Minnesota Duluth blueliner, St. Louis prospect Perunovich named recipient of 2020 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player

Scott Perunovich 23 Mar 18: The Minnesota State University Mavericks play against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in a semifinal game of the NCAA West Regional at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD. (Jim Rosvold)
Scott Perunovich registered six goals and 40 points this season as a junior at Minnesota Duluth, good for second among the country’s blueliners and tenth overall (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich has been named the winner of the 2020 Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

The native of Hibbing, Minn., became the first defenseman to lead the NCHC in conference scoring this past season, collecting 32 points on four goals and 28 assists in 24 conference games.

“It’s very special and a prestigious award,” said Perunovich on a Zoom video chat Saturday night with media. “Lot of excitement, tears from some people, but just grateful and super fun to have my family here for this.”

Overall, Perunovich tallied six goals and 34 assists for 40 points in 34 games for the Bulldogs. 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.

“He is a difference maker, that’s for sure,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “He’s the type of impact player who can take control of a game. He’s had a tremendous season — and a tremendous three-year career here — and is certainly deserving of this award.”

Perunovich was also named the 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.

A communications major at UMD, Perunovich decided to forgo his final year of college hockey and signed a pro contract with the St. Louis Blues last month. St. Louis had selected Perunovich in the second round (45th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft.

“I just tried to focus on UMD throughout the year,” said Perunovich. “Once the season got canceled, I started to look at the next step, talked it out with my family, and we realized that taking that next step (signing with the Blues) was best for me.”

The sixth Bulldog to win the Hobey, the most of any NCAA school, Perunovich 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 (Massachusetts’ Cale Makar 2019, Denver’s Will Butcher 2017).

Perunovich adds the Hobey Baker to the two national championships UMD won in 2018 and 2019.

“The coaching staff helped get this program to where it is with all the recent success,” Perunovich said. “Getting to the national championship game three times in three years, is not coincidence. I think we’ve turned this program around in the last 10 years or so and we have a bright future ahead of us.”