Who Should Win the Patty Kazmaier Award?

From the Patty Kazmaier website:

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Other selection criteria include outstanding individual and team skills, sportsmanship, performance in the clutch, personal character, competitiveness and a love of hockey. Consideration is also given to academic achievement and civic involvement.

So it’s not solely an award for on-ice performance, though it has traditionally been given that way. One of the nice things about the statement above is that it does clear up some of the traditional confusion over most valuable player awards where some say “valuable” means best and others say it means most irreplaceable on their team. The Patty Kazmaier award is an award for the best player in women’s Division I college hockey.

Unfortunately women’s hockey leaves us with a dearth of stats. We don’t have advanced possession metrics, we don’t have zone exit or zone entry data, we don’t even have time on ice (except for goaltenders) so we’re forced to do the best we can with what we have, which is basically points, shots, and +/-.

This tends to leave defenders out of luck as their contributions aren’t easily quantified through traditional stats. Only one defender has won the award, Angela Ruggiero in 2004. She should have won it in 2003 with 29 goals and 54 assists in 34 games but teammate Jennifer Botterill had 47 goals and 65 assists that year as a forward and the selection committee has a distinct forward bias. Ruggiero’s 25 goal 30 assist effort in the 03-04 season was also impressive but 2.44 points per game as a defender is ridiculous.

A team on the ice most times is 50% forwards, 33% defenders, and 17% goaltenders so the ten finalists each year should generally be 5 forwards, 3-4 defenders, and 1-2 goaltenders with minor fluctuations. I’m not going to hold myself strictly to that, but I will keep it in mind.

I took the top-ten players in points on each team along with the top-ten goaltenders in save percentage and started paring down. Ultimately I made the cutoffs forwards with 30+ points, defenders with 20+ points and the top-ten goaltenders in save percentage who haven’t platooned this season. This left me with 28 (57%) forwards, 12 (24%) defenders, and 9 (18%) goaltenders. The system works! Mostly.

I don’t know for sure what the selection committee uses to vote but it certainly seems like they look at the top points producer, double check to make sure there isn’t a goaltender with gaudy numbers, and then vote accordingly. Thus it’s hard to imagine anyone is getting anyone on the committee’s attention other than Kelly Pannek of Minnesota and Ann-Renee Desbiens of Wisconsin. I don’t think I would put either in my top five. In descending order:

10. Sarah Potomak, F, Minnesota

The case for her:

Potomak is a well-rounded forward who is a high-percentage shooter. She’s not going to blow the doors off you with a ton of shots per game (her tally of 3.5 is 17th), but she’s a good decision maker which is why her shooting percentage is so high (16.2%) and she’s racked up a ton of assists (29). She plays a responsible game with only one minor penalty on the season and the top +/- (+39). (I know, I know, but we’re working with some limitations here.)

The case against her:

She plays on a very good Minnesota team and benefits from the talent around her. That reasoning may seem a bit silly but there are other players on good teams contributing a larger share. Her 1.17 points per game figure against top teams (top two in-conference besides themselves and currently ranked teams) is good, there are a lot of players putting forth better numbers.

9. Kassidy Sauve, G, Ohio State

The case for her: 

Sauve has faced a ton of shots (1,074) and performed admirably facing the barrage. Her .944 save percentage is third behind Wisconsin’s Ann-Renee Desbiens and Princeton’s Steph Neatby. She also shows up when it counts with a .926 save percentage against top teams.

The case against her:

There really isn’t much of one other than that Ann-Renee Desbiens has simply been better. I struggle with goaltenders because their performance depends so much on the players around them. It can be difficult to isolate just what kind of impact they have. That Ohio State is 12-15-5 despite getting outshot 35-24 on average says a lot.

8. Savannah Harmon, D, Clarkson

The case for her:

Initially Savannah Harmon wasn’t really on my radar. She’s been good for Clarkson but not the eye-popping kind of good that’s required to get defenders some notice. (Shame on me.) The more I thought about it though the more it made sense. Clarkson is a team that lost arguably their top two defenders last season in Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast. That put a tremendous load on Harmon’s shoulders and she has not only excelled, but raised rookie Ella Shelton’s game as well. She also features heavily on the nation’s tenth-ranked power play and eighth-ranked penalty kill.

