We might be at the Christmas Break, but it doesn’t mean its too early to talk about postseason awards.
You know the drill. Player of the Year. Forward of the Year. Defenseman of the Year. Goalie of the Year. Rookie of the Year and finally, Coach of the Year. We’ll take a look at four candidates, to this point, explaining what makes the worth considering for these awards.
Let’s start with the most coveted award:
Player of the Year:
-Austin Farley, Fargo Force, forward (Minnesota-Duluth): Yeah, Farley’s team had a really rough start but so far has bounced back winning five of the last six. Fargo’s always had a big-game forward and it appeared to be lacking it this season. Then Farley, stepped up surprising quite a few people. At the break he is either tied for or leads the league in three offensive categories including game-winning goals with four. He also is tied for third in scoring. He’s second in goals and he has nine multi-point games this season including a four-point performance against Omaha in a 7-1 win before the break. In all, he has 17 goals and 13 assists in 24 games.
-Matthew O’Connor, Youngstown Phantoms, goaltender (Boston University): Many things can be said about the resurgence in Youngstown. Of those discussion topics, O’Connor comes up frequently. O’Connor has been the backbone of the Phantoms this year and he’s using his hulking 6-5, 195-pound frame to make the net small and keep his team in games. He’s tied for the league lead in wins with 13. He has a 2.48 GAA, which is third in the USHL. He’s sixth in saves and fourth in save percentage. All of these things has helped the Phantoms be the shock of the season as they headed into the break tied for second in the Eastern Conference.
-Kevin Roy, Lincoln Stars, forward (Brown): Maybe no player has had a greater impact on a team this year than Roy. Lincoln had several solid pieces in place but there was a question of who would be the player to ascend and take control. Roy has done just that and has changed the way people look at Lincoln. Lincoln last year had a solid playmaker in Ryan Dzingel but with Roy they have more. They have a goal-scoring threat. A creator. Someone who is illusive and can draw attention freeing up others. Roy is having the season of the year with 20 goals and 18 assists. He leads the league in points (38), goals, and shots on goal. His best performance and arguably performance of the year to this point was a five-point night against the Force.
-Andy Welinski, Green Bay Gamblers, defenseman (Minnesota-Duluth/Anaheim): Welinski really impressed people last season as a rookie scoring 14 points in 51 games. This year? He’s shattering everything he did last year. Welinski already has 15 points through 21 games this season and he’s in the Top 5 in just about every offensive category for a defenseman this year. His smooth skating and active stick have helped the Gamblers cripple the USHL having given up a league-low 57 goals making them the best defense in the league. He has helped lead Green Bay to a team which went from promising to let’s admit it, historic. They are damn near unbeatable. They are what Ivan Drago should have been: A mean, unrelenting machine who seeks perfection and domination. Welinski is a big, big reason why.
DARK HORSE: Two guys are hard to ignore. One is Indiana’s Daniil Tarasov. The 20-year-old Russian has 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points, making him second in the league in scoring. Don’t be surprised if he make a serious run at this award. Another guy is Green Bay’s Ryan McKay. McKay (Miami (Ohio)) is just having another stellar year in net with an 11-2-1 record and a 2.17 GAA. McKay’s biggest hurdle for winning the award might be his team. They’re playing well and his strong season could get lost in it.
FRONTRUNNER TO THIS POINT: Right now, it has to be O’Connor. Very few people saw Youngstown having this kind of season. O’Connor had a dismal year last season and needed to be good this year for the Phantoms to have a chance. He’s done that and more.
Forward of the Year:
-Austin Farley, Fargo: Farley’s case was already made in the Forward of the Year discussion but here’s more to chew on. If Farley just scored goals, he’d still lead the Force in scoring. If you just used his assists, he’d be second on the team. He’s also been deadly on the power play. Farley has a league-high eight power play goals and leads the USHL with 13 power play points. He’s also tied for second in short-handed goals with two.
-Jimmy Murray, Omaha Lancers (St. Cloud State): Murray has just been the lynchpin making everything in Omaha strong. This was a team which had trouble scoring goals and Murray’s been the remedy. The USHL’s assist king has 24 helpers and 30 points this season. He’s helped Omaha overcome a scoring slump and a change at coach to win six of the team’s last seven games.
