The Big 10 wrapped up their 2020-21 season with a fantastic game between Minnesota and Wisconsin on Tuesday night. The conference also announced their postseason award winners, which included some top NHL prospects. In the American Hockey League (AHL), a Colorado Avalanche first-round pick scored in overtime. Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks officially signed a prospect who could turn out to be a late-round gem.
Big Ten Championship & Postseason Awards
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are the 2021 Big Ten Tournament champions after a 6-4 win over the Wisconsin Badgers last night. The marquee matchup between two top-five teams did not disappoint. Blake McLaughlin, the Anaheim Ducks’ 2018 third-round pick (79th overall), was the offensive hero by scoring a pair of goals and assisting on two more. The Gophers built a 5-1 lead in the second period, but the Badgers got to within one late before McLaughlin’s empty-net goal in the final minute sealed the deal.
Minnesota capped off their 100th season with their second Big Ten Tournament and first since 2015. Wisconsin had 50 shots on goal, but Minnesota goaltender Jack LaFontaine made a career-high 46 saves on his way to being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
The Big Ten also handed out its postseason awards to a group of very talented youngsters. Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield was named the Player of the Year. He led the nation with 27 goals and 48 points and could finish his fantastic season playing with the Montreal Canadiens.
Cam York of the University of Michigan was named the Defensive Player of the Year. The 2019 first-round pick (14th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers had four goals and 20 points to lead all Big Ten defensemen in scoring. He is another player who could be starting his professional career once his run in the NCAA tournament concludes.
York’s teammate, forward Thomas Bordeleau, took home Freshman of the Year honors after leading all first-year players in the conference with 30 points. The 19-year-old winger was taken by the San Jose Sharks in the second round (38th overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Finally, LaFontaine was named the Goaltender of the Year after finishing the season with a 21-6-0 record to go along with a .936 save percentage and 1.74 GAA. The Carolina Hurricane’s 2016 third-round pick (75th overall) was also named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award, which is given to the best goaltender in all of college hockey. He and Caufield are both finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as well. Dylan Holloway, Caufield’s teammate at Wisconsin, gives the Big Ten three finalists for the national player of the year award.
Martin Kaut Nets First Goal
The Avalanche invested the 16th overall pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Kaut, and they are still waiting on a return. They are hoping Tuesday night’s performance gets him on track to return to the NHL.
The Colorado Eagles had a big come-from-behind 5-4 overtime victory at the Texas Stars last night. 2020 second-round pick Jean-Luc Foudy’s second goal of the night with just 11 seconds left in the third period forced overtime. Kaut was the hero as he split two defenders and used his backhand for the game-winning goal during the extra time.
This was Kaut’s first goal in three AHL games this season. He has spent a lot of time on the Avalanche’s taxi squad this season and dressed in one NHL game. Since coming to North America, his numbers have been rather pedestrian for a player drafted as high as he was. He has 18 goals and 45 points in 100 AHL games and two goals and an assist in his 10 games in the NHL. However, at just 21, it is difficult to say Kaut is a bust, but the Avs are hoping for a breakout sooner rather than later.
Josiah Slavin Inks First Pro Contract
As quickly as Slavin’s college career ended at Colorado College, his professional journey began. The Blackhawks announced on Tuesday that they signed their seventh-round pick (193rd overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry draft to a two-year standard entry-level contract that kicks in next season. In the meantime, he was signed to an amateur tryout (ATO) deal with their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, and will likely see the ice this weekend.
Josiah is the younger brother of Hurricanes’ defenseman Jaccob Slavin. He led Colorado College with eight assists and 13 points this past season. In 56 total games, he finished with 10 goals and 26 points. He could turn out to be a late-round gem for the Blackhawks as he has shown a ton of improvement since being drafted nearly three years ago.
“I definitely improved in a lot of areas,” Slavin said after signing his first NHL contract. “Overall, I’ve just gotten bigger, faster, stronger. I think my offensive game has improved as well… A lot of decision-making on the ice has been a huge part of it. I got to expand my game a little bit playing against older guys (in college) than what I did in juniors.”
At 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 pounds, he definitely has the frame to contribute at the NHL level. The IceHogs host the Iowa Wild on Friday and Saturday night and Slavin should expect to make his debut at some over the weekend.