The WCHA award ballots got sent out this week, and some people are having a tough time with the Player of the Year voting because, as it turns out, all of the WCHA's good players are in the NHL. Brad Schlossman asks if Ryan Duncan is the WCHA's most valuable player(Spoiler Alert: He's not), and makes a pretty lengthy case for it.
Personally, if the ballot had come out in January, I probably would have gone with Ryan Stoa. Stoa is still putting up points--that's almost given when you're linemates with Jordan Schroeder--but aside from the occasional point here or there, he hasn't seemed like much of a threat. He took over games in the first half of the season. The past four to five weeks, I think the Hoeffel/Carman line has been more impressive than Stoa's line for Minnesota.
I think the best choice here would probably be Jamie McBain. I ragged on his play earlier this season when he had an atrocious +/- rating during UW's winless start to the season, and I don't think he ever got that number back into the positives, but besides that, he's done just about everything else for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin hasn't been amazing this season--it's looking likely that they'll miss the NCAA tournament--but they're in decent shape to finish in the top half of the league, which is pretty impressive considering the start they had to the season. And for being Wisconsin, his supporting cast isn't as strong as you might expect. His defensive partners are talented, but young and inconsistent. They've got a deep cast of forwards, but most are of the big, defensively responsible type, as opposed to being flashy offensive talent. And in goal, Shane Connelly pretty much defines average. That group could very easily finish towards the bottom of the conference without McBain's stellar play on both ends of the ice.
The next best choice would probably be Alex Stalock. Last year's clutch-and-grab fest produced the Year of the Goaltender. This year, with the rules being called a little tighter, it gave players a little more room to work offensively and let the best goaltenders rise to the top. Richard Bachman, Alex Kangas, and Mike Zacharias all took a huge step backwards in terms of the quality of their play. Stalock proved his impressive numbers last year weren't a fluke, and improved on them.
He can be maddening at times. One wonders how much lower his GAA would be if he was tethered to his net. For example last Friday night, with his team up 1-0 and controlling play, Stalock wandered from his net, turned the puck over, and gave Minnesota a goal that put them back in the game. But the flip side is that when he is playing well and controlling his rebounds, he is near impossible to beat, and he's been playing well more often than not this season.