Hobey to NHL: It takes talent and timing

Winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top U.S. college hockey player doesn't automatically translate into success at the NHL level.

"Often times, great college hockey players who have a legitimate chance to win the award leave school early -- like Edmonton's Mike Comrie," said a Western Conference scout. "Conversely, a lot of players didn't have great college careers because they needed time to develop and find a niche. John LeClair was a good college player, but he's developed into an even better pro."

ESPN.com asked the scout, who crossed paths with every Hobey Baker winner either as a player, coach or scout, to analyze each player's game and how they handled the transition to the professional ranks:

1981: Neal Broten, So., F, Minnesota
Drafted: Third round (42nd overall) in 1979 by the Minnesota North Stars

Scout: "In college, Broten dominated every facet of the game -- his skating, his ability with the puck and his hockey sense. And the situation didn't matter -- even strength, power play, penalty kill -- he was good at them all. He was such a premier player, I don't think there was a question that he was going to be a good pro."

Finalists: Sandy Beadle, Northeastern; Steve Bozek, Northern Michigan; Neal Broten, Minnesota; Steve Carroll, Mankato State; Mark Hentges, St. Thomas; Tom Lawler, Merrimack; Bill Provencher, Bowdoin; Ed Small, Clarkson; Rick Strack, Plattsburgh State; Steve Ulseth, Minnesota.

1982: George McPhee, Sr., F, Bowling Green
Drafted: Not drafted.

Scout: "George was smart, skilled and tough for his size (5-9, 170). When he got to the NHL, he knew he'd have to make his career on toughness and hard work. It's interesting to look at his stats and see his penalty numbers (139 minutes in 49 games in 1984-85). Ironically, it was that style of play that led to injuries that eventually ended his career."

Finalists: Ed Beers, Denver; Steve Cruickshank, Clarkson; Bryan Erickson, Minnesota; Brian Hills, Bowling Green; Paul Lohnes, Mass.-Lowell; Kirk McCaskill, Vermont; George McPhee, Bowling Green; John Newberry, Wisconsin; Dave Poulin, Notre Dame; Ron Scott, Michigan State.

1983: Mark Fusco, Sr., D, Harvard
Drafted: Not drafted

Scout: "Mark controlled the game. It seemed like however he wanted the game to progress, he could make it happen. Whatever Harvard had to do, if he did it, not only would his team follow, but the other team would as well. When he wanted to speed up the game, the game sped up; when he wanted to slow it down, it would slow down. It was amazing. In his case, the size issue came into play when he got to the pros, and he got hurt. He was 5-9, 185 as a defenseman. College hockey gave him the canvas he needed to succeed. The NHL wasn't going to provide him that. But back then, the NHL wasn't necessarily a goal for college kids."

Finalists: Scott Bjugstad, Minnesota; Bob Brooke, Yale; Mike Carr, Mass.-Lowell; Bryan Erickson, Minnesota; Mark Fusco, Harvard; Brian Hills, Bowling Green; Kurt Kleinendorst, Providence; James Patrick, North Dakota; Ron Scott, Michigan State; Randy Velischek, Providence.

1984: Tom Kurvers, Sr., D, Minnesota-Duluth
Drafted: Seventh round (145th overall) in 1981 by the Montreal Canadiens

Scout: "Kurvers was one of the smartest guys to make the jump. He knew how good he was in college and that he could get away with doing things, and when he got to the pros he realized there were things he could no longer do. He made himself incredibly steady and reliable, responsible. He was one of those guys who knew he couldn't take the same kind of chances he took in college and get away with it. Instead of being one of those guys who went to the NHL and all of a sudden became a high-risk guy, kept turning the puck over and never made it, he just cut that out of his game."

Finalists: Jon Casey, North Dakota; Cleon Daskalakis, Boston U.; Paul Donato, Babson; Dan Dorion, Western Michigan; Tom Kurvers, Minnesota-Duluth; Gates Orlando, Providence; Joel Otto, Bemidji State; Paul Pooley, Ohio State; Jean Roy, Bowdoin; Steve Smith, St. Lawrence.

