In the 2023 Tewaaraton Award race, two guys stand out from the rest. Connor Shellenberger (Virginia) and Pat Kavanaugh (Notre Dame) are sitting at the top of my 5-man list at the moment because their production matches their teams success. With Virginia and Notre Dame facing off this upcoming weakened, one of them has a chance to put himself at the top of this list by himself.

Connor Shellenberger
12 goals, 26 assists, 38 points (7 games)

  • (#6)  5.67 points per game
  • (#1)  4 assists per game

I’m surprised how much talk there has been about Shellenberger not performing up to his full potential so far this season, mostly because from a statistical standpoint, he’s right up there with the top guys in the game.

I said earlier in the year that the only issue Shellenberger would probably have would be lack of point production due to Virginia’s offense being so stacked.  He has so much help, he’s often not called upon to put up big numbers.

He started the season off with a 6 point game (win over Michigan) and a 10 point game (win over Harvard). Two of his 4 lowest outputs came in blowout wins over Ohio State and Richmond.  That didn’t alarm me at all. Just 3 points in a win over Hopkins and then 10 points in a win over Towson before being held to 3 points on 7 shots (1g, 2a) in the loss to Maryland.

The Maryland output, not great, but in defense of Shellenberger, Maryland has the best defense that Virginia has played so far this year (by a margin) and he had an off shooting day thanks to a goalie standing on his head.

Shellenberger is still my favorite to win the Tewaaraton because despite that loss to Maryland, I think Virginia is still the favorite to win it all.


Pat Kavanaugh
10 goals, 24 assists, 34 points (6 games)

  • (#4)  5.43 points per game
  • (#1)  4 assists per game

I was close to putting Kavanaugh ahead of Shellenberger but I’m a “you have your spot until you lose it” kind of guy and I feel it’s a fact, “whoever wins this weekend” in the Virginia vs Notre Dame matchup ends up the new frontrunner.

You could easily have Kavanaugh sitting on top of Shellenberger at this point however.  He’s the lifeblood of this Notre Dame offense.  He doesn’t have quite as much talent as Shellenberger around him, but he still manages to make everyone around him better despite the swarm of defenders he faces.  Regardless of the attention he gets, he still thrashes everyone he faces.

He’s had a slightly less bipolar statline compared to Shellenberger which surprises me as Kavanaugh is known for popping with big numbers in games.  Last season he had 4 games of 7 points or more (8 vs Detroit Mercy, 9 vs Syracuse, 7 vs Duke, 10 vs Syracuse).  He hasn’t played Syracuse yet so maybe that will change.

His lowest output so far this season, 3 points against Georgetown and Maryland, both wins for Notre Dame, and each of those two teams represent the best defenses he’s faced.

He scored the game winner in overtime against Maryland so that makes up for his lack of points.  He scored the most important goal of the game when his team needed him most and he did it dodging on the best defender in the country, Brett Makar.

So Kavanaugh and Notre Dame can flip the script on Shellenberger and Virginia by picking up a win this weekend against the Cavs.

CJ Kirst
27 goals, 7 assists, 34 points (6 games)

  • (#4)  5.67 points per game
  • (#1)  4.5 goals per game

CJ Kirst trumps Brennan O’Neill thanks to both his overall output but also because he’s the only guy on this list filling up the net with goals.  All of these other guys are “take what the defense gives us” kind of players at this stage.  Kirst is still “taking what he wants” and all this dude wants is to score goals.

He plays far beyond his size and dodges like he has 30 pounds on his defender.  He’s tough, he’s fast and he has a knack for winning one on one matchups and finding the back of the net.

He has scored 3 or more goals in all but 1 game this season.  He had just 2 goals in Cornell’s loss to Penn State.  But he has 3 games with 5 or more goals (6 vs Albany, 7 vs Hobart and 5 vs Yale).

I’d argue he has the “least” amount of help overall as compared to everyone else on this list (not by a lot, Cornell is talented, but these other offenses have more threats overall), so he’s getting a ton of attention and is still finding a way to deliver.  He’s tied with Shellenberger for the highest shooting percentage out of all of the guys on this list finishing the rock at a 38% clip.

I think the issue down the stretch for Kirst will be Cornell’s defense isn’t what they were a year ago which could limit how deep Cornell will be able to go in the NCAA tournament.

Brennan O’Neill
23 goals, 19 assists, 42 points (8 games)

  • (#7)  5.25 points per game
  • (#25)  2.88 goals per game
  • (#11)  2.38 assists per game

O’Neill has been a monster for Duke so far in 2023.  You could also call him the most consistent point producer on this list as he hasn’t had a game below 3 points, and he also put up 5 points in Duke’s only loss of the season to Jacksonville (5 goals).

He started out the season with two rough shooting days (18.2% vs Bellarmine and 22% vs High Point).  Since then, he hasn’t shot below 30% and over his last 6 games hasn’t been below 35% so whatever shooting issues he had in those first two games, they are behind him and he’s been playing lights out ever since.

Both O’Neill and Kirst are sitting right behind Shellenberger and Kavanaugh, HOWEVER, I think that O’Neill has a much better shot at winning it all by the end of this for the simple reason, Duke seems to be a bit more built for a run in the NCAA tournament.  They have a top tier faceoff guy, their offense is loaded with weapons and they boast a deeper defense than a team like Cornell and Yale do at this point.

We all know, the winner of this award is likely going to be playing on a Final 4 team, if not the winner of the entire tournament, so O’Neill is just a smidge below Kirst in terms of production, but he’s probably just above Kirst in terms of having an “actual shot at winning the award” because I think he plays for a better team and that matters when the stats are as close as they are.

Matt Brandau
13 goals, 12 assists, 25 points (5 games)

  • (#9)  5 points per game
  • (#41)  2.6 goals per game
  • (#10)  2.4 assists per game

Brandau was my favorite to win this before the season started, and he’s not done yet, HOWEVER, his chances of winning get diminished by his teams overall lack of success.  To be certain, Yale is still more than likely going to make the NCAA tournament, but it’s not nearly as certain of a thing as it has been in years passed, and the fact that they’ve already lost some key non-conference matchups puts Brandau at the bottom of this list despite the fact he can easily hang with all of the guys I’ve already talked about.

He’s been the most consistent 50/50 threat out of everyone in terms of goals vs assists.  That’s in large part thanks to the young guns he plays with, most notably Chis Lyons and Leo Johnson.

But Yale already has losses to Penn State and Cornell and they have Princeton, Penn and Boston U up next, all three of those teams are tough draws and could give Yale trouble.

So we’ll see what Yale’s record is after this 3 game stretch and will revisit Brandau’s chances.  But the reality, if Yale loses to Penn, and if Sam Handley scores anymore game winners for Penn over the next two weeks, I will probably bump Brandau for Handley the next time I put one of these lists out.


I think that if any one of these teams ends up winning the National Championship, that player will likely be handed the Tewaaraton and it will be deserving.  

In  years past “winning it all” didn’t matter as much as overall point production, but in each of those years it was pretty clear who “the best player” was.

2021, Maryland didn’t win it all, but Jared Bernhardt looked like he was the best player in the country.

2019, Pat Spencer was a no-brainer despite the fact Loyola didn’t even make it to final 4 weekend.

2018, Ben Reeves looked like he was the top dog AND Yale won it all.

While there is an obvious precedent for “the best player wins the award regardless of who wins the title”, I think this season will more than likely result in “the guy who’s team wins the title, will win the award” and that’s because all of these teams have a shot, and all of these guys are bunched very closely together in terms of production.

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