Minnesota-Duluth's Scott Perunovich wins Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player

2020 Hobey Baker Award winner Scott Perunovich Photo: UMD Bulldogs Athletics. 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner Scott Perunovich

Chris Long
Updated: April 11, 2020 11:28 PM
Created: April 11, 2020 10:45 PM

The ongoing health crisis cost Minnesota-Duluth a chance at a third straight college hockey national championship. The title game would have been Saturday night in Detroit, but Bulldog fans still had reason to cheer.

UMD junior defenseman Scott Perunovich is the winner of the 2020 Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the college hockey's top player.

The announcement typically made as part of Frozen Four weekend festivities, was announced live Saturday night on ESPN's SportsCenter.

Perunovich beat fellow finalists North Dakota junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Maine junior Jeremy Swayman for this year's honor.

Swayman won this year's Mike Richter Award, given to the nation's top goalie.  Minnesota State Mankato's Dryden McKay was among the finalists for the Richter.

Perunovich is the sixth UMD Bulldog to win the Hobey Baker Award.  No other school has more than four winner (Harvard, Minnesota).  He joins fellow Bulldogs Tom Kurvers (1984), Bill Watson (1985), Chris Marinucci (1994), Junior Lessard (2004) and Jack Connolly (2012) as Hobey Baker winners.

Perunovich scored six goals, 34 assists and 40 points in 34 games this season. He ranked tenth in the nation in scoring and second among defensemen. His 34 assists led all defensemen and rank second overall in the nation.

It's the second straight year and third time in four seasons the Hobey Baker Award has gone to a defenseman.

A native of Hibbing, Minnesota, Perunovich recently signed a pro contract with the St. Louis Blues, forgoing his senior season in college.

Here is the text of the official announcement from the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Committee:

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award Committee announced today the 2020 recipient of college hockey’s top individual prize is Scott Perunovich from the University of Minnesota Duluth. The announcement came during a live broadcast on ESPN’s SportsCenter. 

The coronavirus pandemic caused the cancelation of the college hockey season, negating an attempt by the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs to win a third straight national title. Nonetheless, it has been a fabulous run for the junior defenseman from Hibbing, Minnesota. Perunovich became the first defenseman to lead the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) in conference scoring, collecting 32 points on four goals and 28 assists in 24 conference games. 

Overall, Perunovich tallied six goals and 34 assists for 40 points in 34 Bulldog games. That positioned him tenth in the nation in scoring and second among all defensemen. His 34 assists led all defensemen and was second overall in the nation.  

A plethora of honors followed: NCHC Player of the Year, NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year for the third straight season, First Team all-conference for the third straight season and an All American for the third straight season. Additionally, College Hockey News named him their national Player of the Year this past season. 

On the ice, he is known as a difference maker, possessing an innate ability to control the pace of the game. The smooth-skating defenseman improved his defensive game significantly in his Hobey Baker season, turning him into a complete player. Especially effective on the power play, Perunovich tied for the national lead in power play points (22) and power play assists (19). He also had 12 multiple-point games, second among all defensemen.

A Communications major at UMD, Perunovich decided to forego his final year of college hockey and signed a pro contract with the team that drafted him, the St. Louis Blues (2nd round, 2018, 45th overall). Perunovich becomes the sixth UMD Bulldog to win the Hobey, the most of any NCAA school. He follows in the skates of Tom Kurvers (1984), Bill Watson (1985), Chris Marinucci (1994), Junior Lessard (2004) and Jack Connolly (2012). This marks the second straight year and third time in four seasons a defenseman has won the Hobey (Cale Makar 2019, Will Butcher 2017). 

Hobey Baker was the legendary Princeton (1914) hockey player known as America’s greatest amateur athlete over one hundred years ago. He redefined how the game was played with his coast-to-coast dashes in an era when hockey was contested by seven players and no forward passes. Baker, a member of the U.S. Army’s Air Corp, died testing a repaired aircraft at the end of World War I after he had completed his military service. The Hobey Baker Award criteria includes: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements. Perunovich was selected from a group of ten finalists by a 30-member selection committee and online fan balloting.

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