University of Wisconsin senior center Blake Geoffrion won the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top Division I college player, but University of Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist will have at least one more crack at it.
Nyquist and University of New Hampshire senior right wing Bobby Butler were the other finalists.
Nyquist leads the nation in points with 61 and in assists with 42 to go with his 19 goals.
Geoffrion has 28 & 22 entering the national title game against Boston College tonight, and he leads the nation in power-play goals with 15. Butler had 29 goals, which is tops in the country, and 24 assists.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Nyquist, a native of Malmo, Sweden, was a fourth-round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings (121st overall) in 2008, but he said he is returning to Maine for his junior season.
“I’m coming back and I’m very excited to get back at it,” said the 20-year-old Nyquist.
Nyquist said he wasn’t disappointed about not winning the award.
“I was very honored to be one of the three finalists,” said Nyquist. “Blake really deserved it. He had a great season. He’s a great player. I’ve gotten to know him out here and he’s also a great guy.”
He said Butler would have been a deserving winner, also.
Detroit Red Wings scout Mark Leach, brother of former Maine assistant coach Jay Leach and former Black Bear center Jon Leach, said the organization was “very pleased” with Nyquist’s season and they feel his returning to Maine is a wise decision.
“They have a good program at Maine,” said Leach. “We’d like to see him go back and be a dominant player [again]. His skating has improved dramatically and he has gotten stronger. When you have an elite player like Gustav, you want to see him continue to mature [physically].”
Leach said former Black Bear goalie Jimmy Howard, who is the starting goalie for the Red Wings, serves as a blueprint for player development.
Howard spent three years at Maine and four years in the AHL before winning the Red Wings job this season.
Nyquist has enjoyed his time at the Frozen Four, and his grandfather, Bengt-Goran Nilsson, flew over from Sweden to share it with him.
“It means a lot to me to have him here,” said Nyquist. “He has been very supportive throughout my career. This whole experience has been really fun. We’ve been busy doing interviews, going to meetings and signing autographs. I got to see the Boston College-Miami game [in the Frozen Four] and I’ll see the championship game.”
Nyquist will return to Sweden this summer and prepare for next season.
“I want to get stronger and quicker. You can always improve on something,” said Nyquist, who is excited about the prospects for next season after Maine reached the Hockey East final this year before losing to Boston College 7-6 in overtime.
He knows expectations will be high since they graduate just four players.
“We like the situation. We’re all very excited. I wish summer was over already,” said Nyquist.
He hopes to remain on a line with left wing Brian Flynn and center Tanner House, whom he credited for playing a prominent role in his success.
“All of my teammates are a huge part of my success. I’m on a great line and I have fun out there with Brian and Tanner. I hope we get the chance to play together again next year,” said Nyquist.
There will be pressure on him and he will start the season as a Hobey Baker favorite.
“I just want to help my team as much as possible. I want us to make the NCAA Tournament and, hopefully, make it to the Frozen Four as well,” said Nyquist.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead is happy Nyquist is returning.
“I’m very proud of all he has accomplished so far,” said Whitehead. “From the way he works, his passion for the game and his natural ability, I fully expect him to elevate his game next year. His success is not an accident. He works extremely hard. He’s a leader for us on and off the ice.”
Nyquist will be a marked man, but that has been the case since he stepped on the Maine campus as a freshman, according to Whitehead.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for him. But the way he competes in traffic and with the poise he has, he’ll be fine with that,” said Whitehead.