Since the first season of the NCHC in 2013-14, the conference has established itself as arguably the most consistently outstanding of the six in NCAA Division I men's hockey.
The eight-team conference has had at least one team reach the national championship game in each of the last five seasons that there has been an NCAA tournament and won four national titles. In the eight seasons that the Frozen Four has taken place since the NCHC began, the conference has had 12 teams make the Frozen Four.
For comparison, in that span, Hockey East has had seven teams reach the Frozen Four, the Big Ten has had five, the ECAC three and the WCHA one.
During an #AskWellensAnything for the weekly Bulldog Insider Newsletter, a reader submitted a question to Matt Wellens of the Duluth News-Tribune and The Rink Live, asking him to pick an All-NCHC team for the first eight seasons and also to pick an All-UMD team in that span. Wellens reached out and asked me to do the same and pick an All-SCSU team.
My All-NCHC team ended up being heavily influenced by the four teams that have dominated the conference: Denver, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota and St. Cloud State. Those four teams have combined to win five of the seven NCHC Frozen Faceoff titles and all eight of the NCHC Penrose Cup (regular season) titles.
Here is a breakdown of my picks and, at the bottom of this story, note the single-season record holders for the NCHC (conference games only):
Jordan Kawaguchi, F, North Dakota, 2017-21
A two-time All-NCHC First Team selection and a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2020. He led the NCHC in assists as a senior (20), was second in the NCHC in points as a senior (27) and as a junior (30) and was also second in the NCHC in assists as a junior (23). A two-time All-American, Kawaguchi was the NCHC Forward of the Year in 2020. He finished second in the nation in points (45) as a junior and fourth in the nation as a senior (36).
Henrik Borgstrom, F, Denver, 2016-18
A two-time First Team All-American, Borgstrom was a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2018. He finished third in the NCHC in goals in both of his seasons with the Pioneers and his 33 points in 2017-18 are the second-most in conference games in a season. His sophomore season, he had 23 goals, 29 assists, 52 points and was named NCHC Forward of the Year and Player of the Year. He was the NCHC Rookie of the Year in 2017 when he tied for the team lead in goals (22) and helped Denver win the national title.
Dylan Gambrell, F, Denver, 2015-18
He was named to the All-NCHC Second Team his last two seasons, but Gambrell is the only player in conference history to finish in the top five in NCHC points three times and is the lone player to have two 30-point seasons in NCHC play (2015-16 and 2017-18). As a junior, he led the NCHC in assists (21) and finished in the top four in plus/minus in each of his last two seasons.
Scott Perunovich, D, Minnesota Duluth, 2017-20
The 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner was an All-American all three of his seasons with the Bulldogs and he helped them win back-to-back national titles his first two seasons. His junior season, Perunovich became the first defenseman to lead the NCHC in points (32) and set the single-season conference record for assists in a season (28) on his way to being named NCHC Player of the Year. He was named the NCHC's Best Offensive Defenseman all three of his seasons in college.
Jimmy Schuldt, D, St. Cloud State, 2015-19
A two-time First Team All-American, Schuldt was a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as a senior in 2019 after being a top 10 finalist for the award as a junior in 2018. A two-time NCHC First Team selection, he was the NCHC Player of the Year and Best Defensive Defenseman in 2019. In 2015-16, he set the NCHC record for best plus/minus (plus-26) and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. He is St. Cloud State's all-time leader in career points by a defenseman (118), played in a school record 156 consecutive games and was a four-time NCHC Scholar-Athlete.
Hunter Shepard, G, Minnesota Duluth, 2016-20
In his last three seasons, he started 115 straight games and won his last 12 postseason starts, helping the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles (2018, 2019). A two-time All-NCHC pick, was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year twice and was a two-time All-American. He set a conference record with five shutouts in 2018-19, tied the conference record for wins in a season (17, 2019-20), led the NCHC in goals-against average (1.92) in 2018-19 and finished in the top four in the conference in save percentage each of his last three seasons.
Kalle Kossila, F, St. Cloud State, 2013-16
He finished third in the NCHC in assists (16) and fourth in points (26) in 2013-14 when the Huskies won the first Penrose Cup. After battling an injury the next season, he was second in the NCHC in assists (22) and second in points (32) in 2015-16 when SCSU went on to win its lone Frozen Faceoff championship. The 32 points are the third-best total in conference history. His three seasons in the NCHC, he won 54.5% of his faceoffs.
Danton Heinen, F, Denver, 2014-16
The NCHC Forward of the Year in 2015-16, Heinen finished in the top five in both assists and points in both of his seasons with the Pioneers. He led the Pioneers in goals (20) and points (48) and to the Frozen Four as a sophomore.
Brock Boeser, F, North Dakota, 2015-17
No one has broken onto the NCHC scene more impressively than Boeser. As a freshman, he led the NCHC in goals (20), set the conference record for points in a season (35) and was second in plus/minus (plus-23) in 24 NCHC games. He was the NCHC Rookie of the Year, a First Team All-American, was named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team and finished third in the NCAA in points (60) and fourth in the NCAA in goals (27). An injury slowed him his sophomore season, but he still managed to pick up 16 goals and 34 points in 32 games.
