WHL announces 2016-17 award winners

B. Watson


Calgary, Alta. – The Western Hockey League held its annual WHL Awards ceremony today at the Deerfoot Inn in Calgary, Alta., to honour the top performances from the WHL’s 2016-17 season.

WHL Player of the Year – Four Broncos Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Sam Steel – Regina Pats

After being selected in the first round, 30th overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, Steel had a monstrous year for the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy-winning Regina Pats. With 50 goals and 81 assists in 66 games, Steel claimed the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer as well as the CHL’s scoring title. Steel’s 131 points were the most in the WHL since 2011-12 and he was twice named the WHL’s Player of the Week. The Sherwood Park, AB native posted 40 multipoint games in 2016-17, including 10 in which he notched at least four points. In three seasons with the Pats, Steel has amassed 255 points (90g-165a) in 204 regular season games.

RUNNER UP: Mathew Barzal – Seattle Thunderbirds

WHL Rookie of the Year – Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Aleksi Heponiemi – Swift Current Broncos

Shortly after being selected 10th overall by the Broncos in the 2016 CHL Import Draft, Heponiemi opened eyes by recording 15 points (5g-10a) in six WHL preseason games. The Tampere, Finland native went on to finish atop all rookies in regular season scoring with 86 points (28g-58a) while playing in all 72 games. Heponiemi finished second in team scoring and led the Broncos with 58 assists, 30 of which came on the man advantage. The skilled, 1999-born forward is eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft.

RUNNER UP: Rudolfs Balcers – Kamloops Blazers

WHL Goaltender of the Year – Del Wilson Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Carter Hart – Everett Silvertips

Hart enjoyed another terrific season with a record of 32-11-6-2 to help lead the Silvertips to the WHL’s Western Conference title. The reigning WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year led the league in goals-against average (1.99), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (9) in 2016-17. Selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Hart was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week this year. The Sherwood Park, AB product also earned a spot on Team Canada for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

RUNNER UP: Zach Sawchenko – Moose Jaw Warriors

WHL Defenceman of the Year – Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Ethan Bear – Seattle Thunderbirds

Ochapowace, SK product Ethan Bear helped lead a potent Thunderbirds attack this season, finishing the year third in team scoring with a career-high 70 points (28g-42a) over 67 games played. Bear finished second in the WHL with 14 power-play goals and led all rearguards with nine game-winning markers. Originally selected 25th overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, Bear has racked up 192 points (66g-126a) through 264 career WHL regular season games. Bear was chosen by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round, 124th overall, of the 2015 NHL Draft.

RUNNER UP: Connor Hobbs – Regina Pats

WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year – Brad Hornung Trophy
WINNER: Tyler Steenbergen – Swift Current Broncos

After a successful rookie season in 2015-16, which saw him record 46 points, Steenbergen took a leap forward this year with a 90-point campaign. The Sylvan Lake, AB product was one of five players to reach the 50-goal plateau in 2016-17, adding 39 assists to his 51 goals to lead the Broncos to a 39-win season. Steenbergen played all 72 games for Swift Current while recording just 22 minutes in penalties. Steenbergen is eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft.

RUNNER UP: Kevin Davis – Everett Silvertips

WHL Scholastic Player of the Year – Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Brian King – Everett Silvertips

A product of Golden, Colorado, 2016-17 marked King’s second full season with the Silvertips. In 62 regular season games this year, King notched 17 points (4g-13a) for Everett. King excelled at balancing his academic goals with the WHL schedule this year, posting a 4.0 GPA while taking difficult core AP courses such as English, Calculus and Physics. King also enrolled in College in the High School courses and multiple other honours classes while maintaining his GPA. Ranked first in his class at Everett High School, King qualified for membership in National Honor Society this year and posted a score of 1490/1600 on the new SAT. King is poised to become the valedictorian of Everett High School and also spends time providing tutoring to his teammates.

RUNNER UP: Adam Kadlec – Prince Albert Raiders

WHL Humanitarian of the Year – Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Tyler Wong – Lethbridge Hurricanes

Wong, the Eastern Conference Humanitarian of the Year for the third consecutive season, recently completed his fifth and final campaign with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. As team captain, the 21-year-old Wong has established himself as an exceptional ambassador for the Western Hockey League, both on and off the ice.

Building upon success from its inaugural season in 2015-16, Wong carried forward with the ‘Canes KidSport program in 2016-17, donating $5 to KidSport Lethbridge & Taber for each goal he scored. The initiative raised over $6,000 in 2015-16 and after setting a goal to raise $10,000 in 2016-17, Wong recruited Ryley Lindgren (now of the Swift Current Broncos), Giorgio Estephan and Jordy Bellerive to accept the challenge in support of KidSport. With the help of the community and alumni, Wong’s initiative surpassed its goal by raising over $13,0000 this season.

In addition to his contributions towards KidSport Lethbridge & Taber, Wong played a vital role in many other ways within the community, including through the “Hurricanes Spread Christmas Cheer” program in support of local foodbanks in southern Alberta. Along with coaches and teammates, he helped deliver food hampers and toy baskets and visited senior homes during the holiday season. Beyond this, Wong volunteered as a teacher’s assistant in a local classroom, served as a volunteer on-ice instructor for a number of minor hockey teams throughout the season and most recently worked with the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association to help individuals with mental and physical disabilities through horseback riding.

