Hobey Baker 2020: Bulldogs teammates agree, Scott Perunovich does what others in college hockey can't

UMD junior defenseman Scott Perunovich is one of the three remaining finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which will be announced Saturday

012620.S.DNT.UMDmpux c15.JPG
Minnesota-Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich (7) high-fives teammates after scoring in the third period against North Dakota on Jan. 25, 2020 at Amsoil Arena. Teammates say Perunovich is well deserving of all the hardware and honors he's collected this spring. Up next on Saturday is a possible third All-American award and the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, both of which will be announced Saturday. News Tribune file photo

Nick Wolff has watched his defensive partner, Scott Perunovich, grow a lot as a hockey player the past three seasons at Minnesota Duluth. Wolff said Perunovich plays smarter, and now knows he just can’t take the puck and skate it up the ice whenever he ...

And that’s when Wolff stopped himself, pausing mid-sentence to issue a correction.

“I guess he can skate the puck up whenever he wants,” Wolff said with a chuckle. “He’s picking his spots more wisely, I’d say.”

Perunovich has been more than just a defensive partner these last three seasons, Wolff said. They’re “best buddies” now after winning back-to-back national championships together in three seasons at UMD, and while Wolff’s days of collecting college hardware have been cut short, Perunovich is still raking in trophies.

The Hibbing native who recently agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Blues has already been named NCHC Player of the Year, and on Saturday Perunovich very well could pick up his third All-American honor in three seasons and claim the most prestigious individual award in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.


His teammates are rooting for him to become the program’s record-extending sixth Hobey Baker winner and not just because he’s a Bulldog — going up against Jordan Kawaguchi of the rival North Dakota Fighting Hawks, no less — but because they all believe Perunovich is more than worthy of being bestowed their sport’s highest honor.

“He’s an all-star out there every game. Game in and game out, he’s the one making plays” said Wolff, who himself signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins last month. “That’s why we had so much success the past couple years because of him. He’s deserved every accolade he’s gotten.”

Perunovich in the past gave credit to Wolff for covering for him in the defensive zone, making him look a lot better than he was as a freshman in 2017-18 when he won the Tim Taylor Award as national rookie of the year.

Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich keeps the puck away from Tyler Anderson (8) of St. Cloud at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud this season. Perunovich is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. (Clint Austin /

That’s no longer the case, with Wolff even crediting a much more confident Perunovich for covering his butt on occasion.

Fellow UMD junior defenseman Dylan Samberg, who is also off to the NHL after signing with the Winnipeg Jets this week, said the confidence Perunovich has gained each year at UMD has helped him take his game to a whole new level. That confidence allows Perunovich to make plays others wouldn’t and no one plays better to that strength, Samberg said.


“Unlike other people, he’s willing to take those risks and most of the time they pay off,” Samberg said. “He’s a great offensive player. When he’s out there, he’s like a fourth forward.”

Perunovich scored just six goals this season, but assisted on 34, which ranked second in the nation this year. His 40 points were second among all defenseman and tied for 10th overall.

He had 12 multiple-point games, including seven games with two or more assists and four with three-plus assists. In a four-game stretch early in NCHC play, Perunovich assisted on 11 of UMD’s 13 points during a split at Miami and home sweep of Colorado College in the month of November.

Perunovich’s most notable multi-point game this season was a three-assist night on Feb. 1 at Magness Arena that pushed the Bulldogs to a road-series sweep of Denver. He sprung sophomore center Jackson Cates for a breakaway goal that night and he connected twice with junior wing Nick Swaney in the third period, picking up his own rebound and dishing to Swaney in the slot and feeding Swaney on the power play. The only goal Perunovich didn’t factor in on during the 4-1 win was the empty netter at the end.


“He can make plays that no one sees coming in the building,” Swaney said that night in Denver, after Perunovich himself deflected any credit for his points. “He’ll get you the puck whenever and you just always got to be ready for it. I can't say enough about how he plays and how big he is for our team.”

The three-time NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Perunovich has built a strong reputation as a puck moving defenseman. He’s the latest poster boy for what NHL teams are looking for these days on the blue line to complement the 6-5, 230-pound bruisers like Perunovich’s partner, Wolff.

But Bulldogs goaltender Hunter Shepard said Perunovich is much more than just an offensive threat these days. Shepard said he’s seen Perunovich commit himself to playing a much, much bigger role defensively. Perunovich couldn’t in any way shape or form be a defensive liability out there if he wanted to play the big minutes UMD needed him to play this season after the team lost sophomore defenseman Hunter Lellig to an injury.

“When he came here, the offensive stuff was already there,” Shepard said. “But how much better defensively he’s gotten over the last couple years made him a pretty complete player if you ask me.”

In addition to the skills, Shepard said Perunovich has a lot of the attributes that just can’t be taught in hockey. Perunovich has a strong vision and knowledge of the game. He’s a competitor.

Oh, and Perunovich can take the puck from end-to-end pretty much whenever he wants.

“When he is on the ice, he realizes now he really controls the pace of the game,” Shepard said. “Playing against him I can’t imagine it’d be very fun. He’s one of those guys when you go into battle, you want him on your side for sure.”


Perunovich Shepard 4/9/20
Minnesota Duluth's Hunter Shepard (32) and Scott Perunovich (7) celebrate a 3-2 double-overtime victory over St. Cloud State in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship on March 23, 2019 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. News Tribune file photo

2020 Hobey Hat Trick

Jordan Kawaguchi, Jr., F, North Dakota

Scott Perunovich, Jr., D, Minnesota Duluth

Jeremy Swayman, Jr., G, Maine

UMD Hobey Baker finalists

Bold indicates winner

2020: Scott Perunovich

2012: Jack Connolly


2011: Jack Connolly

2004: Junior Lessard

1994: Chris Marinucci

1993: Derek Plante

1986: Brett Hull

1986: Norm Maciver

1985: Bill Watson

1984: Tom Kurvers

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
What To Read Next
Get Local