GRAND FORKS -- The season started without much fanfare for Jordan Kawaguchi.
He was coming off of shoulder surgery and a 10-goal, 26-point season.
But that quickly changed.
By midseason, he was being talked about as the front-runner to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, and on Wednesday, he was officially named one of the top 10 finalists for college hockey's top individual honor.
The other finalists are Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich, UMass forward John Leonard, Minnesota State forward Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay, Providence forward Jack Dugan, Sacred Heart forward Jason Cotton, Morgan Barron of Cornell, David Farrance of Boston University and Jeremy Swayman of Maine.
The top three finalists will be announced April 2.
The winner will be announced April 10.
Kawaguchi is UND's first Hobey Baker finalist since goalie Zane McIntyre in 2015. McIntyre finished in the top three but lost out to Boston University freshman Jack Eichel.
Kawaguchi has a legitimate shot at winning it.
He has a lot of elements voters look for: point totals, team success and off-ice success.
The junior from Abbotsford, B.C., finished second in the nation in scoring with 45 points in 33 games, while leading the Fighting Hawks to a 26-5-4 record and the No. 1 Pairwise ranking when the season came to an abrupt end due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
Kawaguchi was especially key on big goals. He had 13 points on game-winning goals, leading the nation, and 23 of his 30 assists were primary.
"It was expected with the body of work he put together consistently throughout the year -- from start to finish," Berry said. "He factored in the majority of our games, being impactful on goals and plays that decided games. His production increased exponentially from last year, but he was also scoring goals at key times in games.
"What's resounding to me is when you look at his assists, the majority are first assists. That tells me he's the guy creating the play."
Kawaguchi also wore an 'A' as an alternate captain.
"He's a guy who really transformed his game from when he came onto campus as a freshman to where he is now," Berry said. "Part of that is investing in every single day, whether it's in the weight room, preparation before practices or on the leadership side.
"He was a huge component for the direction and leadership of our locker room. Sometimes, on the bench, when games were on the line or we were facing a little bit of adversity, he'd right the ship. He'd say some things to a small group or the whole bench. He'd say the right things at the right time. That's the sign of a leader."
Off-ice characteristics can factor into the Hobey award as well.
"In the community, he took a proactive approach, whether it was helping with youth hockey, signing autographs for kids after games or doing different community service things around Grand Forks and East Grand Forks," Berry said. "He dug into the community side of it, too. He was relentless in his daily approach."
Only two UND players have ever won the award. Forward Tony Hrkac won it in 1987 with his NCAA-record, 116-point season, while forward Ryan Duncan won it in 2007.
Other finalists were defenseman James Patrick (1983), goalie Jon Casey (1984), defenseman Scott Sandelin (1986), forward Steve Johnson (1988), defenseman Russ Parent (1990), forward Greg Johnson (1991, 1992, 1993), forward Jason Blake (1997, 1999), defenseman Curtis Murphy (1998), forward Jeff Panzer (2000, 2001), forward Zach Parise (2003, 2004), forward Brandon Bochenski (2004), goalie J.P. Lamoureux (2008), forward T.J. Oshie (2008), forward Matt Frattin (2011), forward Corban Knight (2013), forward Danny Kristo (2013) and McIntyre.