By Warren Kozireski —
The Tim Taylor Award was created in 2006 to honor Division I college hockey’s top freshman and Slate Hill native Nick Abruzzese is trying to become the second in a row from New York State to be honored after Syracuse native and Philadelphia Flyers first round draft Joel Farabee won last year with Boston University.
Abruzzese, the Toronto Maple Leafs fourth round draft pick this past June I his third year of eligibility, enters the Feb. 7 weekend leading the nation’s freshmen and ninth among all players in points per game (1.33), stood fourth in assists (18) and was one of nine first year’s in double digits in goals (10).
“It’s been a lot of fun and as a team we’ve enjoyed a lot of success which makes it even better, but the locker room and guys are great and hopefully we can keep it going down the stretch here,” Abruzzese said after an early February game.
“At the start of the year I was put into a position to succeed and to play a big role on the team and as the year has gone on a little more defensive responsibility and starting to get a little more time on the penalty kill which is nice, and starting to work on the two-way game and help the team out on both ends of the ice.”
The 5’9”, 160 lb. left wing and ECAC Rookie of the Month in December was playing on the top line with sophomores Jack Drury (a Carolina Hurricanes pick) and Casey Dornbach, who all took the top three spots in scoring for the Crimson.
Abruzzese attended Minisink Valley High School, but played much of his early youth hockey days with North Jersey in the AYHL before jumping to the Chicago Steel in the USHL for the last two seasons setting a personal high with 29 goals and 80 points last year scoring at least one point in 47 of 62 games and eight more points over 11 playoff contests. His 51 assists and point total led the league.
He played pee wee and bantam in Morristown, NJ with the Colonials an hour-plus one-way from home and midgets with the Avalanche about one hour away.
“That part (Section IX) is not a hockey hot-bed obviously, but a lot of thanks to my parents driving long hours growing up so I could play. And travel (hockey) on the weekends all over the place, so I definitely owe a lot to them and for what they’ve done to help me get to this point. Super-thankful and to be where I am now it was definitely worth it.”
Abruzzese did not attend the NHL Draft this past June, but did head to Toronto’s Development Camp shortly after being selected.
“Was watching (TV) with my parents so it was a cool moment seeing your name pop up. Being able to spend it with them made it that much better.
“It (Development Camp) was a learning experience and I took a lot out it. It was cool to see the facilities they have there and meet the management and kind of get a taste of the pro lifestyle.”
Added to his success so far at the collegiate level is that Harvard was ranked 16thin the nation and in the hunt for an NCAA playoff berth (top 16 teams) and that he was one of 78 initial Hobey Baker nominees, given to college hockey’s best player.
“First year it was not something that was at all on my radar. I just wanted to come in and try to do everything the team asked of me, so to be nominated is really cool but personal success doesn’t mean team success. Playing with really good players and being on a rally good team helps for sure.”