Joey LaLeggia, D, Denver, 2013-15
He was the NCHC's Best Offensive Defenseman and Best Defensive Defenseman in both of the first two seasons of the conference. LaLeggia was also a two-time All-American and in 2015, he was the NCHC Player of the Year and a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. His 29 points in NCHC games in 2014-15 is the second-most in a season by a defenseman.
Will Butcher, D, Denver, 2013-17
The 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner. Butcher led the NCHC in assists (22) and was named the NCHC's Best Offensive Defenseman and Player of the Year in 2016-17. He was a two-time All-NCHC First Team pick and a two-time All-American.
Tanner Jaillet, G, Denver, 2014-18
The NCHC Goaltender of the Year in both of his last two seasons with the Pioneers. He finished in the top four in the NCHC in save percentage all four of his seasons in the conference and he is the all-time leader in NCHC wins with 48.
Nic Dowd, F, 2013-14
Dowd played just the first season in the conference, but it was a doozy. He was the NCHC Student-Athlete of the Year and Defensive Forward of the Year. The Huskies' captain, he led the Huskies to the first Penrose Cup title, was a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, scored the game-winning goal in in overtime in the NCAA tournament against Notre Dame and led the Huskies in goals (22), power-play goals (10), game-winning goals (5), short-handed goals (2), won 51.9% of his faceoffs and was a plus-17.
Kalle Kossila, F, 2013-16
Kossila's last three of his four seasons with the Huskies were in the NCHC and was named to the All-NCHC Second Team his senior season. See above for more information on Kossila, who is tied for second in the program's Division I era in assists (105) and is sixth in career points (153).
Jonny Brodzinski, F, 2013-15
His junior season, he tied for the NCHC lead in goals (13) in conference games and finished tied for second (with Dowd) in conference play in goals (13) as a sophomore. An All-NCHC First Team pick as a junior, he is one of two SCSU players to score 20 or more goals in three straight seasons (Mark Hartigan, 1999-2002).
Jimmy Schuldt, D, 2015-19
He was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team in 2015-16 when he was on the team's top defensive pairing with Ethan Prow and is the first SCSU player to be a three-year captain. He helped the Huskies to their Frozen Faceoff title and two NCHC Penrose Cup titles. See above for more information on Schudlt.
Ethan Prow, D, 2013-16
His senior season, he was the NCHC Player of the Year, Offensive Defenseman of the Year and Defensive Defenseman of the Year. In 2015-16, Prow was the captain for the Huskies, who tied a program record for wins in a season (31). He led the team that season in power-play points (20), had 30 assists and was a plus-29.
Charlie Lindgren, G, 2013-16
The 2016 NCHC Goaltender of the Year when he was the first to win 17 conference games in a season, was third in the NCHC in goals-against average (2.11) and fourth in save percentage (.927). As a sophomore, he was fourth in the NCHC in save percentage (.920) and goals-against average (2.26). The lone SCSU goalie to win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and he was on the Penrose Cup winning team in 2013-14 when he was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team.
Patrick Newell, F, 2015-19
As a senior, he was the NCHC Forward of the Year and a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. That season, he led the NCHC in goals (13), points (28) and plus/minus (plus-18) and was fourth in assists (15). Newell is one of eight SCSU players to be a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker.
Blake Lizotte, F, 2017-19
He had an immediate impact as a freshman, leading the team in faceoff wins (340) and faceoff win percentage (58.7%), finished third on the team in plus/minus (plus-16), had 27 points and was named to the All-NCHC Rookie Team after helping SCSU win a Penrose Cup. Lizotte's sophomore season, he was fourth in the NCHC in goals (11), second in points (25), was named to the All-NCHC First Team and was an All-American.
Joey Benik, F, 2013-16
Benik's last three college seasons were in the NCHC and he was second in conference play in assists (18) and third in points (26) as a junior and second in goals (15) and plus/minus (plus-23) and third in points (30) as a senior when he was named to the All-NCHC Second Team.
Jack Ahcan, D, 2016-20
Ahcan is the program's all-time leader in career assists for a defenseman (82) and third in career points for a defenseman (103) after spending his whole career in the NCHC. His best statistical season was in 2018-19 when he had 28 assists, 34 points, was a plus-30 and was an All-American. Ahcan was an All-NCHC Rookie Team and was an All-NCHC Second Team pick his last two seasons.
Andrew Prochno, D, 2013-15
A two-time All-NCHC Honorable Mention pick, Prochno was second in NCHC games in plus/minus (plus-14) in 2013-14. Prochno was a talented two-way defenseman and skater and was on the top defensive pairing, helping the Huskies to three straight NCAA regional championship games
David Hrenak, G, 2017-21
A two-time All-NCHC Second Team pick, Hrenak became the first goalie to help SCSU to reach an NCAA championship game in April. He has played in three straight NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship games. His 47 wins in conference play are second in NCHC history. In 2017-18, he led the NCHC in save percentage (.927), was second in goals-against average (1.94) and was named to the All-NCHC Rookie Team.