1985: Bill Watson, Jr., F, Minnesota-Duluth
Drafted: Fourth round (70th overall) in 1982 by the Chicago Blackhawks

Scout: "Billy wasn't just a goal scorer, he was a point producer. He had 35 and 49 goals his sophomore and junior years, but he also had the assists to go with them (51 and 60). That was a great power play -- Kurvers, Watson and Hull. Those guys had huge amounts of points. We'll never know if he could have been a good pro. He had decent numbers when he first got out, but his career was cut short by a back injury."

Finalists: Tim Army, Providence; Dave Fretz, Clarkson; Scott Fusco, Harvard; Hubie McDonough, St. Anselm; Pat Micheletti, Minnesota; Kelly Miller, Michigan State;
Adam Oates, Rensselaer; Craig Simpson, Michigan State; Ray Staszak, Illinois-Chicago; Bill Watson, Minnesota-Duluth.

1986: Scott Fusco, Sr., F, Harvard
Drafted: 11th round (211th overall) in 1982 by the New Jersey Devils

Scout: "Scott was a very competitive and intense player. He won 1-on-1 battles, despite his size, he was always around the puck, the puck was always around him, but in the NHL in 1986 you're not doing anything like that in the NHL at that size. The game is completely different now. Also, he played in two Olympics (1984, 1988) and accomplished what he wanted to as a player."

Finalists: Mike Donnelly, Michigan State; Dan Dorion, Western Michigan; Gary Emmons, Northern Michigan; Scott Fusco, Harvard; Dallas Gaume, Denver; Scott Harlow, Boston College; Brett Hull, Minnesota-Duluth; Norm Maciver, Minnesota-Duluth; Scott Sandelin, North Dakota; Chris Terreri, Providence.

1987: Tony Hrkac, Sr., F, North Dakota
Drafted: Second round (32nd overall) in 1984 by St. Louis Blues

Scout: "Tony was a scary college player. He had the advantage of playing a year at North Dakota, a year with the Canadian Olympic team, then went back to North Dakota, so he went back to a level of play that was probably less than what he was used to and he dominated his last year in college. North Dakota was called the 'Hrkac Circus' that year, when they won the national championship with Ed Belfour in goal. That building used to get crazy, especially when he'd wind up with the puck. I think it took him a long time to realize that he wasn't going to be able to be the same kind of player in the pros. Early in his career he was trying to fit into a goal-scorer's role, now he's had a long career because he's learned what kind of player he can be. Management always has a role in it -- they were probably thinking he was going to be that same kind of player, too. Now, he's a really skilled third-line player who goes out, eats up some minutes and if he's in scoring position he can score."

Finalists: John Cullen, Boston U.; Gary Emmons, Northern Michigan; Wayne Gagne, Western Michigan; Tony Granato, Wisconsin; Tony Hrkac, North Dakota; Craig Janney, Boston College; Brian Leetch, Boston College; Lane MacDonald, Harvard; Joe Nieuwendyk, Cornell; Tom Sasso, Babson.

1988: Robb Stauber, Sr., G, Minnesota
Drafted: Sixth round (107th overall) in 1986 by the Los Angeles Kings

Scout: "What made Stauber an interesting pick was Minnesota wasn't really that good. My take on college hockey goaltenders -- and this is a generalization -- but a lot of goaltenders are great college goaltenders because the amount of players who can score is small. You can stop 30 shots in a game and really only face three or four from guys who can actually score goals. Stauber was a dominant goaltender, but he didn't face near the kind of shots he'd see in the pros. In the NHL, I'd say that 75 percent of the players, if they get the puck on their stick, they have a legitimate chance of scoring. I don't think we should take anything away form him as a college goalie -- he was the best, hands down. But it's a lot different being a great college goalie, and being a good goalie in the NHL."

Finalists: Phil Berger, Northern Michigan; Rejean Boivin, Colgate; David Capuano, Maine; Nelson Emerson, Bowling Green; Mike Golden, Maine; Steve Johnson, North Dakota; Pete Lappin, St. Lawrence; Paul Ranheim, Wisconsin; Robb Stauber, Minnesota; Mark Vermette, Lake Superior State.

