By signing Jordan Kawaguchi this week, the Stars added one of the best players in college hockey.
Kawaguchi, 23, just finished his four-year NCAA career at the University of North Dakota, where he was a Hobey Baker finalist as a junior before finishing fourth in the country in scoring as a senior. Kawaguchi signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Stars on Wednesday and has reported to AHL affiliate Texas.
“There’s a lot of skill and good savvy in the offensive zone,” Stars assistant general manager Scott White said. “Now, it’s just using that skill and savvy and adjusting to the pace of the pro level. Jordan’s well aware of that, but I like how he plays the game. He’s got some skill.”
Kawaguchi captained North Dakota in his final season, which ended over the weekend in a quintuple-overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Kawaguchi scored the game-tying goal that sent the game to overtime.
He is currently going through his quarantine in Cedar Park, and is expected to join Texas when it leaves for Colorado and San Jose on Monday. He played wing at the end of his college career and figures to join the Texas power play.
“It’s crazy,” Kawaguchi said. “We went through a marathon game on Saturday night, lost that. It was a crazy feeling to really know that my college career was over. Had a day off to myself and then right into negotiations and talks. It’s been a crazy week, for sure. Now finishing it up in Texas. It’s been a wild last five or six days.”
Kawaguchi, listed at 5-9 and 185 pounds, finished his college career with 40 goals and 86 assists in 136 games. He described himself as “a smart player that create offense out of the corners from cycling,” and should bring instant creativity to the team’s prospect pool.
Kawaguchi also overlapped with current Stars forward Rhett Gardner for two years at North Dakota.
“He’s a skilled forward, but he plays with some grit in his game, for sure,” Gardner said. “Obviously, the last two years at school, he put up some pretty good numbers and took over a lot of games there. But I think his 200-foot game is also really good. It’s exciting to have him in the organization. I was talking to him the other day and he’s pretty pumped up.”
Since he went to college for four years, Kawaguchi is an older player. At 23 years old, he instantly becomes one of the team’s oldest prospects (along with fellow college products Ryan Shea and Jerad Rasburg), but said he used his time in college to refine his game.
“Being able to round out my game as a whole, defensively being able to be reliable in the d-zone,” Kawaguchi said. “Offensively, I feel like I’ve learned how to maneuver certain defensive zone coverages. Definitely changed.”
Kawaguchi will graduate in May with a degree in marketing and will finish up his remaining two classes as a member of the Texas Stars.