This season, Wong was voted as the Hurricanes “Fan Favourite Player” for fifth time, ensuring a clean sweep of the award across the duration of his WHL and Hurricanes career – a feat achieved by no other player in Lethbridge Hurricanes history.

RUNNER UP: Sam Ruopp – Prince George Cougars

WHL Coach of the Year – Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
WINNER: John Paddock – Regina Pats

In his third season behind the bench for Regina, Paddock guided the Pats to an impressive 52-12-7-1 record and the franchise’s first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular season champions since 1974. The Pats’ 52 wins and 112 points were each franchise records, breaking the previous marks that had stood since 1980-81. Regina began the season with an impressive 18-game unbeaten streak and proceeded to sit atop the CHL’s top-10 rankings for the vast majority of the season.

RUNNER UP: Mike Johnston – Portland Winterhawks

WHL Executive of the Year- Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
WINNER: John Paddock – Regina Pats

Also nominated for WHL Coach of the Year, Paddock had an equally impressive year from a management perspective. After snagging Ottawa Senators prospect Filip Ahl during the 2016 CHL Import Draft, Paddock and the Pats set their sights on signing top 2017 NHL Draft prospect Nick Henry. Paddock proceeded to bring in players such as Jonathan Smart, Dawson Davidson, Wyatt Sloboshan, Josh Mahura and Jeff de Wit via trade all while continuing to win with an eye towards hosting the 2018 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

RUNNER UP: Bruce Hamilton – Kelowna Rockets

WHL Business Award
WINNER: Regina Pats

The Regina Pats enjoyed a historic season on and off the ice in 2016-17. The team had its best regular season in its 99-year history, and that success reflected increases in every aspect of the business side of the organization. The Pats saw record growth in attendance and sponsorship thanks in part to added efforts in promotion, game-night experience and community initiatives. This season, the Pats’ average attendance increased by more than 900 fans per game, which was highlighted by 14 regular season sellouts. The Pats also used unique partnerships to engage the community such as a monthly Pats-themed pizza promotion with Lancaster Taphouse and a program with Sherwood Co-op, which saw free hockey cards featuring a new player handed out each week. Through unique programs and promotions, the Pats have helped raise funds for a number of organizations this year including the Canadian Cancer Society, Jays Care Foundation, The Lung Association, Regina Food Bank and the Outdoor Hockey League. Regina has also continued to invest in the fan experience after adding a state-of-the-art score clock last year by adding smoke machines, wireless cameras for concourse promotions and implementing the Junior Pats Announcer and Reporter programs to both enhance the fan experience and add value to the organization’s kids club.

RUNNER UP: Prince George Cougars

WHL Scholastic Team of the Year
WINNER: Victoria Royals

The Victoria Royals’ education program continued to excel in the 2016-17 season. This season, all students enrolled in high school or upgrading combined to achieve an impressive average of 91.34%, the highest team average in Royals history. Victoria’s commitment to academic excellence is supported by Education Advisor Tammy Renyard who works diligently with all prospects and players to identify an educational plan and ensure players transition into the WHL from their home schools smoothly and hold a university-ready transcript upon high-school graduation. While playing for Victoria, students attend weekly or biweekly tutoring sessions arranged by Renyard to help all players achieve their academic goals. Renyard and the Royals’ efforts have clearly paid dividends as no Royal has ever received an academic flag and 28 former players to date have accessed their WHL Scholarship in Victoria’s brief six-year history on Vancouver Island.

WHL Official of the Year – Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Brett Iverson

Brett Iverson continues to add to his already impressive resume with his first Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy. Most recently, the Richmond, BC native was assigned to officiate at the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship for the second consecutive year. Iverson’s impressive assignments have included the gold medal game at the 2016 World Junior Championship, multiple CHL Top Prospects and CIBC Canada-Russia Series games and multiple MasterCard Memorial Cups including the final in 2015. In addition to officiating in the WHL and prestigious international events, Iverson is an active official in the American Hockey League.

WHL Regular Season Champion – Scott Munro Memorial Trophy
WINNER: Regina Pats

The storied Pats franchise last earned top regular season honours in the 1973-74 WHL season. That year, the likes of Clark Gillies, Greg Joly, Dennis Sobchuk and Ed Staniowski guided Regina to both WHL and Memorial Cup titles. The Pats locked up the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy this year with 112 points and a record of 52-12-7-1, which saw the club finish the regular season first in the CHL’s top-10 rankings. This edition of the Pats has been led by its own brand of superstars, with Sam Steel leading the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring and captain Adam Brooks just one point back.

WHL Top Scorer – Bob Clarke Trophy
WINNER: Sam Steel – Regina Pats

An 18-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, Steel scored a remarkable 50 goals and 81 assists for 131 points in 66 games played during the 2016-17 WHL regular season. Steel not only led the Western Hockey League, but the Canadian Hockey League as well. Interestingly, Steel narrowly edged out his own teammate for the honour as Pats captain – and reigning Bob Clarke Trophy winner – as Adam Brooks finished the year with 130 points. Steel was selected 30th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2016 NHL Draft.

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