Quite a bit has happened this season but even more things happened in January.
There were plenty of players which got some eyeballs in their direction and put themselves in position to potentially pick up some trophies, at least of the non-Clark Cup variety, at the end of the year.
So where do certain players stand when it comes to awards like Player of the Year, Forward of the Year and Goaltender of the Year? Let’s find out.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
-Kevin Roy, Lincoln, forward (Brown): The league’s scoring leader kept up his impressive season in January. He now has 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) so far this season but it made some wonder how he’d do in the second half with teams now knowing more about him. Roy has been electric since the post-Christmas break scoring 18 points in 11 games. He’s only had one game in January where he didn’t get a point.
-Andy Welinski, Green Bay, defenseman (Minnesota-Duluth/Anaheim): He’s led what’s easily been the best team in the USHL this season to what could be one of the best year’s in this league’s history. Welinski’s true mark on this team could be how he’s spearheaded a defense which has been indomitable. Green Bay still hasn’t surrendered 100 goals on this season we’re more than halfway through the year. Don’t forget about his offensive production scoring 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 33 games. He’s already surpassed his numbers from last season and has a remarkable plus-26 to his name.
-Austin Farley, Fargo, forward (Minnesota-Duluth): Fargo’s nine-game winning streak was powered by many players and Farley was certainly at the top of the list. Farley’s 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) put him on a pace to shatter the franchise mark for most points and possibly most goals in a season. Eighteen of those came during the Force’s nine-game winning streak. Throw in how he’s extremely good at agitating opposing players and it can be argued he serves a dual role making him even more valuable to the Force.
-Jon Gillies, Indiana, goaltender (Northeastern): Gillies is proving month in and month out he’s one of the best – maybe the best – netminder in the league. Indiana, like Fargo, went on a strong stretch winning seven games in a row and Gillies helped his team try to climb what feels like the impossible ladder which is the Eastern Conference. Gillies won his first six straight starts following the Christmas Break and as a result has some of the best numbers of any goalie in the league. He’s 19-6-5 with a 2.56 GAA, a .921 save percentage and has 1,760 minutes too.
-Nolan Zajac, Omaha, defenseman (Denver): Zajac is the name on this not many people expected to see but get familiar with it. Zajac is tied with Green Bay’s Jordan Schmaltz (North Dakota) with 25 points, the most among defenseman in the league. Zajac showed last season at Cedar Rapids with his 30 points in 47 games campaign, he could put up points. This year, however, he was traded to an offensively-starved Omaha and has chipped in 24 points in the 31 games he’s played there. He has 12 points in his last seven games and has helped Omaha reclaim first place with a four-point lead over Lincoln.
OUR PICK: It has to be a toss-up between Roy and Welinski. We’ll go with Welinski for now because it’s hard to argue against anything he and the Gamblers are doing right now.
FORWARD OF THE YEAR
-Kevin Roy, Lincoln (Brown): See our argument for Roy when it comes to Player of the Year. Dude has been incredible for Lincoln all season and it appears what he’s done to this point is not a fluke.
-Austin Farley, Fargo (Minnesota-Duluth): His season jump started a team and a franchise which didn’t have the greatest start in the world. He hasn’t scored in the last three games and that’s bound to happen because no one in this league scores in every game all the time. Going back to Farley’s role as an agitator, it certainly helps him get into an opponent’s head and it can’t be overlooked how good he is at it.
-Daniil Tarasov, Indiana: Tarasov is having one the best seasons for any player in the USHL as his 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) practically mirrors that of Farley. Tarasov’s numbers aren’t a surprise given the high-octane system Indiana runs. The fact he’s done it with a younger cast is extremely impressive. Aside from Roy and Dubuque’s Zemgus Girgensons, there isn’t another forward who can change a game like this guy.
-Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque (Vermont): Injuries and international duty took a few games away from the Latvian superstar but let’s face it, he deserves to be in this talk because he’s just one of those players who teams do gameplan around. Girgensons has 31 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 29 games and he’s a four-point game away from being in the Top 15. Getting into the Top 5 might seem improbable but if anyone has the talent to do it, it is him.
-Nolan LaPorte, Green Bay (Western Michigan): LaPorte’s a victim of the whole, “Good team, good system” argument but he shouldn’t be. The talent is there and he’s showing it but there is a difference with him and everyone else on this list. The other four guys need to score for their teams to win. Green Bay’s success doesn’t hinge on just LaPorte but let’s face it. If he’s not there, maybe their first line isn’t so stacked and neither is their power play. He has 10 power play goals and seven helpers on the one-man advantage. Argue all you want but you can’t overlook him.
OUR PICK: Roy yet don’t be surprised if Mr. Girgensons wants to make this interesting. He’s good at that.
DEFENSEMAN OF THE YEAR:
-Andy Welinski, Green Bay (Minnesota-Duluth/Anaheim): Same with Roy. He’s an MVP candidate and at least in our eyes, has to be the easiest player to choose for this award Then again, that’s us.
