Foster - Sr - G - 26GP, 12 Wins, 10 Losses, 4 Ties, 81 Goals Against, 1549 Minutes, 3.13 Goals against average, 0 Short handed, 758 Saves, .903 Save percentage; Blake Kessel - So - D - 26GP, 6G, 24A, 30Pts, 1.15PtsGm, 1GW, 2PP, 0SH
NORTHEASTERN: JUNIOR FORWARD WADE MACLEOD
Quick Hits: 25GP, 10G, 12A, 22Pts, 0.88PtsGm, 3GW, 4PP, 1SH
Coach knows best: "MacLeod's a special player," said Greg Cronin, "but also has to get more visible.
Highlight reel: MacLeod has notched five points in NU's last two contests. MacLeod had a six-game scoring streak between Jan. 2 and Jan. 16. Over those six games, he gathered eight points, including four goals and four assists. MacLeod recorded his 75th career point with a goal against UMass Lowell on Jan. 9. He takes 84 career points (35-49-84) into tonight's game versus Massachusetts.
Hot on his trail: David Strathman - Sr - D - 26GP, 3G, 7A, 10Pts, 0.38PtsGm, 1GW, 0PP, 1SH; Kyle Kraemer - Sr - F - 26GP, 10G, 10A, 20Pts, 0.76PtsGm, 2GW, 4PP, 0SH
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE: SOPHOMORE GOALIE ALEX BEAUDRY
Quick Hits: 24GP, 8W, 14L, 2T, 61GA, 1365Min, 2.68GAA, 0SH, 698SV, .920SV
Coach knows best: We had a number of goalies that we were evaluating, and we liked Alex the best his academic ability, his age, and his desire to get to school just kind of fit," Coach Tim Army said. We thought he was good. He was the guy we wanted."
Highlight reel: Ranked 1st in save percentage and 2nd in minutes in the league. Nationally, Beaudry is tied for 12th in save percentage. Named Hockey East Co-Defensive Player of the Week, Oct. 12, Nov. 2, and Jan. 18. When he earned the honor most recently, Beaudry averaged 35 saves and posted a 2-1 record, a 2.34 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in three games. He was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for October. Beaudry finished the month with a 4-2 record, a 2.01 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. On Oct. 21 he stopped a career-best 47 shots, including 20 in the third period, at No. 17 UMass.
Keeping in step: Matt Bergland - So - F - 27GP, 9G, 9A, 18Pts, 0.66PtsGm, 2GW, 0PP, 0SH; Mark Fayne - Sr - D - 27GP, 4G, 13A, 17Pts, 0.62PtsGm, 0GW, 2PP, 0SH
Mary Paoletti is on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti