The search for the top player in NCAA men's hockey has begun.
The first phase of determining the 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner kicked off on Jan. 30 with the release of 66 nominees representing 40 schools for college hockey's top individual prize.
Among that list is nine Canadian-born players including six forwards, a pair of goaltenders and one defenceman.
Jimmy Vesey of the Harvard Crimson took Hobey honours last season and is now starring with the NHL's New York Rangers. The last time a player from north of the border took home the prize was in 2007 when University of North Dakota forward and Calgary, Alta. native Ryan Duncan was the recipient.
A surprise nomination among that group of Canucks is freshman goaltender Angus Redmond of the Michigan Tech Huskies.
The Langley, B.C. native started the 2016-17 campaign as the third puckstopper on the Huskies depth chart behind senior Matt Wintjes and sophomore Devin Kero, but quickly grabbed the starting berth after the Huskies opened the season with a 1-5-2 record.
Near the end of October, Redmond got his first start and recorded a 19-save shutout against Northern Michigan Wildcats. He followed that up by allowing just one goal while facing 30 shots in his next start.
Since then he has appeared in 25 games, sports a 15-6-5 record, a save percentage of .922 and a 1.72 goals-against-average that ranks second among all NCAA netminders. Prior to beginning his college career, the 21-year-old played four seasons in the BCHL (from 2012 to 2016) with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The other netminder in the running is Peterborough, Ont. native Mitch Gillam of Cornell Big Red while Providence Friars junior Jake Walman from Toronto, Ont. is the sole Canadian rearguard on the list of 66.
The Canadian forwards on the Hobey list are: junior Dylan Sikura (Aurora, Ont.), Northeastern Huskies; senior Troy Crema (Toronto, Ont.), Dartmouth Big Green; junior Brett Seney (London, Ont.), Merrimack Warriors; senior Daniel Leavens (Toronto, Ont.), Robert Morris Colonials; senior Alexander Kerfoot (West Vancouver, B.C.), Harvard Crimson; and senior Max French (West Kelowna, B.C.), Bentley Falcons.
Heading into the final stretch of regular season games, Sikura is two points back of the NCAA scoring lead trailing Union Dutchmen senior Mike Vecchione. Sikura has registered 46 points through 27 games and has the second most assists in the league with 29.
Prior to playing for the Huskies, Sikura played three seasons with the Aurora Tigers of the OJHL. Two years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks drafted him in the sixth round, 178th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Sikura also tied for the most points in the nation through the month of January with Dylan McLaughlin of the Canisius Golden Griffins with 15 points apiece. Crema finished two back with 13 points in the first month of the new year.
Before Dartmouth, Crema played 97 games (39G, 61A) over two seasons with the Brampton Capitals and Hamilton Red Wings in the OJHL. He has gone undrafted through his four years at Dartmouth.
The other Canadians on the list that have been drafted into the pros are: Walman (third round, 82nd overall) by the St. Louis Blues in 2014; Seney (sixth round, 157th overall) by the New Jersey Devils in 2015; and Kerfoot (fifth round, 150th overall) by the Devils in 2012.
The first phase of the selection process includes college hockey fans who can cast their ballots for their choice online through the Hobey Baker website (www.hobeybaker.com) until March 5. The field will be reduced to 10 finalists on March 15 and then to just three (Hobey Hat Trick) on March 30.
The 2017 winner will then be selected from the Hobey Hat Trick and announced on Friday, April 7 during the Frozen Four finals at the United Centre in Chicago.
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