-Nolan Zajac, Omaha (Denver): Zajac is becoming an example of Omaha’s system of “Give us your tired, your hungry, your tradeable and we’ll take those players and beat you and everyone else with them.” Zajac’s offensive injection has helped Omaha comeback into focus. Also, did you see we had him listed as a Player of the Year candidate too?
-Jordan Schmaltz, Green Bay (North Dakota): We had a post here not too long ago talking about how this is when Schmaltz strikes like opponents like they’re the newest piece of meat coming into the state pen. He has 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) in his 23 games with Green Bay since the trade.
-Brian Cooper, Fargo (Nebraska-Omaha): Cooper’s numbers are starting to get back to the pace he was on last season when he scored 33 (11 goals, 22 assists) in 53 games. He now has 17 (5 goals, 12 assists) in 33 games. What people aren’t really saying about Cooper is how he has become better as a defensive-defenseman. Plus, a few scouts have said he was the best player at the USHL Prospects Game.
-Michael Matheson, Dubuque (Boston College): Matheson and Cooper are so similar in terms of expectations. They haven’t been putting up these glittering offensive numbers but they have been better about adapting to being more complete players. Matheson is anchoring a defense which has only given up 96 goals in the league this season. And yes, if it’s not for Green Bay, this would be the lowest in the league.
OUR PICK: If we’re taking Welinski for Player of the Year, we might want to take him for this one too.
GOALTENDER OF THE YEAR:
-Jon Gillies, Indiana (Northeastern): Balls so hard. It’s crazy. Hova lyrics aside, guy really is having one of the best years for any goalie in the league. At 6-5, 190 pound he always had the physical tools but people questioned if he could put it together in regards to the USHL. It appears he has.
-Zane Gothberg, Fargo (North Dakota/Boston): Gothberg’s January was the stuff many goalies dream of winning nine straight starts and in the process climbing into the Top Five in wins, goals against average, shutouts, save percentage, etc. When this season is over, he could hold FIVE franchise records in the two years he’s spent with the Force. Everything from his attitude to his style of play has changed. It’s made him better and life for others a lot more difficult.
-Matthew O’Connor, Youngstown (Boston University): Gillies and Gothberg without doubt had better months, but O’Connor’s season easily ranks up there with anyone. Youngstown has had quite a few reasons for their success but O’Connor is one of the big ones. He’s provided a steady presence in net and that’s why they’re in fourth. They could be higher and they’re going to be, they need this guy who is 18-8-3 this year with a 2.67 GAA.
-Alex Lyon, Omaha (Yale): Like O’Connor, Lyon has been a constant for his team this season. He was great when the Lancers were struggling to score goals and he’s continued to be good helping them reach first in the Western Conference as of Monday. Lyon’s line is 17-8-2 with a 2.78 GAA.
-Jay Williams, Waterloo (Miami (Ohio): This spot could have also gone to Green Bay’s Ryan McKay, a fellow Miami commit, who once again is having another fantastic season but we go with Williams instead. Everyone talked about Waterloo’s offense but Williams was extremely overlooked and has put up the numbers to get hm noticed. He’s 11-5-4 with a 2.62 GAA. Waterloo is in third by a point over Fargo but they do have some games in hand on everyone else. If he plays big, Waterloo could move up.
OUR PICK: We go with Gilles but if Youngstown, Omaha and Fargo make some late season pushes, this could get fun to watch.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
-Kevin Roy, Lincoln (Brown): Mama, there goes that man again. Yeah, he’s a rookie. So in one year he could potentially walk off with Player of the Year, Forward of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
-Taylor Cammarata, Waterloo (Minnesota): Aside from the first guy on this list, there hasn’t been a first-year player with no prior junior experience to have the impact on a like Cammarata. His 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) are eighth in the league and he’s just two points out of being in the Top 5. If it really isn’t for Kevin Roy, Cammarata in many minds would have to be the frontrunner. Maybe he still he is.
-Michael Downing, Dubuque (Michigan): Defenseman are, at times, the biggest project a coach can take on in terms of a rookie. Downing has made Montgomery look extremely smart helping out a defense which lost its starter but still managed to never waiver in the Eastern Conference standings. Downing only has six points in 30 games but he’s achieving consistency.
-Austin Cangelosi, Youngstown (Boston University): He’s like Cammarata. Great season. A major reason why people are taking notice towards his team. He’s a gamer. He’s a baller. Playmaker. Shotcaller. He’s second on his team in points with 36 (16 goals, 20 assists). What hurts him is Kevin Roy. Between Kevin Roy and Green Bay, they’re making a lot of us forget how good others have been.
-Dave Gust, Fargo: Gust was playing midgets back in Chicago and the Force brought him in and since then he’s been everything the Force has needed and more. He has made his line, which also features fellow rookies Alex Iafallo and Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), the second-best line on a team which won nine games in a row. Gust has 16 points in just 21 games. Not bad for such a short amount of time
OUR PICK: Common sense says go with Roy. The side of us which has a heart says Cammarata. In the end, we’ll take Roy.