1989: Lane McDonald, Sr., F, Harvard
Drafted: Third round (59th overall) in 1985 by the Calgary Flames

Scout: "Lane had a good combination of size, speed and skill, he could have been a pro who had what it took. He could pass the puck as well as he could shoot it. You couldn't classify him as a dominant goal scorer or a playmaker, because he could do both. He was also very intelligent. He had great anticipation and great hockey sense. And he could skate. He could really skate. He played a year in Switzerland, but ended up retiring due to migraines."

Allen Bourbeau, Harvard; Greg Brown, Boston College; David Capuano, Maine; Nelson Emerson, Boston College; Bruce Hoffort, Lake Superior State; Lane McDonald, Harvard;
Kip Miller, Michigan State; Bobby Reynolds, Michigan State; Robb Stauber, Minnesota; Tim Sweeney, Boston College.

1990: Kip Miller, Sr., F, Michigan State
Drafted: Fourth round (72nd overall) in 1987 by the Quebec Nordiques

Scout: "Kip was good in college all four years. And that last year, he was hands down the best. In the pros, at his size and his skill, he had to be a top-two line player. But at the time, with Quebec, he wasn't going to be, so he struggled. I remember his first camp, they had him as a third-line player, but that wasn't his game. And he wasn't good enough yet to play on the top two lines. Interestingly, each time he's had success, he's been given the opportunity to play on the top two lines. He is what he is. He's better in skill situations. But back then, you didn't have the specialists you have now."

Finalists: Rick Bennett, Providence; Rob Blake, Bowling Green; Greg Brown, Boston College; Nelson Emerson, Bowling Green; David Emma, Boston College; Dave Gagnon, Colgate; Joe Juneau, Rensselaer; Kip Miller, Michigan State; Russ Parent, North Dakota; Dave Shields, Denver.

1991: David Emma, Sr., F, Boston College
Drafted: Sixth round (110th overall) in 1989 by the New Jersey Devils

Scout: "Success for all these players is a combination of their abilities meeting opportunities, and that was a bit of the case with David. He scored 10 points in 15 games in 1993-94, but the Devils were too deep at center, so they sent him back down. He could score, but he was a tremendous playmaker in college. It would have been interesting to see, if given the opportunity, if he could have made an impact in the NHL. He had the patience to handle the puck, he had the ability to find his teammates when they were open."

Finalists: Scott Beattie, Northern Michigan; Peter Ciavaglia, Harvard; Jim Dowd, Lake Superior State; David Emma, Boston College; Denny Felsner, Michigan; Greg Johnson, North Dakota; Joe Juneau, Rensselaer; Shawn McEachern, Boston U.; Jean-Yves Roy, Maine; Brad Werenka, Northern Michigan.

1992: Scott Pellerin, Sr., F, Maine
Drafted: Third round (47th overall) in 1989 by the New Jersey Devils

Scout: "Pellerin was dynamic in college and was smart enough, so when he got to the pros he could still be dynamic, but he never got himself in trouble. He's has a long career because of that. He's a guy who can score, who can pass, but he's not going to take the high-risk chances like a lot of college players do, and they never get over that. He also had speed. He was a tremendous skater with great sense."

Finalists: Scott Beattie, Northern Michigan; Duane Derksen, Wisconsin; Denny Felsner, Michigan; Rob Gaudreau, Providence; Greg Johnson, North Dakota; Daniel Laperriere, St. Lawrence; Darrin Madeley, Lake Superior State; Scott Pellerin, Maine; Larry Olimb, Minnesota; Jean-Yves Roy, Maine.

1993: Paul Kariya, Fr., F, Maine
Drafted: First round (4th overall) in 1993 by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Scout: "It was a big deal that year because Kariya deserved it, but nobody knew if he'd get it because he was a freshman. Everything you read about him as an NHLer was true when he was an 18-year-old freshman. He was a character player, he made the players around him better. He raised that team's level of play every time he stepped on the ice. He even does that in the NHL. There was no transition for him."

Finalists: Ted Drury, Harvard; Greg Johnson, North Dakota; Mark Kaufmann, Yale; Paul Kariya, Maine; Jim Montgomery, Maine; Derek Plante, Minnesota-Duluth; Brian Rolston, Lake Superior State; David Sacco, Boston U.; Brian Savage, Miami; Bryan Smolinski, Michigan State.

