Note: This is who I think will win the Hobey, not who I think should win it. That answer will be clear next week when I announce my All-American teams and awards.
First of all, I think it would be wrong to dismiss any of the three candidates out of hand, but that is what appears to be happening with Cam Atkinson. Atkinson had a great season, finishing 2nd in the nation in goals (and 4th in goals per game), but he was just 10th in points per game and didn’t win the Hockey East player of the year award. As such, I would be pretty surprised to see Atkinson take home the Hobey on Friday.
So it comes down to Frattin v. Miele. Miele has had a huge season. His 71 points and 1.82 per game both lead the country, and his 71 points are the most anyone has had since Peter Sejna had 82 in 2002-03 (Chris Kunitz also had 79 that year). The analysis of Miele’s points could go two ways. On one hand, he played in the ultra defensive CCHA, which featured 5 of the top 11 defenses in the country (though one of those was Miami). On the other hand, the bottom half of the CCHA wasn’t very good this year, and while they may have been able to defend well against eachother, they didn’t very well against the top teams in the league. Also, it must be said that Miele got to play with two of the better players in the country in fellow Hobey finalist Carter Camper, whom he joined on the power play, and Reilly Smith, who was 5th in points per game. Does having three of the top 5 ppg players on the same team dilute Miele’s candidacy? I’m not sure, but I am leaning a bit towards yes.
On the other hand, Frattin ranks first in goals and goals per game with 36 and .84 respectively. His 36 are the most goals since 2006, when Ryan Potulny had 38 (and did not win the Hobey). His .84 goals per game are the most since Ted Cook of Niagara scored .86 in 2006-07, and the most by a “power conference” player since Potulny in 2006. Also, Frattin is 2nd in the country in points (though he is 7th in points per game) and Miele is only tied for 10th in goals and 13th in goals per game. Their roles are obviously different, but that could tip the scale in favor of Frattin a bit.
This one could come down to the character issue, which would be too bad. Miele’s academic problems before coming to Miami have been largely ignored, as the entire world is focused on Matt Frattin’s past transgressions. On the one hand, Frattin has had some trouble in the past, and Hobey voters could be reluctant to give him the award because of that. But on the other hand, he put in a tremendous amount of work to come back, working in his parents’ bakery in the morning, pouring concrete in the afternoon, and getting back to the North Dakota hockey team vs. taking the easy way out and turning pro. I do think it will end up helping him, because a redemption story like that, to go from pouring concrete 18 months or so ago to winning a Hobey, would be a great narrative and would probably give the award a lot of publicity.
Sadly, that’s not really fair to either player. Their on ice merits are extremely close, but that it will likely be decided based on Frattin’s past hurts him if they go one way, and hurts Miele if they go the other way. And that is the problem of the character clause. It is impossible to get inside a kid’s head and know his true character, so why not just decide the play on the ice?
I do think that in the end the voters will look at the goals, they’ll look at Frattin’s redemption story, and they’ll look at the fact that he is at the Frozen Four while Miele’s RedHawks lost in the first round and I think Frattin will end up being the third North Dakota player to win the award.