My all-WCHA picks

This year wasn’t easy making all-WCHA selections. I think separating the top six forwards in the league, only choosing three all-rookie forwards and selecting player of the year were the most difficult parts.

First team

F Danny Kristo, North Dakota
F Corban Knight, North Dakota
F Ryan Walters, Omaha
D Nick Jensen, SCSU
D Nate Schmidt, Minnesota
G Juho Olkinuora, Denver

Notes: UND finished one goal away from leading the WCHA in offense, despite not having a ton of scoring throughout the depth of the lineup, thanks to Kristo and Knight. Both are all-situation players and Knight leads the nation in faceoff wins. Thought Haula and LeBlanc easily could have been on the first team as well. The defensemen picks were no-brainers for me. Probably the easiest part of my ballot to fill out. DU had a losing record when Olkinuora didn’t start this season. I saw him steal three points from UND this year. He was sensational.

Second team

F Drew LeBlanc, SCSU
F Erik Haula, Minnesota
F Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College
D Andrej Sustr, Omaha
D Mike Boivin, Colorado College
G Stephon Williams, MSU-Mankato

Notes: If not first-teamers, LeBlanc and Haula were easy to fill in on this team. Rylan Schwartz had yet another great season in the Springs. Sustr is a top-pair defenseman with long reach and an improved offensive game. Boivin was one of the best offensive threats from the back end. Didn’t get to see Williams until the final week of the season, but he was the real deal.

Third team

F Matt Leitner, MSU-Mankato
F Josh Archibald, Omaha
F Michael Mersch, Wisconsin
D Joey LaLeggia, Denver
D Dillon Simpson, North Dakota
G Joel Rumpel, Wisconsin

Notes: Archibald led the league in goals. Needed to get him on there. Mersch accounted for an enormous chunk of Wisconsin’s offense. No one player in the league was as important to his team’s offense than Mersch. He had to be on there. The last spot was between Leitner and Eriah Hayes. I went Leitner. Three goalies were under consideration for the last spot: Rumpel, Adam Wilcox and Ryan Faragher. Rumpel had the highest save percentage of the three and was a big reason why UW was the best defensive team in the league.

Rookie team

F Tony Cameranesi, Duluth
F Jonny Brodzinski, SCSU
F Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota
D Nolan Zajac, Denver
D Mike Reilly, Minnesota
G Stephon Williams, MSU-Mankato

Notes: Leaving Alex Petan off the list was possibly the hardest choice, but the other three were too good to leave off. Also considered Andy Welinski on defense, but went with the other two. Wilcox would be an all-rookie goalie any other year.

Player of the year: Kristo
Rookie of the year: Williams
Coach of the year Bob Motzko, SCSU

Notes: For me, player of the year came down to Kristo and SCSU’s Nick Jensen. I thought Jensen was hands-down the best defenseman I’ve seen this year and totally controls games from the back end. He was not on the ballot, though. Neither was Knight. Without Williams, MSU is not at home this weekend. And although Hastings will win the award and will be deserving, Motzko was an easy choice for me. He led SCSU to its first league title (also overcame the early departures of Mike Lee, Cam Reid and David Eddy, all of whom would have been key players on this year’s SCSU squad).

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