Cole Caufield won the Hobey Baker Award on Friday.
The Montreal Canadiens forward prospect from the University of Wisconsin was voted the top men’s player in NCAA Division I ice hockey this season.
“It obviously means a lot to me, it means a lot to my school back at Wisconsin,” Caufield told NHL Network. “I couldn’t be more honored and privileged to receive this award. It’s something that I was working for the whole year, so it feels pretty good.”
The other finalists were Shane Pinto, an Ottawa Senators forward prospect from the University of North Dakota; and Dryden McKay, a goalie from Minnesota State.
Caufield, who was selected by the Canadiens in the first round (No. 15) of the 2019 NHL Draft, agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract March 27 and is playing for Laval of the American Hockey League.
“I think I bring offensive-zone creativity,” Caufield said. “I think my shot is a big part of my game. Adjusting to different types of games is something that I’ve kind of learned at each level I’ve gone up in. … I’ve obviously played with some great players along the way, I’d like to say I make them better as well.”
The 20-year-old sophomore led NCAA Division I in goals (30), points (52), power-play goals (11), power-play points (24) and shots on goal (165), and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. Caufield scored 88 points (49 goals, 39 assists) in 67 games in two college seasons, and five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games to help the United States win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“I like to shoot the puck and score goals, but there’s a whole different part of the game, and I think that’s something I took strides in this past year that’s going to help me along the way, and I’ll never stop learning,” Caufield said.
He’s the first Wisconsin player to win the award since forward Blake Geoffrion in 2010. Geoffrion played 13 games for the Canadiens in the 2011-12 NHL season.
“This year was a special year for a lot of different reasons,” Wisconsin coach Tony Granato said. “Not only did he lead the nation in scoring, but he also led us to a Big Ten title. The one thing I think Cole would be the most proud of is, I think, how well his teammates played with him and how they made each other better.”
Pinto, who was selected by the Senators in the second round (No. 32) of the 2017 NHL Draft, was third in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 28 games. The 20-year-old sophomore was named NCHC Player of the Year and was the first player to be named its Forward of the Year and Defensive Forward of the Year. Pinto led the NCHC with a 61.9 percent face-off winning percentage and 388 face-off wins, and tied for the lead with seven power-play goals.
Pinto signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Ottawa on April 1 and was expected to report to the Senators following a mandatory COVID-19 quarantine.
“I’m pretty honored to even be able to sign in the NHL, but there’s a lot of work to be done, but obviously I’m very grateful,” Pinto said.
McKay was 21-4-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 26 games, with an NCAA-best 10 shutouts. He had 24 shutouts in his three college seasons, second in NCAA history behind Ryan Miller of Michigan State (26), and was named Western Collegiate Hockey Association Goalie of the Year for the second consecutive season.
The 23-year-old junior has not been drafted and is eligible to sign with any NHL team.
Previous winners of the award include St. Louis Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich (2020), Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (2019), Vancouver Canucks forward Adam Gaudette (2018), Canucks forward Jimmy Vesey (2016), New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher (2017), Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (2015) and Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau (2014).
NHL.com staff writer William Douglas contributed to this report