The only suspense surrounding the announcement of the 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner seemed to be focused on whether Jack Eichel would get emotional during his acceptance speech.
As has been his nature all season, Eichel demonstrated poise and maturity beyond his 18 years.
“It was really nice to hear my name,” said Eichel. “My mom and dad were sitting in the front row. I got choked up for a minute talking, just because I looked down and saw my mom and she was crying. It choked me up for a minute just because of how important my parents are and everything they’ve done for me. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Fans have been unable to say enough good things about Eichel, who beat out North Dakota goalie Zane McIntyre and Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey for college hockey’s top individual prize.
Eichel is the first freshman to be a finalist for the award in 12 years, and the first to win since 1993, when Paul Kariya claimed the prize while at Maine.
“What an honor to win this award that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Eichel said.
A freshman from North Chelmsford, Eichel leads the nation in scoring. He enters Saturday night’s Frozen Four championship game against Providence with 70 points (26 goals, 44 assists) in 39 games.
Eichel was the Hockey East scoring champion, Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, First Team Hockey East and a member of the All-Rookie Team, and was named MVP of the conference tournament. He is projected to be the No. 2 overall selection in June’s NHL Draft.
The assumption is Eichel will head to the NHL next year, but he is focused on the Terriers’ next game.
“It’s tough to think about something like that right now,” said Eichel. “We’re playing a pretty important game tomorrow night. I’m sure when the season’s over, I’ll sit down with the people that are close to me and make a decsion. But there’s no rush.”
Vesey already has been drafted by the Nashville Predators, but announced he will return to Harvard for his senior season. It’s a decision Eichel understands, and one he’ll have to confront as well.
“Obviously, he would have had an opportunity to go to Nashville and play right away, but he also has a chance to get a degree from Harvard,” said Eichel. “A lot of people have given me advice that I’m sure Jimmy got as well. There’s no rush to go anywhere. Enjoy yourself and live in the moment.”
On the precipice of bringing another national championship to BU, Eichel seems to be heeding that advice. Whether it extends beyond this year remains to be seen, although Eichel does not hesitate to list the benefits of another year in college.
“I think it’s another great year of development in college hockey,” said Eichel. “Playing for Coach [Dave] Quinn another year. There’s positives any way you look at it, whether you move on or not. Wherever you are, you’re going to find positives in it. When I have to make a decision, I think I’ll make it with my family and I’ll make it with my heart. I don’t want to be somewhere I don’t want to be.”Andrew Mahoney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at@GlobeMahoney.