Written By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald.
CHILLIWACK, B.C. — There’s a hill, roughly two stories tall, sitting in front of the Prospera Centre, home of the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Once you climb to the top, the first thing you see is a huge mural on the front door.
It’s Jordan Kawaguchi, wearing his No. 28 jersey with a big smile.
It doesn’t matter that he’s been gone since the 2016-17 season. Kawaguchi was one of the best and most admired players to go through the storied junior hockey program.
He scored more goals than any player ever in a Chilliwack uniform and endeared himself — on and off the ice — to the town of 84,000 during his four years with the Chiefs.
“We love him,” said Chilliwack head coach Brian Maloney, who was a first-year assistant during Kawaguchi’s final year of juniors. “We all do. A lot of great players have come through here. We’ve pumped out some good ones. Jordan is one of those kids you cheer for because he’s such a good person. There are a lot of negative people out there in the world who kind of pick apart people’s flaws, but you’ll seldom hear any of that about Jordan Kawaguchi. It’s hard to pick flaws out of a kid who is so genuine.
“As his time here progressed, he became more than just a hockey player. He became a figure in the community. He was great with young kids. He always stopped and had conversations with fans, whether they were adults or young kids. He grew into this great person. His game blossomed as well. You’re getting the full package from Jordan there as well.”
Kawaguchi, now a UND junior, stormed onto the national scene this season. He’s a Hobey Baker Award candidate, leading the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 41 points in 27 games. He’s twice been named NCHC player of the month and is just five points shy of the national lead in scoring.
Kawaguchi is on the verge of becoming the first player to lead UND in scoring in back-to-back years since Brandon Bochenski in 2002 and 2003.
Stunningly, he is far ahead of the pace set by Danny Kristo, Corban Knight, Matt Frattin, Ryan Duncan and T.J. Oshie during their Hobey Baker Award finalist seasons. He’s also ahead of the pace of all three members of the CBS Line — Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz — who led the Fighting Hawks to the 2016 national title.