Player of the Year – Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
As I noted in the Hobey watch post, Schultz has been even better this year than he was last year, when he was a Hobey finalist. He is on pace to surpass his numbers from last year and is currently third in the nation in points per game at 1.56, insane numbers for a defenseman. He’s been good offensively and defensively, and overall has been the best player in the country.
Coach of the year – Mark Osiecki, Ohio State
The former coach and GM of the Green Bay Gamblers and former Wisconsin assistant has been tremendous in this, his second year at Ohio State. The year before Osiecki game to Ohio State the Buckeyes finished 8th in the league. Last year they struggled to a ninth place finish, but this year they sit in first place at the break with 32 points in 14 games, and are ahead of the pace set by the CCHA champions last season. Half of the team’s top 14 scorers are Freshmen, so Osiecki is clearly building a program that will compete for Big 10 titles for years to come.
Freshman of the year – Kyle Rau, Minnesota
At the start of his Freshman campaign there were open whispers as to whether Rau’s style would work in college hockey. People should have known after doubting whether it would work in the USHL, but in case they needed further convincing, all Rau has done is lead all rookies in goals (12) and points (22). He leads all NCAA rookies in goals per game and ranks third in points per game. He also ranks 22nd nationally in goals per game with .6 with 12 goals in his first 20 contests. His stellar play in the first half of the season led to him being a selection to team USA at the World Junior Championships.
Surprise Team – Ohio State
Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth should be mentioned here as well, but the Buckeyes have finished 11th, 5th, 8th and 9th the past four years and sit in first in the CCHA this year. They’re tied for the best winning percentage in the country and have the nation’s 7th best scoring defense, allowing just 2.11 goals per game.
Disappointment – North Dakota
While the Sioux lost a ton of talent from last year’s team, they looked to be strong challengers for the WCHA title once again. Aaron Dell has received a lot of the blame, but it’s important to note that he ranked just 7th in the WCHA in save percentage in conference play last season at .912. This year he ranks 7th as well at .907, so his play has not dramatically fallen off. The Sioux are suffering from too much youth and too many injuries, as 9 of their top 14 scorers are either Freshmen and Sophomores. They also have dealt with injuries to Rocco Grimaldi, who has played in only 4 games, and Corban Knight, who is out for an extended period of time. The Sioux will need their traditional second half surge to avoid missing the NCAA tournament.
F – Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
F – Austin Smith, Colgate
F – Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
D – Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
D – Danny Biega, Harvard
G – Cal Heeter, Ohio State
F – Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College
F – Brock Nelson, North Dakota
F – Kyle De Laurell, Air Force
D – Torey Krug, Michigan State
D – Chad Ruhdewel, UMass-Lowell
G – Kent Patterson, Minnesota