1994: Chris Marinucci, Sr., F, Minnesota-Duluth
Drafted: Fifth round (90th overall) in 1990 by the N.Y. Islanders

Scout: "He wasn't a great skater to begin with, and had an ankle or leg injury early in his pro career and had trouble overcoming it. Now whether he wasn't given the chance to or he couldn't improve his skating after the injury, doesn't really matter because he couldn't do in the NHL, with the stronger, faster, bigger players, that he could do in college hockey. But he had tremendous anticipation and was great on the power play."

Finalists: Craig Conroy, Clarkson; Dean Fedorchuk, Alaska Fairbanks; Neil Little, Rensselaer; Chris Marinucci, Minnesota-Duluth; Sean McCann, Harvard; David Oliver, Michigan; Jamie Ram, Michigan Tech; Dwayne Roloson, Mass.-Lowell; Steve Shields, Michigan; Brian Wiseman, Michigan.

1995: Brian Holzinger, Sr., F, Bowling Green
Drafted: Sixth round (124th overall) in 1991 by the Buffalo Sabres

Scout: "What I thought was interesting about Holzinger was, right around this time, the CCHA was becoming a force as a league and he was one of the reasons why. And it wasn't a case of a good player being in an OK league -- he was a flat out good hockey player. He was strong, he was powerful and could score. If the puck was on his stick, it was in the net. He's had decent numbers as a pro. He was one of the reasons why Buffalo had those good years. He's an intelligent player, when his team was good, he was good."

Finalists: Brian Bonin, Minnesota; Greg Bullock, Mass.-Lowell; Anson Carter, Michigan State; Mike Grier, Boston U.; Brian Holzinger, Bowling Green; Chris Imes, Maine; Jay McNeill, Colorado College; Brendan Morrison, Michigan; Brian Mueller, Clarkson; Martin St.Louis, Vermont.

1996: Brian Bonin, Sr., F, Minnesota
Drafted: Ninth round (211th overall) in 1992 by the Pittsburgh Penguins

Scout: "He was the kind of player who would have two goals and an assist before the other coach could get his hands out of his pockets. If there was any kind of knock on him -- as I remember it -- he was so good that the game was over for him. I don't know if he had the killer instinct or didn't need it. Even before he was done with college people were wondering if he'd be a great pro because of his size (5-9, 197). You look at Brian Gionta with New Jersey and he's playing because it's the type of organization where there is enough communication that no one is surprised that he's 5-7. In some organizations -- and I'm not picking on Pittsburgh -- but they draft a kid and, yeah, he's a great player, but they forget that he's 5-9, so when he comes to camp, they don't have a place for him. Was Bonin put in the right situations? I don't know if he was."

Finalists: Keith Aldridge, Lake Superior State; Brian Bonin, Minnesota; Mike Crowley, Minnesota; Chris Drury, Boston U.; Peter Geronazzo, Colorado College; Brendan Morrison, Michigan; Burke Murphy, St. Lawrence; Jay Pandolfo, Boston U.; Eric Perrin, Vermont; Martin St.Louis, Vermont.

1997: Brendan Morrison, Sr., F, Michigan
Drafted: Second round (39th overall) in 1993 by the New Jersey Devils

Scout: "What made him a great college player and what makes him a really good pro is his competitiveness, his desire, his drive. He wants to beat you. Then, after he beats you, he wants to beat you again. Great players, after the goal celebration, they're looking for the next point. He was like that. Still is. He was always determined, and that's what has made him a successful pro."

Finalists: Jason Blake, North Dakota; Mike Crowley, Minnesota; Chris Drury, Boston U.; Mike Harder, Colgate; John Madden, Michigan; Brendan Morrison, Michigan;
Randy Robitaille, Miami; Martin St.Louis, Vermont; Brian Swanson, Colorado College; Todd White, Clarkson.

1998: Chris Drury, Sr., F, Boston University
Drafted: Third round (72nd overall) in 1994 by the Quebec Nordiques

Scout: "He's a winner. He's a character player. He finds a way to get it done. To me, it's a combination of sense, anticipation, competitiveness and work ethic -- I don't know if there's much else, but if there is, it's secondary to him. If he can't get through you, he'll go around you. And because of that his sense extends to his awareness of the game and where he fits in. His resume is becoming cliche; he's got championships at every level. There is no secret to that. So it comes as no surprise to me that he's a good pro."

