The Western Hockey League last week announced the Conference finalists for most of the WHL‘s annual awards.
Conference finalists were announced for the following WHL awards: Rookie of the Year, Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
Conference finalists for the WHL Player of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, and Scholastic Player of the Year will be announced at a later date.
The WHL will hand out its awards at the annual WHL Awards Luncheon on May 3rd.
Here’s a look at the Conference finalists for the WHL awards announced last week:
WHL Rookie of the Year – Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference: Matt Robertson, Prince Albert Raiders
Robertson was a force for the Raiders in his first season in the WHL. The 19-year-old forward, who hails from Prince Albert, SK, led the Raiders in scoring with 64 points this season, led all WHL rookies with 37 goals – the most goals by a rookie since 2002-03 – and finished fifth among WHL first-year players in overall scoring. He also tallied six game-winning goals, and netted three shorthanded markers. Robertson, who led the Prince Albert Mintos to the National Midget AAA Championship last year, played a key role in helping the Raiders back into the playoffs after missing the 2006 post-season.
Western Conference: Kyle Beach, Everett Silvertips
Beach was a key player in helping the Everett Silvertips to the WHL’s best regular-season record. The 6′ 3", 180-pound winger from Kelowna, B.C., led all 16-year-old rookies in the WHL in scoring with 29 goals, including six game-winners, and 61 points in 63 games and also racked up 196 penalty minutes, earning him a reputation as one of the League’s premiere agitators. Beach’s 18 power play goals put him second among all rookies, and tied him for seventh among all WHL players. He also suited up for Team B.C. at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
WHL Goaltender of the Year – Del Wilson Trophy
Eastern Conference: Matt Keetley, Medicine Hat Tigers
Keetley enjoyed another outstanding season in Medicine Hat, racking up a WHL-leading 42 wins while posting a solid 2.19 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 55 games. The 20-year-old goaltender, who hails from Medicine Hat, also recorded six shutouts for the third consecutive season as the Tigers posted the fewest goals-against in the Eastern Conference. Keetley, a Calgary Flames prospect, was a key factor in helping the Tigers finish first in the Central Division and Eastern Conference for a fourth consecutive season.
Western Conference: Carey Price, Tri-City Americans
Price enjoyed his best regular season to date in his four-year career as a member of the Americans, posting a 30-13-1 record, including three shutouts, with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 46 games, helping Tri-City to their best regular-season record in franchise history, and a second-place finish in a competitive U.S. Division. The 19-year-old netminder from Williams Lake, B.C., also backstopped Canada’s National Junior team to a third consecutive Gold medal at the 2007 World Junior Championship.
WHL Defenseman of the Year – Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference: Kris Russell, Medicine Hat Tigers
Russell will be looking for his second straight Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy, having won the award in 2006. The 19-year-old from Caroline, AB, enjoyed a dominant season with the Tigers, leading the team to yet another Central Division and Eastern Conference title. Russell, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, led all WHL defensemen with 32 goals, including 22 on the power play, and finished second in defensemen scoring with 69 points while appearing in only 59 games. The 5′ 10", 177-pound rearguard, who played a major role in helping Canada win a third straight Gold medal at the 2007 World Junior Championship, was the only defenseman to lead his team in scoring.
Western Conference: Cody Franson, Vancouver Giants
Franson followed up a tremendous 2005-06 season with an equally impressive 2006-07 campaign. The 19-year-old from Sicamous, B.C., notched 17 goals, including six game-winners, and 51 points in 59 games to help the Giants to their second consecutive B.C. Division crown. Franson finished fourth in the WHL in goals by a defenseman and tied for sixth, alongside teammate Jon Blum, in scoring among rearguards. Franson, a member of Canada’s Gold medal-winning World Junior team, was named the Husky WHL Player of the Month for September/October. He was a major contributor in the Giants’ top-rated penalty killing unit during the regular season.
WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year – Brad Hornung Trophy
Eastern Conference: Mark Derlago, Brandon Wheat Kings
Derlago enjoyed an outstanding 2006-07 season, helping the Wheat Kings win the East Division title for the second time in three seasons. The 21-year-old Brandon, MB, product was an integral part of the Wheat Kings’ potent offense, notching a WHL-leading 46 goals while adding 35 assists for 81 points, placing him 10th in WHL scoring. Derlago appeared in all 72 regular-season games for the Wheat Kings, and drew just 34 minutes in penalties – the lowest total among all WHL players in the top 20 in League scoring. Derlago, whose uncle, Bill, scored 96 goals for the 76-77 Wheat Kings, is the second Brandon player in three seasons to lead the WHL in goals.
