Monday, March 20, 2023

The Hobey Should Be Adam Fantilli's

I had a dream on Saturday night that I somehow got a password for MGoBlog, wrote a game wrap-up because I was so jacked about the Big Ten Tournament title, and then saw a post on Twitter from a (non-real) mod that said something to the effect of "Just a reminder that MGoBlog is for current bloggers only" and I had to apologize to Brian, Alex, and David for doing that. 

Anyway, I've been on a bit of a Hobey kick lately and I looked up a ton of stats, so I figured I'd share with the masses and make my every-couple-of-years post. I don't really mean this post to knock any of the other candidates, the seasons they've had, or their accomplishments. But what I will say is that none of them have a case against Adam Fantilli. I don't think it would be quite as big of a travesty as Kyle Connor getting snubbed for Jimmy freaking Vesey, but it would be pretty far up there. So call this the Haters Guide to the Hobey.

The Case For Adam Fantilli:
Let's start with the counting stats. 

He leads the nation in points by six.
He is the only player in the county to break the 60 point barrier with a 27-34--61 line. 
He leads the nation in points per game by 0.27 (the same distance between 2nd and 6th, and the same distance between 3rd and 13th).

He is second in the nation in goals, but first in the nation in goals per game.
He is third in the nation in assists, but first in the nation in assists per game.
He is fifth in the nation in +/- (and also kills penalties). 
He currently sits 11th all-time in points by a freshman in NCAA hockey, but with only 33 games played to this point, he'd blow past some all-time greats in Joe Murphy, Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Neal Broten, Jack Eichel, Aaron Broten, and be in a virtual tie with Kyle Connor (1.87) and Mark Johnson (1.86) behind only Paul Kariya (1993), George McPhee (1979), Kevin Maxwell (1979), and Troy Murray (1981) for points per game by a freshman. 

So the only other guy in the past 30 years who has done what Adam Fantilli has done as a freshman is Kyle Connor, who was probably the worst snub in the history of this award. 

But let's break it down further:
He has points in 30 of Michigan's 33 games (and one of the games he didn't score he was tossed late in the first period).

He also played the third hardest schedule in the country to this point. 18 of the 33 games he played were against tournament teams, and in those games he had a 13-19--32 line. So he had 1.78 points per game vs tournament teams, which is nearly identical to his 1.85 points per game for the season as a whole.

If you extend it out to include bubble teams as well (the top third of the nation--top 20 in PWR), you add in 1-3--4 vs Notre Dame in 4 games (including the one he was ejected in the first period) and his 1-1--2 the lone time he played Sparty. 15-23--38 in 23 games against teams in the tournament or on the bubble.

Now let's take a look at some of his competition:
Yaniv Perets - 30-4-3 is 30-4-3. A 1.52 is a 1.52. A .929 is a .929. He gave up more than 3 goals twice. 

Again, I'm not knocking what any of these guys did. But the ECAC wasn't exactly a good conference this season. They did match the Big Ten with 4 tournament teams after Colgate stole a bid, but they also had some horrific teams toward the bottom of the standings. 

He was 4-3-0 against tournament teams. One of his wins was a 9-save shutout against Cornell. He had a 5 save shutout this season. There were 6 more games with fewer than 15 saves. He put up killer numbers, QPac is the #2 overall seed, but the highest team he played in the KRACH ratings the entire season was 11th-ranked Harvard. Fantilli played 14 games against teams ranked higher than that (and then matched him with 2 games against Harvard). And then played 7 more before we get to the next team Perets saw. 

Colin Graf - The same quality of competition caveats apply here, since he, too, is on Quinnipiac. You're not giving it to a guy with 7 fewer goals, 6 fewer points, 0.36 fewer points per game, and with a 3-4--7 line in seven games against tournament teams and 3-6--9 in 9 games against the top 20. (And just so I'm not accused of cherry-picking, he did play #21 and didn't tally a point.) Unless he wrote an article for The Players Tribune and had a worse year than he did the year before. Then you could probably give it to him.