Finalists: Chad Alban, Michigan State; Dan Boyle, Miami; Chris Drury, Boston U.; Ray Giroux, Yale; Eric Healey, Rensselaer; Jason Krog, New Hampshire; Mark Mowers, New Hampshire; Bill Muckalt, Michigan; Curtis Murphy, North Dakota; Mike York, Michigan State.

1999: Jason Krog, Sr., F, New Hampshire
Drafted: Not drafted.

Scout: "I think Jason was a great college player because he played in a system that was suited for him. He played with good players in a high-tempo game, in a skill game, where all that came out. Sometimes, college players like that take a little longer to find their niche in the pros. Even though it's been a few years, Krog may still find his place in the NHL. But again, it's a question of will the opportunity present itself."

Finalists: Jason Blake, North Dakota; Hugo Boisvert, Ohio State; Brian Gionta, Boston College; Jeff Hamilton, Yale; Eric Heffler, St. Lawrence; Steve Kariya, Maine; Jason Krog, New Hampshire; Michel Larocque, Boston U.; Brian Swanson, Colorado College; Mike York, Michigan State.

2000: Mike Mottau, Sr., D, Boston College
Drafted: Seventh round (182nd overall) in 1997 by the N.Y. Rangers

Scout: "Mottau was a character player with very good puck skills, sense, patience and awareness on the ice. He was excellent on the power play because of his patience, but he only has decent feet. He's a good skater, but he lacks some quickness that has held him back from bursting on the scene. I think he's developing it and he's getting better. Through positioning, he was able to be dominant defensively and offensively at the college level. Now, it's a situation where there are no weak players to exploit. He can't play the game he did college at the pro level without feet."

Finalists: Mike Comrie, Michigan; Ty Conklin, New Hampshire; Jeff Farkas, Boston College; Brian Gionta, Boston College; Shawn Horcoff, Michigan State; Joel Laing, Rensselaer; Andy McDonald, Colgate; Mike Mottau, Boston College; Jeff Panzer, North Dakota; Steve Reinprecht, Wisconsin;

2001: Ryan Miller, So., G, Michigan State
Drafted: Fifth round (138th overall) in 1999 by the Buffalo Sabres

Scout: "Ryan is an exceptional talent and an exceptional competitor. I think because he's so technically sound and such a good athlete that he will be a goaltender who can advance his career after college. Technically, he's incredibly sound. But I think mentally, he's a very, very mature kid and that really helps him."

Finalists: Eric Anderson, St. Lawrence; Ty Conklin, New Hampshire; Brian Gionta, Boston College; Jeff Hamilton, Yale; Dany Heatley, Wisconsin; Andy Hilbert, Michigan; Kent Huskins, Clarkson; Jordan Leopold, Minnesota; Ryan Miller, Michigan State; Jeff Panzer, North Dakota.

2002: Jordan Leopold, Sr., D, Minnesota
Drafted: Second round (44th overall) in 1999 by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Scout: "I was incredibly pleased to see Jordan Leopold win the Hobey, because I think he was a dominant player every time he stepped on the ice. He controlled the game weather he had the puck or he was playing defense and the other team had the puck. His presence was unbelievable. A lot of times a player like that can get overlooked. What will make him a good pro is just that -- if he plays the game that is presented to him, and he's done so at every level, he doesn't force anything, he takes what's given to him, then he exploits what's there. He's never going to be the best offensive defenseman, but he'll be one of the better ones. He's never going to be a tremendous physical force, but he's strong and able to take care of his own end. He's never going to be the guy with the hardest shot from the point, but he'll always get it off quick and it'll be accurate. He 's the type of guy who, barring injury, can play for 10 years."

Finalists: Ryan Carter, Iona; Marc Cavosie, Rensselaer; Rob Collins, Ferris State; Wade Dubielewicz, Denver; Jim Fahey, Northeastern; Mark Hartigan, St. Cloud State;
Darren Haydar, New Hampshire; Jordan Leopold, Minnesota; Ryan Miller, Michigan State; Doug Murray, Cornell.