Denver Captain Will Butcher Wins 2017 Hobey Baker Award
Named for the former Princeton legend and World War I veteran, the Award is given annually to the top player in Division I men's college hockey. Butcher is the first defenseman to win the award since 2009 (Matt Gilroy, Boston University). The Sun Prairie, Wis., native was also the first blueliner since '09 to be named to the 'Hobey Hat Trick' as one of three finalists for the prestigious award.
All season, Butcher — a 2013 fifth-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche — has anchored the best statistical defense in the nation. The Pioneers enter Saturday's championship game against league rival Minnesota-Duluth having allowed 1.81 goals per game on average this season. Widely considered the best all-around defenseman in the nation, Butcher has chipped in offensively, too, with seven goals and 30 assists.
His 37 points are the second most among all defensemen.
"He's smarter than anyone else on the ice," Denver head coach Jim Montgomery told CHN last week. "That's the gift that he has. The big thing about Will is, because he's so in control, his personality on the ice — being able to speed the game up or slow it down — is his personality off the ice. He's always in control, and always well-thought out."
In leading the Pioneers to a regular season title and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, Butcher was also named NCHC Player of the Year and was honored as a First-Team all-conference selection for the second consecutive year.
Off the ice, Butcher has volunteered with the organization Hockey Saves, a not-for-profit organization established to give back to members of the military.
"It's a great organization," said Denver's head equipment manager, Nick Meldrum, who is heavily involved with the volunteer efforts. "It helps our military — active and non-active military personnel — to get a little bit of time away from their lives and play some hockey. We've sent some equipment their way. And we've had a local veteran come in, and Will skated with that veteran. It's a great organization that does a lot of great things for our military."
Butcher — whose Denver career ends one way or another with Saturday night's national championship game — was selected over forwards Zach Aston-Reese (Northeastern) and Mike Vecchione (Union), who finished their seasons tied for first in scoring this season, with 1.66 goals pr game.