At the SHL’s second annual awards banquet, SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell handed out the trophies that recognized the league’s best players and coaches. “The fierce competition for these awards shows just how strong our league is,” said Commissioner Mitchell. These awards were voted on by SHL players, coaches, and media.
The 2017 award winners are as follows:
Most Valuable Player: LW Jerry Koons, Anchorage Igloos
Koons had a breakout season, scoring 44 goals and 90 points along with a +56 rating, and played a key role in the Igloos’ charge to the best record in the SHL. He finished with the third-most goals in the league, behind teammate Jake Frost and Hamilton’s Steven Alexander.
“Jerry’s emergence this season gave us a valuable extra weapon,” said Anchorage coach Sam Castor. “Opposing defenses couldn’t overload on Frosty, because then Jerry would burn them big-time. He makes us a more balanced and more dangerous team.”
Other finalists for the MVP honor included fellow Igloos G Ty Worthington, Hershey C Justin Valentine, and Hamilton C Calvin Frye.
Rookie of the Year: LW Rod “Money” Argent, Seattle Sailors
The freshman class in the SHL wasn’t quite as strong this season as it had been the previous year, but there were a number of strong contenders for the award. Argent was a surprise choice by the Sailors as the #1 pick in the draft, and he rewarded them with an impressive rookie campaign, leading the league in points among first-year players with 49, and tying Saskatchewan’s Elliott Rafferty for the most goals with 23.
“I understand where he got the nickname Money, because his shot is money in the bank,” said Sailors RW Vince Mango. “His shot is like a laser, and he can thread it through traffic and find the tiniest cracks to slip the puck into the net. He’s strong in the defensive end, too, unlike me. He’s the total package.”
Argent narrowly beat out Hamilton G Lasse Koskinen to claim the honor. Others who received votes included Rafferty, New York G Sherman Carter, and Anchorage D Tony Citrone.
Coach of the Year: Sam Castor, Anchorage Igloos
Castor was recognized for steering the Igloos to a league-best 42-12-6 mark, outlasting Michigan in a brutal Western race and claiming the division. One testament to Castor’s brilliance was the fact that Anchorage was one of two teams with a better road record than home record. Their 22-5-3 performance on the road was all the more impressive given that the Igloos’ road trips are much longer than any other team in the league.
“We’ve got a ton of talent on this team, but Coach Castor really knows how to get the most out of us,” said Frost, the Igloos star. “He knows when to push us, when to lay back and trust us, when to find a way to take the pressure off. He’s really great at figuring out situations for everybody to shine. He knows just the right buttons to push to get us all performing at our best.”
Castor received the nod over Hershey’s “Chocolate Chip” Barber and Hamilton’s Keith Shields.
Sharp Shooter Award: C Jake Frost, Anchorage Igloos
The Sharp Shooter Award is one of two honors that is not awarded as the result of the vote. Instead, it is given to the player who finished with the highest goal total. This season, the winner was Frost, who finished with two more goals than runner-up Steven Alexander of Hamilton. Frost sat out a game in the last week of the season after the Igloos clinched the division, possibly costing him a shot at 50 goals.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling,” said Frost. “I’m glad I had a strong season, absolutely. But it feels a little empty because we weren’t able to bring the Vandy home. We accomplished so much this year, but we couldn’t capture the ultimate prize. It’s great that our team is winning so many awards, but we didn’t get the one that really counts. That’s going to fuel us big time next season.”
Commissioner’s Trophy: LW Jerry Koons, Anchorage Igloos
Like the Sharp Shooter Award, the Commissioner’s Trophy isn’t awarded based on a vote. Rather, it goes to the player who finishes with the highest season point total. Koons’ breakout offensive year allowed him to capture the point title. With 90 points (44 goals, 46 assists), Koons finished a point ahead of teammate Nicklas Ericsson and three ahead of Frye. He is the first player to win multiple individual awards in the same season, having also captured the MVP.
“I think we’re really set up well for the long run,” said Koons. “We’ve got me and Frosty and Nicky, some quality young guys coming up like Collie [Les Collins] and Humps [Derek Humplik], plus excellent defense and a great goalie in Ty [Worthington]. We’re a strong team from top to bottom. Yeah, it stings that we lost in the end this year, but I think we’ll be competing for titles a long time.”
Goalie of the Year: Dirk Lundquist, Michigan Gray Wolves
Lundquist becomes the first-ever repeat award winner; as the league’s unquestioned top netminder, it’s a well-deserved honor. “The Bear” performed up to his usual standards again this year, going 32-13-4 with a 1.39 GAA and a .952 save percentage.
Unlike last season, though, Lundquist didn’t win the award unanimously; Anchorage’s Worthington (31-6-4, 1.78 GAA, .942 sv%) received a number of votes, and Quebec’s Riki Tiktuunen (17-14-7, 1.88, .941) received consideration as well.
“I think it’s a good thing for the league that there are other goalies who can challenge for the award,” said Lundquist. “If I’m just racking up the award automatically every year, that’s not good for me or the SHL. We’ve got some young pups coming along who are going to be able to push me, and they might even surpass me sometime. That’s exciting.”
Defenseman of the Year: Max Madison, Michigan Gray Wolves
Although the Wolves missed the playoffs this year, they did managed to nab a pair of awards, one for Lundquist and one for Madison. The man known as “Mad Max” is a throwback blueliner in a lot of ways. He’s one of the fiercest and hardest-hitting defensemen in the league; his 101 penalty minutes was second in the league only to Hershey’s Ruslan Gromov. “Max will drop gloves if you so much as look at him cross-eyed,” said Wolves coach Ron Wright. “He’s an old-school guy, and I love him for it.”
But Madison isn’t just a one-dimensional thug. He’s also a capable passer and scorer; this season, he turned in 10 goals and 34 points this season, while recording a +30 rating. “In today’s game, there’s no room for guys who can’t do anything but fight,” said Wright. “The game’s become too skilled and fast for that. But if you have a blueliner who can contribute on offense and makes some noise, but knows how to put a hurting on a guy too, that’s a player who’s worth his weight in gold. Max is that player.”
To win the award, Madison beat out Hershey’s Reese Milton, Anchorage’s Ted Keefe, Dakota’s Matt Cherner, and fellow Wolf Fritz Kronstein.