‘I like Eich’: Jack Eichel snags the NCAA’s Hobey Baker Award

Boston University forward Jack Eichel is your 2015 Hobey Baker Award-winner as the top player in college hockey. Eichel led all NCAA Div. I scoring to snag the award, making him just the second college freshman to do so, after Paul Kariya.

He may be No. 2 in the draft rankings, but Boston University center Jack Eichel is No. 1 in the eyes of American college hockey.

The 18-year-old from North Chelmsford, Massachusetts won the Hobey Baker Award on Friday as the top player in the NCAA, making him the youngest player to do so in more than 20 years.

Eichel edged out fellow nominees Jimmy Vesey and Zane McIntyre for the honor.

The 6-foot-2, 196-pound Eichel leads all Div. I players in points, with 26 goals and 70 points in 39 games. He’ll add the Hobey Baker Award to a trophy-laden season that already includes Hockey East Player of the Year honors and the MVP award from the Hockey East Tournament.

He’s also possibly not done racking up the trophies, as his Boston Terriers will compete for the NCAA Frozen Four championship on Saturday.

Eichel is expected to be the shiny consolation prize for whichever team chooses second in this summer’s entry draft, and will likely jump right into the NHL next season.

The win makes Eichel just the second freshman in history to win the trophy, after Paul Kariya registered 100 points in 39 games with the University of Maine in 1992-93. Kariya was selected fourth overall by Anaheim that summer, but Eichel looks poised to beat that mark if NHL Central Scouting rankings hold true this summer.

Finalist Jimmy Vesey from Harvard led all skaters with 32 goals this season, but his 58 points in 37 games fell well shy of Eichel’s totals. The 21-year-old Vesey was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the third round (66th overall) in 2012.

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Goaltender Zane McIntyre also missed out on the top honor, but he didn’t go home empty-handed. McIntyre (formerly Gothberg) was named winner of the Mike Richter Award as the NCAA’s most outstanding goaltender earlier in the day.

The Boston Bruins prospect had a 29-10-3 record with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 42 games for the University of North Dakota. His UND squad fell to Eichel’s BU boys at the Frozen Four tournament on Thursday.

The UND goalie is just the second recipient of the Mike Richter Award, after Connor Hellebuyck won it with UMass-Lowell last year. In an odd little twist Friday, the Winnipeg Jets called up Hellebuyck for his first NHL appearance to close out the team’s season.

McIntyre could choose to turn pro after the Frozen Four wraps up, touching off a bidding war the likes of which we saw last year with Kevin Hayes (drafted by the Blackhawks, signed by the Rangers) and the year before with Justin Schultz (drafted by the Ducks, signed by the Oilers).

Eichel could easily start next season in the NHL, following in the footsteps of last year’s Hobey Baker winner, Johnny Gaudreau, who just helped the Calgary Flames make the playoffs.

Other former winners of the award include Matthew Carle (2006), Jordan Leopold (2002), Ryan Miller (2001) and Chris Drury (1996).

At this rate, Eichel could turn out to be a better player than any of them – even Kariya.