Hobey Watch: Time to Make a Pick

After tracking the Hobey Baker race all season, it’s time for me to pick my winner.

Before we get to that, though, let’s look back at my last Hobey Watch. It came on March 17, a couple days before conference championships were decided and a few hours before the 10 Hobey finalists were announced. At that time, I saw four guys — Miami’s Andy Miele, North Dakota’s Matt Frattin, Boston College’s Cam Atkinson and New Hampshire’s Paul Thompson — fighting for the three spots in the Hat Trick.

Like many, I saw Miele and Frattin as having a clear edge over the other two. I still do, but I’ll have more on that in a bit.

I had Thompson edging out Atkinson for the third Hat Trick spot. At that time, they were tied in goals per game (0.78), but Thompson had the edge in points per game (1.44 to 1.33) and was a few hours away from being named the Hockey East Player of the Year. Since then, each played three games and saw his team’s season come to an end. While Atkinson registered three goals and an assist in BC’s final three games, Thompson tallied a grand total of zero points. As a result, they ended up tied in points per game (1.33) and Atkinson ended up with the advantage in goals per game (0.79 to 0.72).

Atkinson wound up beating out Thompson for a spot in the Hat Trick, and it’s hard to argue with that. Right or wrong, goals are almost always valued at least a little bit more than assists. Atkinson had the edge there, so he got the spot, a decision I completely agree with.

With all due respect to Atkinson, though, I still view this as a two-horse race. Atkinson had an outstanding season and became the first player to score 30 or more goals in back-to-back seasons since Colorado College’s Brett Sterling did it in 2004-05 and 2005-06. But in the end, his stats simply pale in comparison to those of Miele and Frattin. Those two rank first and second in points while Atkinson is tied for 10th. They both rank in the top eight in points per game while Atkinson is tied for 11th.

So let’s get down to the Miele vs. Frattin debate. Miele finished the season with 24 goals and 47 assists for 71 points. He led the country in points, assists, points per game (1.82) and assists per game (1.21). His 71 points are the most since 2002-03, when Colorado College’s Peter Sejna (that year’s Hobey winner) had 82 and Ferris State’s Chris Kunitz had 79. His 1.82 points per game are also the most since Sejna’s 1.95 that year.

Frattin, whose Fighting Sioux are still playing, has 36 goals and 24 assists for 60 points. He ranks first in goals and goals per game (0.84), second in points and eighth in points per game (1.40). His 36 goals are the most since 2005-06, when Minnesota’s Ryan Potulny had 38.

Ultimately, the argument here comes down to how much you value goals. If you value goals and assists equally — they are worth the same number of points, after all — then Miele is the easy choice. If you value goals much more than assists, though, that might tip the scales in favor of Frattin.

I actually do value goals a little more than assists, but not enough to make up for the vast difference in points between Miele and Frattin. Miele has 11 more points than second-place Frattin. For reference, the last time there was a double-digit separation between first and second was 2000-01, when North Dakota’s Jeff Panzer finished with 12 more than teammate and runner-up Bryan Lundbohm.

Miele averaged a hard-to-ignore 0.42 points per game more than Frattin. That means that over the course of the season, Miele factored into about 17 more goals than Frattin. Miele averaged 0.25 points per game more than second-place Paul Zanette of Niagara. To put that in perspective, it’s the largest difference between first and second since 1998-99, when New Hampshire’s Jason Krog (that year’s Hobey winner) finished with the same advantage over North Dakota’s Jason Blake.

All of that is just incredible when you think about it. When you compare his numbers this season to his closest competition, Miele dominated college hockey more than anyone else in the last 10 years. And as for the goal-scoring comparison, it’s not like Miele didn’t score goals. His 24 are still good enough to land him in the top 10.

Yes, Frattin is a better goal-scorer, but Miele’s utter dominance in point production makes this a pretty easy choice for me. Miele it is.

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