Nyquist, a sophomore forward with the Maine Black Bears, and Smith, a junior defenseman with the Wisconsin Badgers, are among the 70 preliminary nominees being considered as the top player in U.S. college hockey.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Nyquist has 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points in 26 games and is just two points behind Cory Conacher for the NCAA scoring lead. Maine, 14-9-3, is ranked 12th in the nation.
Smith, meanwhile, has led the Badgers, ranked third in the country, to a 16-7-4 record. Helping his chances is the fact that he easily leads all NCAA defensemen in scoring with 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points in 26 games.
Both are good bets to at least make it to the second phase of the process on March 18, when the top 10 candidates will be named. Three finalists will be chosen on March 31, with the winner named on April 9.
The Red Wings have recently turned more to the college ranks in search of young talent, mostly because they have more time to develop prospects since they don’t have to be signed until after their senior season. They currently have six NCAA prospects, with one more — defenseman Nick Jensen with Green Bay of the United States Hockey League — on the way next season.
NOTES: Defenseman Sergei Kolosov (Grand Rapids, AHL) is going to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He was added to the Belarusian roster last week … Forward Stephen Johnston (Windsor, OHL) has returned from an injury and already has four points in five games with his new team …. Forward Andrej Nestrasil (Victoriaville, QMJHL) also returned from an injury … Forward Dick Axelsson (Farjestad, Swedish Elite League) has been very successful since leaving North America, with four goals and four assists in nine games … Jensen scored his first goal of the season and has 14 assists in 35 games while holding down a plus-23 rating.