My All-WCHA ballot

As a newspaper journalist I’m a believer in transparency so I’m publishing my official ballot for the 2010-11 WCHA Awards. I’m also doing this because it seems to be a tradition among my beat writer colleagues in the league. The voting process was more challenging than I expected and I used statistics in WCHA play in part to guide my choices.

There are several players in this league – the best and deepest in college hockey – that are deserving of recognition this season.

All-WCHA First Team
F- Matt Frattin, North Dakota
F- Mike Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
F- Jason Zucker, Denver
D- Chay Genoway, North Dakota
D- Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
G- Aaron Dell, North Dakota

Comments: Matt Frattin is the WCHA scoring champ and Jason Zucker is third. Mike was fourth in league point scoring, but had third most goals in the league on one of the best forward lines in the WCHA. Chay Genoway was superb before was hurt in the second half. The injury may affect his position on some ballots. Not mine. Justin Schultz is the only defensive player who ranks in the top 10 of WCHA scoring- the primary factor why he’s on my first team. It can be argued Aaron Dell had a better team in front of him, but he earned his playing time (played the most minutes in league play) and had the league’s top goals against average. His .912 save percentage ranks seventh in the league, a difference of .014 off league leader Kent Patterson in Minnesota. That difference is not enough to sway my choice.

All-WCHA Second Team
F- Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
F- Justin Fontaine, Minnesota-Duluth
F- Matt Read, Bemidji State
D- Matt Donovan, Denver
D- Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
G- John Faulkner, Nebraska-Omaha

Comments: Jack Connolly finished second in WCHA scoring and that must be recognized. Have to put Justin Fontaine here as well as he had a good balance of goals and assists on that feared top line at UMD. Matt Read may have been the best two-way player in the WCHA and he deserves to be on my ballot. BSU had eight wins in WCHA play and Read factored in game-winning goals in five of those victories. Gardiner was second in league scoring as a defenseman and Donovan was third. Because the Pioneers finished second in the league, credit has to go to DU’s defense led by Donovan. John Faulkner played the most WCHA games among goalies and tied Patterson for the most saves in WCHA play. He was was a reliable difference maker for Omaha.

All-WCHA Third Team
F- Drew Shore, Denver
F- Tyler Johnson, Colorado-College
F- Matt Ambroz, Nebraska-Omaha
D- Kurt Davis, Minnesota State
D- Eric Olimb, Nebraska-Omaha
G- Kent Patterson, Minnesota

Comments: Denver finishes second and Drew Shore is one of seven WCHA players who had 30-plus points. His plus-29 rating is impressive. Does Colorado College earn home ice in the playoffs without Tyler Johnson? Doubful. Johnson was CC’s leading scorer (15 goals in WCHA play) and was exceptional on the power play (12 overall power play goals tied for national lead). Matt Ambroz was UNO’s overall scoring leader, scoring leader in WCHA play and strong plus-17 in league play. Kurt Davis may look like a surprise selection, but he tied for Mankato’s team lead in points: a rare feat for a defenseman in the WCHA. Olimb is UNO’s top defenseman and led the UNO defense in scoring. Patterson ended the season as the WCHA’s leader in save percentage. Thanks to his strong play in the second half, Minnesota is playing at home in the first round.

All-WCHA Rookie Team
F- Jason Zucker, Denver
F- Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
F- Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
D- David Makowski, Denver
D- Justin Faulk, Minnesota-Duluth
G- Sam Brittain, Denver

Comments: No surprise to see Zucker here. Jaden Schwartz led the WCHA in scoring before he was hurt at the World Junior Championships and missed nearly a month. Zengerle had a 30-assist season and was Wisconsin’s second-best forward. David Makowski was the top-scoring defenseman among freshmen (23 points). Justin Faulk was second behind Makowski and was the best defenseman at UMD. Brittain was another young player key to DU’s second-place finish. Had the second best save percentage in WCHA play.

WCHA Player of the Year: Matt Frattin, North Dakota

Comment: No player in the league had the effective mix of Frattin’s scoring punch, physical play or game-breaking abilities. A rare combination. Those qualities combined with his scoring title and consistent play make him an easy choice for this honor.

WCHA Rookie of the Year: Jason Zucker, Denver

Comment: How can he not be the rookie of the year after making the WCHA overall scoring race competitive down to the last weekend? Only Frattin finished with more goals in WCHA play. Freshmen in the WCHA do not challenge for the league scoring title. Zucker proved it can be done.

WCHA Coach of the Year: Dean Blais, Nebraska-Omaha

Comment: I don’t think any coach got more out of his team than Dean Blais at Omaha. There were nine players who scored more than 20 points (six players in WCHA play). That’s impressive depth for a roster with two NHL draft picks. Credit has to go to the coach here, who made UNO a formidable opponent in its first season in the WCHA. Few expected Omaha to finish anywhere near the top of the WCHA, let alone third place.