Dominik Kubalik (Chicago Blackhawks), Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche), and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks). All of these players had fantastic seasons, and all are deserving of winning the award but only one can do it.
Kubalik’s brother, Thomas, played briefly in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is over the moon to be considered for this award.
“The goal was to make the team. It was tough and a great first step. It was a little up and down from the beginning. I figured out how to handle some situations like travel. It’s different from Europe. My confidence kept getting better and better,” Kubalik stated. “The first 20-25 games were tough. I just didn’t play the way I wanted. The team was up and down, and the lines were switching. Then I found chemistry from (Jonathan Toews) Tazer. You can learn a lot from him, and it made it easier. He was one of the keys for sure.”
Kubalik did cite playing on the National Team with Flyers forward Jake Voracek as being a great experience for him.
Cale Makar won the Hobey Baker Award in 2019 with UMass Amherst and then he had a chance to springboard into the playoffs for his NHL debut.
“It was an incredible experience and see the atmosphere in the room and know the players and getting accustomed to the team and being around them,” he admitted. “I’m very honored and humbled to be on this stage with these guys. All of us are here because we have great supporting casts.”
Chris Drury is the only player to win the Hobey Baker Award and the Calder and now Makar has a chance to do that. The fact that he’ll be playing in Alberta, he’s from Calgary, is almost a homecoming for him, with one great exception.
“We are going to be in tight headquarters in that bubble. I won’t be able to see any friends and family but there won’t be any hometown advantage,” Makar added.
Quinn Hughes is a tremendous talent who is a big reason the Vancouver Canucks have had a resurgence. Like Makar, he can do a lot of things with the puck at 5-on-5 and on the power play. Nobody is shocked that he’s a finalist.
“It’s a great honor especially this year,” Hughes said. “I think it doesn’t matter if you’re having a good season. You’re always going to have ups and downs; you’re always going to go through that.”
Hughes will get his first taste of the playoffs.
“We have a really good team. It’s not over yet.”
Montreal’s Max Domi targeted Hughes this season and the rookie is ready for more of that in the playoffs. Don’t feel bad for the prospect. Making sure he stays off the scoresheet is harder to do.
“With hockey that’s going to happen. That’s part of the game. With the playoffs going forward that’s going to happen. You take it as a compliment if guys are keen on you,” said Hughes, who has been used to getting this kind of attention as he’s moved up the ladder in his career.
All three of these players were on my ballot. This is a very tough call and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
We talked quite a bit. He’s doing a good job at home right now. Hopefully, I’ll see him in January
Check out my new hockey book Sticks and Stones here with profiles on Makar and Hughes and more: