NCAA DI Men's Hockey

Hobey Baker Hat Trick Analysis: Is Macklin Celebrini The Favorite?

Hobey Baker Hat Trick Analysis: Is Macklin Celebrini The Favorite?

The Hobey Baker Award is down to three finalists as 2024 NHL Draft prospect Macklin Celebrini, Cutter Gauthier and Jackson Blake are the 'Hobey Hat Trick.'

Apr 4, 2024 by Chris Peters

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award field is down to the three finalists dubbed the Hobey Hat Trick. North Dakota’s Jackson Blake, Boston College’s Cutter Gauthier and Boston University freshman Macklin Celebrini will await to hear their name called April 12 in St. Paul during the Men’s Frozen Four festivities. 

As expected, the field includes all underclassmen, with two sophomores and a freshman currently vying for the top individual prize in men’s college hockey.

Here’s a look at each of the candidates.

Who are the Hobey Hat Trick finalists?

  • Jackson Blake, C, Sophomore, North Dakota (Carolina Hurricanes)
  • Macklin Celebrini, C, Freshman, Boston University (2024 NHL Draft Eligible)
  • Cutter Gauthier, C, Sophomore, Boston College (Anaheim Ducks)

Why is Jackson Blake a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist?

Jackson Blake finished his season as the top scorer in the NCHC. He led North Dakota with 60 points and is fourth in the NCAA in point production.

The Carolina Hurricanes draft pick scored 22 goals and helped lead North Dakota to the regular-season title in the NCHC. He finished his season on an 11-game point streak over which he produced 21 points. His 37 points in NCHC play broke the record for points in a single season in the NCHC and he was named NCHC Player of the Year.

He will have an uphill battle against his two eastern foes who both have more points and more goals. Additionally, Blake’s season ended at the NCAA regionals’ opening round while both of his other competitors will be playing in the Frozen Four next week.

Blake has not made any announcements about his pro plans, though it is possible he could sign a contract with Carolina. However, Blake was injured in the regional game against Michigan when he missed a check and collided with the boards. His status following that game was not made available.

Why is Macklin Celebrini a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist?

Celebrini is aiming to become just the fourth freshman to win the top individual prize in college hockey. He would join Paul Kairya, Jack Eichel and last year’s winner Adam Fantilli in that illustrious group. Of that group, Celebrini will go down as the only No. 1 NHL Draft pick, as he is a lock to go at the top of the 2024 NHL Draft.

The freshman phenom from Vancouver is tied with Gauthier for second in NCAA scoring with 64 points. He is second in points per game behind Will Smith with 1.73 points per game. Celebrini is slightly behind Eichel’s freshman pace of 1.77 points per game, while Fantilli had a rate of 1.81.

What makes Celebrini unique among all previous Hobey winners is that he is just 17 years old and would be the youngest player ever to win the award.

Celebrini has 32 goals, which is second behind Gauthier, but is the most ever scored by a U18 player in NCAA history. Additionally, his 64 points rank second all-time to only Craig Simpson who played in the ridiculously high-scoring 1980s when he was also a 17-year-old in the NCAA.

The BU freshman also became just the fourth first-year player to pull off a double in Hockey East by winning both the Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards for the conference. Only Hockey Hall of Famers Brian Leetch and Kariya, and NHL star Jack Eichel had done it previously. 

He has a good case to be the pick, but Gauthier will certainly provide quite a challenge to voters.

Why is Cutter Gauthier A Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalst? 

The nation’s leading goal scorer, Gauthier has scored 37 times this season. He is tied with Celebrini for second in NCAA scoring with 64 points. Gauthier’s goal scoring has been off the charts this year.

His 37 goals, with one to two games remaining, give him the most by any NCAA player since Ryan Potulny had 38 in 2005-06 for the University of Minnesota. If BC can keep playing and Gauthier keeps scoring, he could be the first 40-goal scorer in men’s college hockey in 30 years.

Gauthier leads the NCAA in shots on goal as well, firing 203 on net, 26 more than the next closest competitor. Meanwhile, Gauthier is still posting a shooting percentage north of 18 percent despite the high volume.

As a veteran player on the No. 1 team in the country, leading the NCAA in the critical goal-scoring category, it wasn’t a big surprise to see him end up in the Hobey Hat Trick. 

Gauthier as the more veteran player between him and Celebrini may give him the leg up. The Hobey committee has also often been a goal-friendly voter base. The vote is already in, so Thursday’s Frozen Four games won’t factor into the final vote.

Who Is The Favorite To Win The Hobey Baker?

To me, the Hobey Baker is going to come down to Celebrini and Gauthier. Sometimes the tie is going to go to the more veteran player or the higher goal total. I could see Gauthier coming away with the award if the committee feels he is the best player on the nation's best team. That said, he's the second leading scorer on that team.

I think Celebrini may have won over voters with his performances over the course of the season as the clear leading player for Boston University. He was their top scorer and unlike BC did not have four of the top six point-getters in the NCAA also on his roster with him. Celebrini's youth is also a factor.

Perhaps Hockey East voting Celebrini as its Player of the Year is the indicator of where this is going. Based on merit, there are as many worthy candidates this season as I can remember. However, if I were handicapping this race, I think it goes to Celebrini.

Who Were The Biggest Hobey Baker Hat Trick Snubs?

Will Smith is probably the most egregious omission from the Hobey Hat Trick. He is the nation’s leading scorer by five points, leads in points per game and is the top player in assists with 46, seven more than anybody else.

Other omissions were not as surprising to me. These were the 10 players the Hobey Hat Trick was selected from:

  • Jackson Blake, North Dakota
  • Macklin Celebrini, Boston University
  • Jack Devine, Denver
  • Cutter Gauthier, Boston College
  • Collin Graf, Quinnipiac
  • Lane Hutson, Boston University
  • Kyle McClellan, Wisconsin
  • Liam McLinskey, Holy Cross
  • Sam Morton, Minnesota State
  • Will Smith, Boston College

Of that group, you could maybe make a case for Lane Hutson as the top scoring defenseman in the country, but considering he was tied for most points by a defenseman with Denver’s Zeev Buium, who was not in the Top 10, it would have been a more challenging case to make.

When is the Hobey Baker Award Presented?

The Hobey Baker will be awarded on Friday, April 12, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What Channel Is The Hobey Baker Award Ceremony On?

NHL Network will broadcast the Hobey Baker Award ceremony at 6 p.m. ET on April 12.

What is the criteria to win the Hobey Baker Award?

Criteria for the award includes: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game; strength of character on and off the ice; sportsmanship; and scholastic achievements.

Frozen Four 2024 Schedule

Here is the schedule: 

Frozen Four 2024 National Semifinals:

Thursday, April 11:

  • 5:00 p.m. ET - Denver vs. Boston University at Xcel Energy Center | St. Paul, MN (ESPN2/ ESPN+)
  • 8:30 p.m. ET - Michigan vs. Boston College at Xcel Energy Center | St. Paul, MN (ESPN2/ ESPN+).

Frozen Four 2024 National Championship Game

Saturday, April 13:

  • 6:00 p.m. ET - National Championship at Xcel Energy Center | St. Paul, MN (ESPN2/ ESPN+).

Where To Watch The 2024 NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament

ESPN's family of networks is the broadcast home for the 2024 NCAA men's hockey tournament. Regional games will primarily air on ESPNU and ESPNEWS with select games airing on ESPN2. All games will also stream exclusively on ESPN+.

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