He had 60% of his goals, 69% of his assists, and 65% of his points against teams ranked 42 or lower in the PWR. (12-24--36) Fantilli had 5-6--11 against teams in that range. 

Jason Polin - Nation's leading goal scorer, he plays in the NCHC, 29-17--46. 29 goals in that conference? 5 hat tricks. He's a senior, we love seniors, especially the ones who are only a year away for being able to rent a car cheap. Gotta be a pretty good candidate eh? 

Out of his 46 points, 26% of them came against an awful Miami team. Also 8 of his 29 goals. 

Like Graf, he had 7 points (4-3--7) in 7 games against tournament teams. Though a tip of the cap for his hat trick against Blake Pietila when they chased him in the GLI. He's a guy that extending it out to the top 20 helps some because we add in games vs Notre Dame (0-0--0 in 2 GP), Northeastern (3-0--3 in 1 GP), North Dakota (2-1--3 in 4 GP), and Omaha (0-1--1 in 4 GP). 9-5--14 in 18 GP. But hat tricks against 2 Hobey Finalist goalies is pretty cool. Still, you're not giving him the Hobey over Fantilli off half a goal a game and 0.77 points per game against the top 20 in the country, and 1 ppg against tournament teams. 

Devon Levi - One of the best goalies college hockey has seen in a long time. We're not giving it to a guy who didn't make the tournament and was 0.70 higher in GAA and .019 lower in save percentage than he was last year. He was 2-3-1 against tournament teams. Moving on.

Matthew Knies - Dude is awesome. Can't wait til he goes pro. Big Ten Player of the Year somehow. I wouldn't have called him the Big Ten Player of His Line, let alone put him ahead of Fantilli. There's weird voting for that award, let's just move on. 

He's 17th in scoring, 18th in points per game, 7th in goals, but first in the nation in the slightly-random game winners. The lowest-point total for a Hobey Baker-winning forward in history is...well...Jimmy Vesey, with a whole 46 points in 33 games. Knies is already at 36 GP and has 41 points. Unless he has a big tournament, that would be the lowest points per game a Hobey-winner forward has ever had, besting Drew LeBlanc's 50 points in 42 games. 

9-8--17 in 17 games against tournament teams. Another 9-6--15 against bubble teams. 18-14--32 in 28 games played. 

I just don't see enough there to overcome a 20 point difference to Fantilli. Big Ten POY be damned.

Sean Farrell - Tied for third in points, second in points per game by a sizable margin to third. 20-32--52 in 33 games played. The ECAC stinks. He did have 3-12--15 in 11 games against tournament teams. He's had a great year, but it'd be Vesey levels of nuts to give it to him. There's just nothing there to put him ahead in any way, though we're comparing great to great. 

Blake Pietila - 5th in GAA, tied for 3rd in save percentage, a nation-leading 10 shutouts. But only 3-2-1 against tournament teams, got chased vs WMU. Extend it out to the top 20 and you add in 3 wins vs Alaska and Sparty. Again, Fantilli played 23 games against teams in or around the tournament. I think Pietila actually has the best case of the goalies -- he had to make 205 more saves than Perets -- but especially when there have only been 3 goalies to win the award, this isn't the year.

Now we get to the guys who kind of have a case if you squint a little bit. And, actually, they're both freshmen.

Lane Hutson - 14-33--47 as a freshman defenseman is sick. 7th in points, 6th in points per game, Hockey East Rookie of the Year (probably should have won the Player of the Year award). First defenseman to win the Hockey East scoring title ever. He's the highest-scoring U19 defenseman in the NCAA since Brian Leetch in 86-87. He also scored the game-winner to give BU the Hockey East Tournament Championship. 

