North Dakota’s Kawaguchi NCHC top forward, UND’s Pinto rookie of year, Minnesota Duluth’s Richards repeat winner of best defensive forward

Shane Pinto of North Dakota, North Dakota vs. Denver at Magness Arena, Nov. 15, 2019. (Candace Horgan)
Shane Pinto had a solid freshman season with North Dakota, posting 16 goals and 28 points over 33 games for the Fighting Hawks (photo: Candace Horgan).

Three forwards earned 2019-20 hardware Wednesday from the NCHC on Wednesday, including two from North Dakota and a repeat winner from Minnesota Duluth.

North Dakota junior Jordan Kawaguchi is the NCHC Forward of the Year, while UND freshman Shane Pinto picked up NCHC Rookie of the Year honors and Minnesota Duluth junior Justin Richards was tabbed NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year for the second straight season, the first player to win that honor twice.

Kawaguchi is the first North Dakota player to claim NCHC Forward of the Year. The undrafted free agent was the top-scoring forward in NCHC play and was second in conference scoring overall with 30 points in 22 games. Overall, he finished second nationally with 45 points (15 goals, 30 assists) in 33 games and was named Player of the Year.

Richards led the conference with 307 faceoff wins in NCHC play, going 307-222 in the center circle for a .580 win percentage, which ranked sixth in conference play. The assistant captain was the only NCHC player to score two short-handed goals in conference play this season and played on UMD’s top penalty kill unit, helping the Bulldogs finish second in conference play with an 83.0 percent kill rate.

In all 34 games this season, Richards finished with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists), including four short-handed points (three goals, assist) and was plus-14.

Pinto, an Ottawa Senators prospect, led all NCHC freshmen with 11 goals and 19 points in 23 conference games this season. During the season, Pinto compiled an NCHC rookie-best 28 points on 16 goals and 12 assists in 33 games with a plus-19 rating.

On Thursday, the final NCHC individual awards for 2019-20 will be announced, including NCHC Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Senior Scholar-Athlete Award.