W inning a world junior championship, a Big Ten championship, Big Ten Player of the Year, first-team All-
American, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and helping the NHL’s most storied franchise to within a whisper of the Stanley
Cup would make one heck of a hockey career for most.
For Cole Caufield, that was the 2020-21 hockey season.
He was a dominant force in college hockey rinks. Caufield scored 11 more goals than any other player in the nation with 30 goals in 31 games. He also led the nation with 52 points, leading the country in per game average in both categories (0.97 goals per game; 1.68 points per game).
USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson College Player of the Year was a nightmare for opposing coaching staffs to game plan against. He was much more than ‘Goal’ Caufield. He helped many of his teammates to career seasons and you could argue to professional contracts.
Caufield was a record-breaking goal scorer entering college, shattering standards at the U.S. National Team Developmental Program set by the likes of Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews and Phil Kessel.
He continued that scoring clip during his two seasons in college, sharing the lead among all rookies nationally his first year, then destroying the rest of the nation on his way to the Hobey in 2021.
It was a rare college hockey performance for Caufield, with a goal-scoring average better than anyone in the country since at least the year 2000.
He started the collegiate season without a goal in the first four games of the year, but from there on out, it became more of a surprise when the Stevens Point, Wisconsin, native didn’t score. He went seven games with a goal midseason, scored a pair of hat tricks and finished up with goals in the seasons’ final six games. His 11 goals over the final six contests included the biggest stages, with both tallies in the Big Ten-clinching victory for the Badgers, two goals and the overtime gamewinner in the Big Ten semifinals and two goals and three points in UW’s NCAA opening round contest. He was on the Big Ten All-Tournament and NCAA All-Regional teams.
And he did it all with a big smile!
There was the trip to Vancouver before his freshman year officially even started when a youth hockey team coming off the ice as the Badgers arrived whispered and pointed out to each other Cole Caufield, the then-recent Montreal draft pick.
There was the postgame lobby after a game at Merrimack where a youth team from Canada waited to say hello to the popular future pro, and of course he obliged.
There were the extra-long lines at ‘Skate with the Badgers’ for photos and autographs.
Much of that went away this past year, when Wisconsin and all hockey fans could only follow from afar, but Caufield got to share much of his year with his friends in the locker room.
“I think my teammates were probably the biggest contributors to my season,” Caufield said to Jackie Redmond during the NHL Network’s Hobey announcement. “I had some pretty good linemates this year in Linus Weissbach and Ty Pelton-Byce, but our team as a whole unit, we did a really good job this year. All the credit to them. The coaching staff did a great job with our team to put us in the right situation to have success. I couldn’t be more thankful for this award.”
Though they only played together on the power play, Caufield also had fellow Hobey Top-10 Badger Dylan Holloway to lean on, as well as the goaltending duo of freshman Cameron Rowe and Caufield’s grad transfer roommate Robbie Beydoun to backstop the team. There was captain and future Arizona defenseman Ty Emberson anchoring a well-rounded blue line corps, and the balance of a talented forward group.
Despite him preparing for his first professional hockey game while the Hobey Baker Memorial Award announcement took place, Caufield’s teammates, including his brother, Brock, watched and celebrated inside the Wisconsin locker room when official word came – Caufield was Wisconsin’s second Hobey Baker winner.
Later that evening, they watched as he put up a three-point night in his first game as a professional, leading the
AHL’s Laval Rocket to a 5-3 victory with two goals, including the third-period winner. His stay lasted only two games before he moved on to the big club – the Montreal Canadiens.
There, he scored overtime game-winning goals on consecutive nights for his first two career NHL goals and became a fresh breath for Montreal down the stretch of the regular season and throughout its playoff run.
In a special hockey season due to the worldwide pandemic, Cole Caufield found a way to have a special year and share his smile with Wisconsin and the rest of the hockey world.
Clay Matvick, play-by-play announcer for ABC and the ESPN networks.