Gophers' Ben Meyers, two Mavericks named to Hobey finalist list
One day after he was named the Player of the Year in the Big Ten, Minnesota forward was also named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and could become the first Gopher in two decades to win the trophy. Minnesota State University-Mankato has a pair of finalists in goalie Dryden McKay and forward Nathan Smith.
MINNEAPOLIS — In the Minnesota Gophers’ playoff win over Penn State, Ben Meyers put on a first period show. Not only did he score the game’s first goal to give his team an important early lead, he drew a penalty with a rush to the net later, and the Gophers went ahead 2-0 on the ensuing power play goal.
For some players it would be highlight reel material. For Meyers, a junior forward from Delano, Minn., it has become pretty typical stuff, especially this season.
“Ben’s Ben,” was Gophers coach Bob Motzko’s simple summation of his star player and what Meyers has meant to the Gophers this season, especially after recovering from an injury that hampered his game in November.
On Wednesday, roughly 25 hours after Meyers was named the Player of the Year in the Big Ten, he became the most recent Gopher named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to college hockey’s top player.
If his name is called in Boston in April when the winner is announced, Meyers will be the fifth Gopher to win the award, starting in 1981 when Neal Broten claimed the first Hobey. Others from the U of M to win the Hobey trophy — which is modeled after former Gophers forward Steve Christoff — were goalie Robb Stauber in 1988, center Brian Bonin in 1996 and defenseman Jordan Leopold in 2002.
Meyers is the Gophers’ leader in goals (16) and points (36), despite the aforementioned injury and his absence from five games in early February when Meyers and teammates Brock Faber and Matthew Knies were skating for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in China.
After the Americans were eliminated, the trio traveled for more than 40 hours to get to State College, Pa., to play in a Gophers game at Penn State. Fresh off the plane from the other side of the world, Meyers had three assists in a 6-4 come-from-behind win versus the Nittany Lions.
Meyers is the 17th all-time Gopher named a finalist for the award. The most recent was goalie Jack LaFontaine last season. Meyers is one of two 2022 Hobey finalists from Delano, alongside Michigan Tech senior forward Brian Halonen.
In addition to Meyers and Halonen, three more finalists have Minnesota connections. Denver forward Bobby Brink is from Minnetonka, while Minnesota State University-Mankato has a pair of finalists in goalie Dryden McKay and forward Nathan Smith.
Other finalists for the award are Michigan forward Matty Beniers, Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes, Northeastern goalie Devon Levi, Quinnipiac goalie Yanev Perets and UMass forward Bobby Trivigno. The list of 10 will be reduced to three on March 31, with the award recipient announced live on NHL Network at 5 p.m. CT on Friday, April 8.
An undrafted free agent, Meyers, 23, skated in the Minnesota state high school tournament with Delano, then played in parts of three seasons for the USHL’s Fargo Force before coming to the U of M. He is one of the more sought-after potential pro players in college hockey this season and is widely expected to sign a NHL contract when the Gophers’ season concludes.
The other 9 finalists:
Matty Beniers, Michigan
Beniers is a 19-year-old center and was a first-round pick (second overall) by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Entry Level Draft. Beniers, a unanimous All-Big 10 First Team pick and the conference scoring champion, is tied for 12th in the nation in goals (19), tied for 15th in points (40) and tied for eighth in plus/minus (plus-29) despite missing time to play for Team USA in the Olympics.
Bobby Brink, Denver
Brink is a 20-year-old wing and was a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers (34th overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft. A junior, he leads the nation in assists (41) and points (55) and is a plus-25 in 36 games. He was a unanimous pick to the All-NCHC First Team this season.
Brian Halonen, Michigan Tech
Halonen is 23-year-old undrafted wing. A senior, he is tied for fifth in the nation in goals (21), tied for sixth in points (44) and is a plus-21 in 36 games. He is an All-CCHA First Team pick this season.
Luke Hughes, Michigan
Hughes is an 18-year-old defenseman and was a first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils (fourth overall) in the 2021 NHL Entry Level Draft. A freshman, he leads the nation in goals (17) and points (36) among defensemen and is a plus-25 in 37 games for the Wolverines. He is an All-Big Ten Second Team selection.
Devon Levi, Northeastern
Levi is a 20-year-old goalie and missed last season due to injury. He was a seventh-round pick of the Florida Panthers (212th overall) in the 2020 NHL Entry Level Draft. A sophomore, he is 21-8-1 in 30 games. He leads the nation in save percentage (.954), is second in shutouts (10) and third in goals-against average (1.47). He is an All-Hockey East First Team selection.
Dryden McKay, MSU-Mankato
McKay is a 24-year-old undrafted goalie and was also named the CCHA Goaltender of the Year on Wednesday. In 2020-21, he was named the WCHA Goaltender of the Year, was a Mike Richter Award finalist and a Hobey Hat Trick finalist. This season, he leads the nation in wins (34) and games (38), is second in goals-against average (1.28), third in shutouts (9) and is tied for fourth in save percentage (.933). He holds the Division I men's record for most shutouts in a career (33) and is third in career wins (109).
Yanev Perets, Quinnipiac
Perets is a 22-year-old undrafted goalie, who played in two games in 2020-21. A sophomore, he is 20-4-2, leads the nation in goals-against average (0.89) and is second in save percentage (.952) in 30 games for the Bobcats. He is the ECAC Player of the Year and ECAC Goaltender of the Year.
Nathan Smith, MSU-Mankato
Smith is a 23-year-old center and was a third-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets (91st overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Level Draft. A junior, he is tied for second in the nation in points (48), tied for fourth in assists (30), tied for 16th in goals (18) and is 14th in plus/minus (plus-26) in 33 games. He missed time during the season to play for Team USA in the Olympics. Smith was named the CCHA Forward of the Year on Wednesday.
Bobby Trivigno, Massachusetts
Trivigno is a 23-year-old undrafted wing and a senior for the Minutemen. He is fifth in the nation in points (45), tied for 10th in assists (27), tied for 16th in goals (18) and is a plus-21 in 34 games. He was the lone unanimous selection among the All-Hockey East First Team picks.