Of the three players that were named as a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist earlier today, only one of them is an undrafted player in center Jordan Kawaguchi. The 22-year-old recently told Postmedia’s Steve Ewen that he has had interest from a “handful” of NHL teams but that he is still considering returning to North Dakota for his senior year as well.
Kawaguchi’s third season was certainly his best as he easily surpassed his career highs across the board with 15 goals and 30 assists in 33 games. His 45 points made him the second-leading scorer in the NCAA behind only Jack Dugan, a fifth-round pick of Vegas back in 2017.
So with that type of production, why aren’t more teams going after him? He’s listed at just 5’9 which will scare some teams away while his skating isn’t at that top level for a smaller player. Kawaguchi’s playmaking will be his calling card at the next level but evidently, not every team is sold on that just yet.
That could be part of the reason that Kawaguchi is considering staying at North Dakota for his final season. A repeat or improved performance with a chance to work a bit more on his skating could certainly help garner more interest than he has now. Of course, it could also backfire as it’s hard to top a season that made him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
If he does decide to go the professional route, Kawaguchi would be forced to either sign a two-year, entry-level deal that begins next season or hold out hope that the NHL resumes play and allows him to burn the first year right away. Alternatively, he could agree to terms on both types of deals as a handful of players have done in recent days but with only a small group of teams showing interest, does he have the leverage to command that? It probably won’t be too much longer before we find out.