SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Two student-athletes from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), North Dakota junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich, have been selected as finalists for the 2020 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, the Hobey Baker Committee announced Wednesday. The duo is among 10 finalists up for the award for most outstanding player in Division I men’s college hockey.
Kawaguchi (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Perunovich (Hibbing, Minn.) are both first-time Hobey Baker Award finalists. Both are also First-Team All-NCHC and First-Team All-USCHO selections this season and finalists for 2019-20 NCHC Player of the Year. Perunovich is one of only two defensemen named a Hobey Baker finalist (along with Boston University’s David Farrance), while Kawaguchi is one of six forwards up for the honor.
This marks the third straight season the NCHC has been home to two Hobey Baker finalists with St. Cloud State’s Patrick Newell and Jimmy Schuldt last year, and Denver’s Henrik Borgström and Schuldt in 2018. The NCHC has now produced 12 Hobey Baker Award finalists in its seven seasons, including at least one finalist each of those seven years. Only Hockey East has more Hobey Baker finalists (four) than the NCHC this season among conferences.
Kawaguchi finished second nationally in scoring with 45 points, including 30 assists, which tied for sixth in the country, while leading UND to the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular-season champions. Five of his 15 goals were game-winners, which tied for fifth nationally. The undrafted free agent recorded a point in 24 of 33 games played, including 15 multi-point games, which were second nationally. Kawaguchi’s six three-point games were also second in the NCAA. The UND assistant captain was a three-time NCHC Player of the Week and two-time NCHC Player of the Month, including National Player of the Month in November. Kawaguchi finished with a +21 plus/minus, tying for 12th in the NCAA, while averaging 1.36 points per game on the year. He was second in conference play with 30 points (7g, 23a) and is also a finalist for NCHC Forward of the Year this season.
Perunovich is the first NCHC player to become a three-time First-Team All-NCHC selection and is also a finalist for NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, which he has won the last two seasons. The St. Louis Blues draft pick became the first defenseman to win the NCHC scoring title totaling 32 points (4g, 28a) in conference play. Overall, Perunovich compiled 40 points, second among all NCAA defensemen, on six goals and 34 assists, with the 34 helpers leading all NCAA blue liners and ranking second nationally overall. His 22 power play points tied for first in the country. A five-time NCHC Defenseman of the Week and NCHC February Player of the Month, Perunovich tallied a point in 22 of 34 games, playing in every game this season. That includes 12 multi-point games, which ranked second among blue liners nationally. He blocked 58 shots and recorded a +18 plus/minus on the season.
The Hobey Hat Trick (three finalists) will be announced on Thursday, April 2, 2020 and the Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced on Friday, April 10, 2020 at 6 p.m. ET. The ceremony will be closed to the public, but will air live on NHL Network.
The ten finalists were selected by voting from all 60 Division I college hockey head coaches plus online fan balloting. Next, the Selection Committee and an additional round of fan balloting March 18-29 will determine this year’s Hobey Baker Award winner. Criteria for the award include: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.
The NCHC’s lone Hobey Baker Award winner came in 2017 when Denver defenseman Will Butcher, now with the New Jersey Devils, won the award. Last season (2019), Schuldt was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist, while in 2018 Borgström was part of the Hat Trick. The NCHC has had five Hobey Hat Trick finalists previously, with former North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre (2015) and former SCSU forward Nic Dowd (2014) also being named Hobey Hat Trick finalists.