Maine sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist
, a Red Wings’ prospect, finished just short of winning college hockey’s most prestigious award after being named a finalist on March 31.
Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion took home the trophy a day before his Badgers compete for a national championship against Boston College. He was the first player from Wisconsin to capture the Hobey Baker Award. New Hampshire’s Bobby Butler was the other finalist.
“I didn’t really expect (to win),” Nyquist said. “I was just very honored to be one of the three finalists. Bobby and Blake, they’ve had tremendous seasons as well, and I think Blake really deserved to win it. I wish him the best of luck in the national championship game tomorrow.”
However, Nyquist earned the right to be at the award show on the ice of Ford Field.
The 20-year-old forward had an impressive sophomore season with the Black Bears. Nyquist, a Malmo, Sweden native, was the top scorer in the NCAA this season, posting 61 points in 39 games.
His totals led to honors throughout the season. Nyquist was a runner-up for Hockey East Player of the Year, and he was named a First Team all-star.
“I think Gustav brings so much to the table,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “He’s one of those rare players that when he comes into the zone with the puck he can back opponents off with his speed, his skill, his poise, and when he gets that puck on the rush the whole bench stands up because they know what’s going to happen, it’s usually something pretty special.”
Nyquist had just as much success off the ice as on. The sophomore finished on the Dean’s List at Maine, and he volunteered in the community by coaching at youth hockey clinics.
The Hobey Baker Award is given to the player who best exemplifies strength of character on and off the ice, outstanding skills in all aspects of the sport, and sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.
Geoffrion, a senior forward from Brentwood, Tennessee, had 27 goals and 21 assists in 38 games. He was named MVP of the West Regional as he led the Badgers through the NCAA Tournament. His last name should sound familiar; his grandfather, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, and great-grandfather Howie Morenz have nine Stanley Cup rings between them, and both are in the Hockey Hall of Fame as members of the Montreal Canadiens. Danny Geoffrion, Blake’s father, also played for the Canadiens.
The other finalist, Bobby Butler of New Hampshire, made an impressive case as well. Butler, who also won the Walter Brown Award for best American-born college player in New England, and was a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award as the Hobey Baker. He had 29 goals and 24 assists in 39 games, which was good enough for Butler to be named Player of the Year in the Hockey East conference.
During the awards ceremony, Whitehead said that Nyquist will be returning to the Black Bears next season.
“It’s a great sign for our program,” the Maine coach said, “but I think most importantly it’s a great statement about his family and their priorities, and how much education means to them.”
“And also to Gustav,” Whitehead continued, “to show that type of maturity at a young age, it’s really impressive because he has a bright future in front of him, on and off the ice.”
Despite his success this season, Nyquist knows he needs to improve at the college level before taking bigger steps within the Wings’ organization.
“Right now I need to work on my strength,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing I need to work on. Summers are good for that, and I have a big summer ahead of me, I have to do a lot of work-outs. It’s good for me though.”
Nyquist said he follows the NHL club that he was drafted by whenever he can, but it’s difficult to catch them on TV while living in Maine.
“I follow them once in a while. We don’t have the NHL Package at home, but I’ve watched a few games on Versus.”
“(The Wings) have been my favorite team since I grew up,” Gustav said. “So obviously I’ve been very honored to be drafted by them.”