The case against her:

Defenders just don’t put up impressive numbers. Princeton’s Kelsey Koelzer and Minnesota-Duluth’s Sydney Morin have slightly out-performed her this season. I gave Harmon the edge over Morin because she takes fewer penalties and the Bulldogs’ penalty kill is atrocious.

7. Kelly Pannek, F, Minnesota

The case for her:

Well…she’s the nation’s top point-scorer for one, both in terms of overall points (17-39-56) and points per game (1.81). She’s not just racking them up against bad teams either. Her 1.50 points per game against top teams is second in the nation.

The case against her:

A lot of Pannek’s assists are primary assists (69.2%) but there are some more impressive players on this list. She’s also only okay at staying out of the box compared to other players.

6. Ann-Renee Desbiens, G, Wisconsin

The case for her:

Desbiens had a stronger claim last season when she broke the NCAA shutout record, but unfortunately for her, Kendall Coyne happened. It’s pretty unfair to Desbiens as she’s a generational player just as Coyne is. This season, despite losing some time to injury, Desbiens is her usual self posting a .957 save percentage and a .951 figure against top teams.

The case against her:

As @runwiththedogs put it, the Patty Kazmaier award is not a lifetime achievement award. Every player above Desbiens on this list has put up as good or better seasons without the talent around them that Desbiens has.

5. Brooke Webster, F, St. Lawrence

The case for her:

Teammate Kennedy Marchment has a higher points total, but Webster is the SLU forward that scares me. Her 160 shots lead the team, are second in the country, and put her third in shots on goal per game. Her 1.27 points per game against top teams is fifth.

The case against her:

It’s tough to get behind a forward that doesn’t lead their team in scoring. With 11.9% of her team’s points, Webster lags far behind most of the other players on this list.

4. Kelsey Koelzer, D, Princeton

The case for her:

Koelzer is arguably the most dynamic defender in the country averaging almost a full point per game. Even more impressive, she hits that point per game against top teams. Her 4.6 shots on goal per game leave her one spot off the top ten. Defenders tend to build their points through secondary assists but 14 of Koelzer’s 19 assists are primary assists, second on this list.

The case against her:

It’s the case against all defenders – they don’t put up gaudy numbers. Koelzer also takes more penalties than you’d prefer with 28 PIM.

3. Cayley Mercer, F, Clarkson

The case for her:

With Kendall Coyne out of the picture Mercer has taken the top spot in shots per game with 5.5. She doesn’t have any weaknesses with top figures in goals per game (.70), points per game (1.52), percentage of team points (16.0%), and points per game against top opponents (1.38).

The case against her:

A lot of her assists (55.6%) are secondary assists. She also starts to get up there in PIM (18). Mercer is the star of Clarkson but she does get a lot of help from linemates Genevieve Bannon and Michaela Pejzlova who complement each other extremely well.

2. Karlie Lund, F, Princeton

The case for her:

Lund has had an outstanding year. Her .75 goals per game are second only to Minnesota’s Dani Cameranesi. Her 1.30 points per game against top teams are fourth. She gets the edge over Mercer and Webster because Princeton just isn’t as good as Clarkson or St. Lawrence.

The case against her:

She doesn’t have many helpers, and only 11 of those 21 assists are primary assists.

1. Lara Stalder, F, Minnesota-Duluth

The case for her:

After looking through the numbers, Stalder is the clear front-runner. Stalder has been a monster this season. She carries the biggest load on her team, tallying almost 20% of Minnesota-Duluth’s points. She ties for the top +/- (I know), is second in shots on goal per game, fourth in points per game, takes the fourth-fewest penalties…but most impressive are her numbers against top teams.

Stalder tallies 1.63 points per game against top teams with six goals and seven assists in 10 games against the likes of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Boston College. That’s actually higher than her points per game (1.59) in all contests which is, quite frankly, amazing. She also has the highest percentage of primary assists with 20 of her 27 helpers hitting that mark.

The case against her:

As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t one, but the committee might get caught up on her point total, where she lags behind a few other players.


About Alex

I am awesome.
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One Response to Who Should Win the Patty Kazmaier Award?

  1. Pingback: 2017 Season Awards and Year in Review | Title IX Hockey

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