Handicapping The Hobey

Wisconsin's Hobey Baker candidate Justin Schultz

With the unofficial start to the second half of the college hockey season getting underway this weekend, it's time to take a peek at who the fans and voters should be paying attention to down the stretch in regards to the 2012 Hobey Baker.

Badger fans should be familiar with the award. After a lengthy drought of snubs (Reinprecht got robbed), the Wisconsin hockey program claimed it's first ever Hobey Baker award as Blake Geoffrion was honored as the best player in college hockey after the 2010 season.

Just two seasons later, another Badger has his sights set on "Hockey's Heisman." Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz has put his name on the radar of everyone that follows the sport thanks in part to the video game type numbers he's putting up from the Badger blue-line.

The junior from West Kelowna, British Columbia is our odds on favorite for the award at the half way mark. Who are the other favorites?

Justin Schultz--University of Wisconsin (2 to 1)

  • Position: Defense
  • Class: Junior
  • Games: 18
  • Goals: 9
  • Assists: 19
  • Points: 28

After finishing as a top 10 finalist last season, Schultz surprised most by returning for his junior season in Madison. The only defenseman on this list, Schultz is 6th in the entire country in scoring. He's currently on pace for over 50 points this season. If he keeps his current pace of 1.56 points per game, Schultz would eclipse the total point totals of 5 of the 6 defensemen to win the Hobey. Only Tom Kurver's 76 points in 1984 would best Schultz's current pace.

Despite playing for a team that has given up more goals than it's scored this season, Schultz is a team high +6 on the season while playing the 10th toughest schedule in the country. That of course doesn't take into account the 15 times he's been on the ice when the Badgers have converted on the man advantage. Schultz has been on the ice when 65% of Wisconsin's goals have been scored.

Jack Connolly--University of Minnesota-Duluth (4 to 1)

  • Position: Center
  • Class: Senior
  • Games: 18
  • Goals: 12
  • Assists: 17
  • Points: 29

Connolly is the best player on currently the best team in the country so it's tough to leave him off the current list of favorites. If not for Schultz basically being on the same scoring pace as him as a defenseman, Connolly would be the early favorite.

The senior center has a 16 game point streak going right now and after a slow start to the season in the goal department, has 9 in his past 9 games.

Austin Smith--Colgate (7 to 1)

  • Position: Forward
  • Class: Senior
  • Games: 18
  • Goals: 19
  • Assists: 12
  • Points: 31

Smith currently leads all NCAA skaters in total points and points per game. He also leads the country in goals scored with 19. Colorado College's Rylan Schwartz is second with 16. Five of his 19 goals have been game winners for Colgate this season. Aka, he's pretty freaking good.

The reason Connolly and Schultz get the nod over Smith to this point is that both Wisconsin and UMD have played top 15 schedules this season while Colgate has played the 39th toughest schedule.

The Best Of The Rest:

Chris Kreider-Boston College (9 to 1)

Nick Bjugstad--University of Minnesota (14 to 1)

T.J. Tynan--University of Notre Dame (20 to 1)

Spencer Abbott/Brian Flynn-University of Maine (25 to 1)

Rylan/Jaden Schwartz-Colorado College (25 to 1)

Jason Zucker/Drew Shore-Denver (30 to 1)

Joe Cannata-Merrimack (50 to 1)

Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!

For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)

Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at chuckschwartz@live.com

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