Western Conference: Aaron Gagnon, Seattle Thunderbirds
Gagnon enjoyed his best season in the WHL in 2006-07, scoring 42 goals – good for second in the WHL – and 80 points in only 59 games for the Thunderbirds, helping the team to a third-place finish in the tough U.S. Division. The 20-year-old Armstrong, B.C. native also accumulated only 58 minutes in penalties, and always carried himself with the utmost class while on the ice, earning the respect of his teammates as well as from other players and team personnel throughout the League. Gagnon was selected the Husky WHL Player of the Month for December, and was one of only two players to earn BOSTON PIZZA WHL Player of the Week honors twice during the season.
WHL Coach of the Year – Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference: Cory Clouston, Kootenay Ice
The Clouston-led Kootenay Ice enjoyed a tremendous regular season in 2006-07, posting a franchise record 49 victories and tying a franchise mark with 104 points despite playing in the toughest division in the WHL. Under Clouston’s watch, the Ice scored a League-high 267 goals, despite losing three of their five top scorers from last season, and allowed only 189 goals for the fifth lowest goals-against in the League. Clouston also guided the Ice to the fourth-best home record and the fourth-best road record, the League’s third-best power play and the sixth best penalty killing. Clouston, who was named WHL Coach of the Year in 2005, has led Kootenay to three straight seasons with 45 or more wins.
Western Conference: Kevin Constantine, Everett Silvertips
The Constantine-led Silvertips skated to a 54-15-1-2 record during the 2006-07 regular season, winning their third U.S. Division crown in their four-year-existence, and earning the franchise’s first Scotty Munro Trophy for the best regular-season record. Under Constantine’s guidance, the Silvertips allowed a WHL-low 142 goals, while scoring a franchise-record 239 goals. Constantine’s ‘Tips also skated to the best home and road records in the WHL, the fourth-best power play and the second-best penalty killing, and only twice lost two or more consecutive games. Constantine was named the 2004 WHL Coach of the Year for guiding the expansion ‘Tips to the U.S. Division title.
WHL Executive of the Year – Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference: Will Desjardins, Medicine Hat Tigers
The Medicine Hat Tigers enjoyed another excellent season under General Manager Will Desjardins. Desjardins, also the Tigers’ head coach, built a team that dominated in the highly competitive Central Division, winning both the division and Eastern Conference regular-season titles for a fourth consecutive year. Desjardins successfully brought in several new faces, both prior to the season and during the season, who contributed to the Tigers’ success and helped keep them among the WHL’s elite teams. Under Desjardins’ watch, the Tigers also stretched their consecutive sell-out streak to 179 games by the end of the regular season. Desjardins was named the 2005-06 WHL Coach of the Year.
Western Conference: Bob Tory, Tri-City Americans
The Tri-City Americans, under the management of Tory, enjoyed their best regular season in franchise history, posting a 47-23-1-1 record for a second-place finish in the U.S. Division. The team’s 47 wins marked a 17-victory improvement from last season, while they team’s 96 points marked a 29-point increase from last season. Tory also managed to acquire several impact players prior to the season and throughout the season who helped make the Ams’ one of the most exciting teams to watch. As a result of a solid on-ice product, the Americans saw their attendance increase by a three percent margin from the 2005-06 season.
WHL Regular Season Champion – Scotty Munro Trophy
WINNER: Everett Silvertips
The Everett Silvertips claimed the franchise’s first Scotty Munro Trophy in their four-year existence after posting a very impressive 54-15-1-2 record for 111 points during the 2006-07 WHL campaign. In addition, the Silvertips won their third U.S. Division title in four years, and their second straight division crown. Their 111 points were the most posted by a regular-season champion since 2000-01. The ‘Tips also boasted the WHL’s best home record at 31-4-0-1, and the best road record at 23-11-1-1. On top of that, the ‘Tips lost consecutive games only twice during the 2006-07 season.
WHL Top Scorer – Bob Clarke Trophy
WINNER: Zach Hamill, Everett Silvertips
Hamill posted 32 goals and 61 assists for 93 points for the Silvertips this season, edging out Kootenay’s Steve DaSilva and Lethbridge’s Zach Boychuk by two points each to capture the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer. Hamill’s 61 assists led the WHL in that category. The 18-year-old from Port Coquitlam, B.C., began the season with a 15-game point streak while enjoying point streaks of nine games on two other occasions. Hamill, who is eligible for the 2007 NHL draft, never went more than three games without recording a point during the 2006-07 campaign.