SAINT PAUL, Minn. – For the first time in National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) history, two NCHC players have been named among the Hat Trick of finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, as the Hobey Committee announced the 2020 trio Thursday. North Dakota junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich are both among only three players up for the honor of most outstanding player in Division I men’s college hockey in 2019-20.
Kawaguchi and Perunovich are both first-time Hobey Baker Award finalists and mark the sixth and seventh NCHC players ever to be named to the Hobey Hat Trick. The NCHC’s only previous Hobey Baker Award winner is former Denver and current New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher in 2017. This is the fourth straight season and six times in seven years of competition that the NCHC has been home to at least one Hobey Hat Trick finalist.
A First-Team All-NCHC member, Kawaguchi (Abbotsford, B.C.) was already selected 2019-20 Player of the Year by USCHO.com on March 20. The undrafted free agent was also tabbed 2019-20 NCHC Forward of the Year and the co-Three Stars Award winner in the NCHC with Perunovich. He was also tabbed to the All-CHN First Team nationally by College Hockey News, and the All-USCHO First Team, and was the runner-up for NCHC Player of the Year.
Kawaguchi finished second nationally in scoring with 45 points, including 30 assists, which tied for sixth in the country. Five of his 15 goals were game-winners, which tied for fifth nationally, while his 13 game-winning points led the NCAA. He recorded a point in 24 of 33 games played, including 15 multi-point games, which were second nationally. Kawaguchi 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. The UND assistant captain finished with a +21 plus/minus, tying for 12th in the NCAA, while averaging 1.36 points per game on the year, which was sixth nationally. Kawaguchi compiled 30 (7g, 23a) of his 45 points in conference play, which was second behind Perunovich, while leading UND to the Penrose Cup as regular-season champions.
Perunovich (Hibbing, Minn.) was named 2019-20 NCHC Player of the Year and Player of the Year by College Hockey News already this season. The newest member of the St. Louis Blues, who signed March 27, also won NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year for the third-straight season, the first player to do so, and shared the NCHC’s Three Stars Award with Kawaguchi. Perunovich is a three-time First-Team All-NCHC selection, again earning the honor in March, becoming the first NCHC player to earn three First-Team selections. He was also named First-Team All-USCHO last month.
Perunovich ranked second nationally in defenseman scoring and 10th overall with 40 points this season, including six goals and 34 assists, with the 34 helpers second nationally among all players and first among blue liners. The two-time All-American and national champion also tied for the NCAA lead with 22 power play points (3g, 19a). Perunovich posted a +18 plus/minus and blocked 58 shots on the season. He became the first defenseman to win the NCHC scoring title, totaling 32 points (4g, 28a) in conference play. 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 NCAA blue liners.
The third member of the 2020 Hobey Hat Trick is another junior in Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who recently signed with the Boston Bruins.
The three finalists were selected from the initial list of Top Ten candidates by the 30-member Selection Committee and an additional round of online fan balloting to determine this year’s Hobey Baker winner. Criteria for the award includes: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.
This year’s Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced Saturday, April 11, 2020 live on ESPN’s SportsCenter during the 11 p.m. ET show. This will replace the originally scheduled Friday, April 10 announcement time due to the dramatic changes the coronavirus has created. The 40th annual Hobey Baker Award segment on SportsCenter will also include the announcements of the Hockey Humanitarian Award, the East and West All-American Teams and the Mike Richter Award for the nation’s top goaltender in men’s college hockey.
Last season, former St. Cloud State defenseman Jimmy Schuldt was named to the Hobey Hat Trick, while former Denver forward Henrik Borgström was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist in 2018 and Butcher in 2017. The NCHC’s other Hobey Hat Trick finalists include former North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre (2015) and former SCSU forward Nic Dowd (2014) in the conference’s inaugural season.
Perunovich is aiming to becoming the sixth UMD Bulldog to win the Hobey, while Kawaguchi would be North Dakota’s third Hobey Baker winner.