Coming off back-to-back seasons of not qualifying for the NCAA tournament, there were a lot of questions facing North Dakota this season.
Perhaps the biggest revolved around offense. Who was going to score?
Last season, North Dakota’s offense was ranked 41st nationally, averaging just 2.51 goals per game. Their leading returning scorer was Jordan Kawaguchi, who as a sophomore had 26 points in 37 games.
However, as a junior, Kawaguchi, the USCHO Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season, blossomed, spearheading a remarkable turnaround for the Fighting Hawks. In 33 games, he scored 45 points, a 1.36 points per game average, often with highlight-reel goals like one he scored against Alabama Huntsville.
1ST TEAM ALL-NCHC
Jordan Kawaguchi has vaulted himself squarely in the middle of Hobey Baker Award consideration for the top player in NCAA hockey after his breakout junior season. He currently sits 2nd in the NCAA in points (45) and primary assists (23). #UNDproud #KawaHobey pic.twitter.com/XBinl2qCy3
— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) March 11, 2020
With Kawaguchi leading the way, North Dakota’s offense was fourth this season with 3.86 goals per game. Kawaguchi was a large part of the Fighting Hawks’ successful season that saw them claim their third Penrose Cup as NCHC regular-season champion and finish the season first in the PairWise Rankings.
Kawaguchi finished the season second in scoring nationally behind Providence forward Jack Dugan. While Dugan had an excellent season, Kawaguchi was a player who led when it mattered, scoring five game-winning goals for North Dakota, finishing tied for fifth nationally in game winners.
Given that Kawaguchi had only 15 goals this season, it’s impressive that he scored a third of his goals when his team needed it the most.
Kawaguchi also elevated his teammates with his 30 assists, which tied for sixth in the country. He had 13 multiple-point games and notched a point in 24 of 33 games he played. His plus-21 plus/minus tied for 12th in the country.
In NCHC play, Kawaguchi was second in the conference in points with 32 and assists with 23 behind Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich. Kawaguchi is a finalist for NCHC player of the year, which will be announced on March 26.
Kawaguchi has garnered awards by the bucketful for his impressive season.
He was named NCHC first-team all-conference and was all named to the All-USCHO First Team. He is among the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award and a strong candidate to be a Hobey Hat Trick finalist. He was named NCHC player of the week three times and twice was named NCHC player of the month. He was also named NCAA player of the month in November.