This is where I have to play the "Hockey East was awful" card. He played 7 games against teams in the NCAA Tournament and had 4-2--6. Extend out to the top 20 and you add in 1-2--3 in 3 games against Northeastern, 2 goals in one game vs Notre Dame, and give him the 1-2--3 in 2 games against #21 UConn so I'm not cherry-picking. 8-6--14 in 13 games. 

He had an amazing season--one of the best freshmen seasons in the history of college hockey--and could very well add a national championship to the end of it (like Fantilli or the next guy on my list), but I can't put him over Fantilli and what he's done. He tore up a bad conference, and that's what you're supposed to do, but it would take a mighty effort to overcome the season long effort Fantilli has put in. 

Logan Cooley - 3rd in points, 3rd in points per game, 4th in assists, tied for 5th in game-winners. Minnesota has been the best team in the country all year and won the Big Ten handily. 

Cooley has points in all but 6 Minnesota games. He started off relatively slow, but then starting with the game he should have been tossed from against Michigan, he ripped off 6 multi-point games in a row. He currently has a 4-game multi-point streak. 

Minnesota has played the second hardest schedule in the country to this point, so we'll have some legit comparables with Fantilli here. In games against tournament teams, Cooley has 5-17--22 in 16 games. Against the top 20, we add in 0-1--1 in 2 games vs North Dakota, 2-1--3 in 4 games vs Notre Dame, and 5-7--12 in 5 games vs Sparty (eesh), landing him with 12-26--38 against the top 20 in 27 GP. 

Fantilli had 10 more points against tournament teams in 2 more games. Against the top 20 they had the same number of points, though Cooley played 4 more games and absolutely ravaged Sparty. 

I know the Minnesota talking point this week has been Fantilli's penalties, but we're not going there. It's not a differentiator here. Fantilli was tossed out of one game for one of the nine billion head contact penalties assessed this year and was ejected/suspended for kind-of throwing a punch and missing against MSU while he was defending himself in a horrifically officiated game. It was a total nothing burger. By the rulebook, sure. Nothing remotely dangerous there.

Cooley was tossed for face-masking (don't care, dumb rule) and then got a major penalty and subsequent suspension for launching Eric Ciccolini into the end boards and putting him out for 6 weeks. How he wasn't ejected from that game I don't know. But there's one guy here who injured someone on a dirty hit and it ain't Adam Fantilli. 

Ultimately I think it has to come down to 3 freshmen this year: Fantilli, Cooley, and Hutson. We should have our third freshman Hobey winner. (Technically we should have our fourth freshman Hobey winner since that Connor/Vesey thing was utter insanity.) 

Hutson had a historic season for a U19 defenseman in NCAA Hockey, but ultimately I think the weakness of Hockey East has to be taken into consideration, and I don't think the outstanding numbers he put up outweighs the fact that he frankly did a lot of it against subpar competition. 

Cooley played a similar schedule to Fantilli. (Minnesota currently sits 2nd in SOS, Michigan 3rd.) Both players had absolutely huge seasons, and somehow weren't their school's nominee for Big Ten Player of the Year. 

I don't think it would be a travesty if Cooley won, but he put up worse numbers than Fantilli overall (though still outstanding), had fewer games with 0 points, and had 10 fewer points against tournament teams. 

I don't really see an argument to put him ahead short of "Minnesota won the Big Ten" which largely comes down to their goalie having a much better season than ours, their team not being shorthanded nearly as much, and a virus not ripping through their team for three weeks.

The only freshman with more points per game than Fantilli since Paul Kariya's ridiculous year is Kyle Connor, who should have won the award. Fantilli is like two hundredths of a point behind his pace at this moment in time and it has flipped back and forth down the stretch. 

Cooley and Hutson have had utterly outstanding seasons and both deserve to be in the Hat Trick, but Adam Fantilli is your winner and it honestly shouldn't be close.

(Side note: I wrote this at like 1 am. I probably missed a game against a tournament team or mis-added somewhere. It wasn't intentional, I double checked Cooley because he's the only one that's really relevant. If ya see something wrong, I'll fix it.)