On Saturday night during ESPN’s 10 p.m. “SportsCenter,’’ the winner of the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey top player will be announced. The Hobey Hat Trick finalists are North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich and Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman.
That’s a fine trio, but I’d make one change among the finalists and put Minnesota State goalie Dryden McKay in the final three by a slim margin over Swayman.
Swayman is a great goalie, and the fact that he’s signed with the Boston Bruins, who picked him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, shows his NHL potential. The 2019-20 statistic that most favors Swayman is his nation’s-best 1,099 saves, a total that’s 338 ahead of McKay’s 761. The Black Bears goalie definitely passes the eye test, and the Hobey selection committee and online voters agreed.
McKay, however, had every other stat in his favor. The sophomore led the nation in wins (31, to Swayman’s 18), goals-against average (1.31 to Swayman’s 2.07), save percentage (.942 to Swayman’s second-best .939) and shutouts (10, which are second most in NCAA history and seven more than Swayman’s total).
Maine plays in Hockey East, which generally is regarded as a stronger conference than the current WCHA, and Swayman faced an average of 34.4 shots per game to McKay’s 21.8. Those favoring Swayman will argue that he was more valuable for the Black Bears (18-11-5) than McKay was for Mavericks (31-5-2), and that’s a valid point. McKay can counter with big-game success in the form of a 3-0-1 record and 1.75 GAA vs. PairWise No. 1 North Dakota and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth. Against the two best teams in the final PairWise on Maine’s schedule, Swayman went 0-2 vs. No. 8 Massachusetts and 2-0 vs. No. 6 Boston College. It’s a close call between the two, but I’m going with McKay’s stellar stats.
In the end, this question sits with me: What more could McKay have done to make his case as a finalist?