Minnesota Duluth’s defenseman, Scott Perunovich, won the Hobey Baker Award, thus being recognized as the best NCAA player for the 2020 season.
He would finish first ahead of Jordan Kawaguchi, the forward from North Dakota, and Jeremy Swayman, the goaltender from Maine. The process of the ballot was long, including all the Division I head coaches as well as the fans. Eventually, Minnesota’s player took the trophy.
“I’m extremely honored and humbled to be this year’s Hobey Baker Award recipient,” Perunovich said.
He is the sixth player from this school to win the Hobey Baker Award, the first one since 2012 and Jack Connolly.
— UMD Athletics (@UMDBulldogs) April 12, 2020
The Bulldogs won two consecutive titles with him leading the team. In his freshman year, Perunovich made an immediate impact, and so far, posted 105 points in 115 games during his college career, becoming an essential part of Minnesota’s crew. He would earn the first-team All-American selection as a freshman, and a second-team All-American as a sophomore. Many suggest that the Bulldogs wouldn’t be this dominant if it weren’t for Perunovich.
Even though the team sat fifth in the last NCAA rankings before the league suspension, Minnesota was a top favorite according to many prominent experts. The program was after a historic three-peat, which would be the first one in the last 67 years.
Perunovich commented on that one too.
“The expectation is always a national championship, and I have been fortunate enough to be a part of two of them.”
Perunovich was drafted as the 45th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, by the St. Louis Blues. He would later sign a two-year entry-level contract, which will become active this season if the NHL resumes; if not, it will start next season.
Only three defensmen have won the Hobey Baker Award since 2010…
Cake Makar in 2019, Will Butcher in 2017, and now Scott Perunovich in 2020.
Both Makar and Butcher made big impacts on their NHL teams the following season, combining for 94 points in 138 games. #STLBlues
— Blues Views (@STLBluesViews) April 12, 2020
Blues’ scouts stated that even though he was passed in the draft in his first two years of eligibility, Perunovich was worth giving a shot. His critics were emphasizing his small frame and the lack of weight, but he has been working hard on that over the recent years. However, Perunovich is superb in transition and knows both to assist and to execute, which is why the Blues decided to select him at the draft.
“There wasn’t a skater in the NCAA who had a higher impact on his team’s success than Perunovich did this season. He could be an NHL contributor immediately if the Blues need him,” wrote in one of the scout reports.
Apart from having a stellar college career, Perunovich represented the United States on several tournaments. The first one was in 2015, when he played for the USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. In the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, Perunovich and the boys won the bronze medal, with the Bulldogs’ defenseman scoring one goal. It happened versus Canada, once Team USA won 4-3, after coming back from a two-goal deficit.
The 21-year old is waiting to see what happens next with the NCAA season. The situation is still unclear due to the COVID-19 virus, and so far, there is no information about the future of the campaign. However, many are insinuating that there is a plan which would allow the finish of the season and that we might see college hockey resuming its activities during the upcoming summer.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.