It now is a job for Cole Caufield, and he sounded ready for it.
Caufield, who agreed to terms Saturday with the Montreal Canadiens one day after his sophomore season ended with the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team, was all business in his first news conference with Montreal media members Monday morning.
He said he's excited to get his pro career started and thinks he's ready for the step up from college after a once-in-a-generation season for the Badgers.
"The work just starts now," Caufield said. "It's kind of surreal right now and sometimes you forget that it's happening."
Caufield was due to leave Wisconsin for Quebec later Monday and start a 14-day quarantine required for those arriving from outside Canada. A Canadiens spokesperson said under new government pandemic guidelines that he can train and play starting with day eight of the stretch.
The right wing will start his pro career with Montreal's American Hockey League team in Laval, Quebec, which has a game April 6 then plays again April 9. The latter is the same night that the Hobey Baker Award is scheduled to be presented on NHL Network.
Caufield is a safe bet to be in the Hobey Hat Trick when the top three vote-getters are announced Thursday, but it's unclear whether he would be available to be part of the live presentation at the end of the award show.
Badgers coach Tony Granato said after Friday's 6-3 loss to Bemidji State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that he doesn't see anyone around college hockey with Caufield's resume for the award.
"I just couldn't be more proud of how far he's come as a player and understanding that being a superstar, there's lots that go along with it besides just scoring goals," Granato said. "He's a great teammate."
Caufield credited Granato with helping him understand the importance of being a good player when he doesn't have the puck on his stick. The improvements between his two seasons at UW were noticeable, and his goal-scoring boost — from 19 to 30 despite playing five fewer games — was a result.
"I think everybody knows I can score goals and do things in the offensive zone," Caufield said. "But for me personally, the No. 1 priority every game is to play in the (defensive) zone first and spend as little time in there as possible. Just having that mindset helped me grow a lot in all three zones and as a player all around."
Caufield said he's at 170 pounds — he was listed by UW at 163 as a freshman and 165 this season — and feels good physically after the college season. Players moving from college to the pros in the spring usually have a short time left in the season but there's still a month and a half left before the playoffs because the AHL and NHL were delayed.
One of the things that'll be studied closely with Caufield is how he handles playing against older competition in the pros. The AHL is just a steppingstone to the NHL and one of the most scrutinized teams in the world in Montreal.
"I drive myself with my own goals," Caufield said. "I'm just going to push myself every day to get better and just do what I can with myself to prove to everybody that I'm a good player and can handle the heat when that happens."
Caufield returned to the Badgers last year with the goal of being the best player at the college level. Regardless of whether the Hobey voters confirm that status, he's confident that he's in a better place in his career than he would have been if he departed the Badgers last offseason.
"Getting that extra time to put in the weight room to better yourself, I feel a lot more comfortable," Caufield said. "Last year, I feel like it would have been forced for me to sign and go then. But this year I feel a lot more comfortable. I feel more prepared and ready for the next step and I'm excited to take this next challenge on."
Look back on State Journal coverage of Badgers men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season
Read stories from University of Wisconsin men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season.
Bemidji State was the aggressor from the beginning and kept UW from playing the brand of hockey it has used to generate scoring chances.
The Badgers paid for a lackluster effort in the second period as the Gophers beat UW for the first time in six championship-round games.
Cole Caufield scored his 27th goal of the season 6 minutes, 50 seconds into the extra session to send the fifth-ranked Badgers past the Nittany Lions 4-3 on Monday in the Big Ten semifinals.
Cole Caufield scores twice to give the Badgers a 2-1 victory at Michigan State and the Big Ten title on the final day of the regular season.
Robbie Beydoun, playing in his home state, makes 28 saves as the Badgers keep the heat on Minnesota in the chase for the Big Ten title.
If a 7-0 victory against Ohio State at LaBahn Arena was Cole Caufield's last time playing at home for the Badgers, it was the kind of effort UW fans will want to remember him by.
Holloway scored twice on the power play to lead the Badgers past the Buckeyes.
Ty Pelton-Byce scored twice for the Badgers, including the tying goal with 26.8 seconds left after UW let two third-period leads slip away.
Coach Tony Granato went down the lineup in handing out individual laurels for good chances created, hits dished out or composed plays in the defensive zone.
The Badgers erase the sour taste of their largest loss of the season with their first victory at Michigan in their past eight tries.
A four-goal second period by the Wolverines was the difference after the Badgers took the lead.
No. 11 UW is alone atop the conference standings after completing its first series sweep at Minnesota in 12 years with an emphatic 8-1 victory against the second-ranked Golden Gophers.
Cole Caufield broke a tie with seven minutes remaining and Dylan Holloway figured in two goals in the following 2:18 as Wisconsin beat Minnesota 4-1.
Cole Caufield scores two goals for the second straight game and Linus Weissbach records his first three-point game of the season.
Robbie Beydoun stopped 19 shots for his second shutout of the season.
After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Badgers couldn't pull all the way back with a late push.
The Badgers scored two power-play goals to win at Penn State for the first time in five tries.
A third-period penalty kill was "probably the biggest five minutes of our season so far," Badgers coach Tony Granato said.
UW freshman Cameron Rowe makes 11 saves for his first shutout.
The Badgers outshot the Gophers but paid the price for turnovers, a slow line change and a bad penalty.
Beydoun made 35 saves as the Badgers knocked off the Gophers in their first game since Dec. 4.
Cameron Rowe made 40 saves in his first collegiate start as the Badgers split a series at the Buckeyes.
The Badgers have lost all three games since four forwards became unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.
Sophomore Jax Murray scored his first two collegiate goals for the Sun Devils as the Badgers fell to .500.
The Badgers were missing five forwards, one of whom sources said was held out because of a positive COVID-19 test and three others who were close contacts.
Caufield had his second hat trick for the Badgers and Tarek Baker scored a key short-handed goal.
Robbie Beydoun made a career-high 49 saves for the Badgers.
Missing their top two centers, the Badgers nearly emerged with a split against the sixth-ranked Wolverines.
The Wolverines scored three times in the final 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the second period to turn a deficit into a two-goal lead going into the intermission.
Dylan Holloway's third-period goal put the Badgers ahead for good after they lost two-goal and one-goal leads.
Linus Weissbach helped provide the offense and Robbie Beydoun was a stable presence in goal in the Badgers' 2-0 victory over No. 20 Notre Dame.