Chad Kolarik doesn’t get to vote for the Hobey Baker Award winner, but if he could, he’d already be committed to a candidate.
“Kevin Porter – no question,” the alternate captain said.
Sure, there might be some bias in that vote. Kolarik and Porter aren’t just linemates and Michigan’s only scholarship seniors. They’re also best friends and housemates.
But even those who don’t live with Porter agree he’s putting together a historic season.
“He’s had a Hobey Baker career at Michigan, and now he’s doing it right this year,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “If it weren’t for him, where would our team be?”
That’s a scary question, considering the impact Porter has had leading the Wolverines at both ends of the ice.
Porter’s defensive prowess is an important part of his Hobey Baker campaign. Being the nation’s top scorer is no guarantee for a Hobey Baker award – it doesn’t even guarantee a spot in the top three.
Last season, Michigan senior T.J. Hensick had the most points in the country but was left out when the three finalists for the award were announced in late March. The slight came as a shock to many in the Michigan locker room, but maybe it shouldn’t have.
“I think it was our team that affected him the most,” Kolarik said. “Our team wasn’t that good. We were decent, but we didn’t have a run like we’re having now.”
Even more surprising, last season’s award went to North Dakota sophomore Ryan Duncan, which perturbed Berenson, who thinks a player’s class status should be a consideration in voting.
“This is Porter’s senior year and it’s his best year ever,” Berenson said. “And look around the country, even if he doesn’t win the scoring, look what he’s doing for our team.”
There’s no denying this year’s team is returning the favor to Porter. As the best player on the nation’s No. 1 team, Porter has a good shot at being Michigan’s second-ever Hobey Baker winner.
The other Wolverine to win the award, Brendan Morrison, won it in his senior season in 1997. For his successes, Morrison is a role model to many current Michigan players, including Porter.
“He’s had a great career in the NHL,” Porter said. “He was a great leader here … There’s not a better guy to look up to.”
The Northville native can easily rattle off what made Morrison a prototypical Hobey Baker winner: Great offensive numbers for four years, great leadership and a National Championship.
The description sounds a lot like Porter, who is climbing his way up the list of Michigan’s all-time great players.
Kolarik is pretty sure he knows how Porter’s Michigan story will end up.
“I was telling Ports the other day that I had a dream he won the Hobey Baker and I was crying when he was giving his acceptance speech,” Kolarik said. “It’s a little weird, but that’s something I strive for, for him to win the Hobey Baker.”
For Kolarik, who may keep playing with Porter after college since they’re both Phoenix Coyotes’ prospects, an award for Porter would mean more than the hardware.
“I’m his best friend. He’s my best friend,” Kolarik said. “We’re linemates, and if he wins, I’ll get a piece of it.”