-Kevin Roy, Lincoln Stars: Like Farley, Roy’s case has been made earlier in this entry. But let’s look at what he does for Lincoln. The Stars last year relied upon Dzingel, an NHL Draft pick, in a playmaking role more than anything. For as good as Dzingel was, he never took over a game quite like Roy. Also, when http://slightlychilled.areavoices.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpthe Quebec Remparts are supposedly interested in you, you can’t be that bad.
-Daniil Tarasov, Indiana Ice: Homeboy is showing he can go from being a supporting cast member to a leading man this season. There were questions about him and whether or not he could replicate last season’s performance without Blake Coleman (now at Nebraska-Omaha) or Brian Ferlin (now at Cornell). So far, Tarasov has been a goal scorer and a facilitator for what might be the most dangerous offense in the USHL.
DARKHORSE: Hard to think that Alex Broadhurst would be a dark horse candidate but so far that’s the position he’s in. Broadhurst (Nebraska-Omaha/Chicago) has been lights out this year scoring 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) for the Gamblers. He’s on pace to smash his 33-point effort from a year ago.
FRONTRUNNER TO THIS POINT: Roy. There’s no question about it. Guy is the best forward in the USHL right now.
Defenseman of the Year:
-Seth Jones, NTDP: Go ahead and make this argument about how Jones plays for the NTDP and how the NTDP “doesn’t count.” Doesn’t matter. Guy is the most skilled defenseman in the league and every scout will willingly admit that. Jones has a smooth blend of a powerful shot, punishing body checks and making smooth, easy passes. He may have only played in eight USHL games this season due to the NTDP’s schedule but he’s made the most of it with five points. NTDP players usually don’t win these awards but don’t get it twisted. Jones is the real deal and has to be considered for the award even if he doesn’t win it.
-Paul LaDue, Lincoln Stars (North Dakota): LaDue was a bit of an unknown having spent last season with Alexandria in the NAHL. This year, however, he’s hard to miss. LaDue plays first-line minutes. He’s on the power play. He’s on the penalty kill. LaDue does a lot of things for the Stars and has been part of the success they’ve had this season. One thing his coach Chad Johnson said is LaDue is a smart player. It shows. He has no penalty minutes this season. Yep. None at all. He also has 12 points in 22 games this season too.
-Markus Lauridsen, Green Bay Gamblers (St. Cloud State): Hey look. It’s a Green Bay Gambler on a list for post-season awards. Lauridsen has been absolutely stellar in his second season with the Gamblers. Offensively, he’s been dynamic as it gets. He leads all USHL defensemen with 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) in 25 games. Lauridsen has also been extremely good on the power play with 10 points. Defensively, he’s been a smart player this year only having six penalty minutes. Lauridsen along with Welinski are anchoring what is the best defense in the USHL.
-Andy Welinski, Green Bay Gamblers: What do you know? There’s another Gambler on this list. When you have the league’s most dominant defense, it tends to happen. Welinski is having a standout year. It’s why we think he should be a Player of the Year candidate as well. Numbers aside, Welinski’s leadership has been tested this year and he’s passed every time. He watched as the team brought in Jordan Schmaltz (North Dakota) and helped make losing three players appear to be seamless. In fact, he and Lauridsen have played so well, it almost makes Schmaltz an afterthought. Now watch Schmaltz put up explosive numbers and get into this argument.
DARKHORSE: Indiana’s Alex Barron (Quinnipiac) has moved into the offensive-defenseman role, which has become such a mainstay with the Ice. He’s improved on last year’s 14-point effort in 51 games scoring 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) through 25 games this year.
FRONTRUNNER TO THIS POINT: Should be Jones. But for the sake of being accurate, we’ll go with Welinski. He’s the safe bet. Not that we’re betting. Or Bettman.
Goaltender of the Year:
-Jon Gillies, Indiana Ice (Northeastern): Defense, at least last season, was such a concern for the Ice. Gillies has managed to take those worries and erode whatever thoughts people may have had about Indiana at the back. He’s been amazing for the Ice putting up a 13-5-4 record with a 2.47 GAA. His wins are tied for first. His GAA is the second-best in the league. Now here’s where it gets really interested. Gillies leads the league in minutes played with 1265:32 and has faced more shots (526) than anyone in the league. Gillies even leads the league in save percentage with a .923 clip AND he’s played in 23 games. Indiana has had 25 games so far this season. He’s been a workhorse. Or a Jawhorse. Take your pick.
-Ryan McKay, Green Bay Gamblers: McKay just continues to win games and put up awesome numbers in the process. The third-year vet has a 2.17 GAA, which is tops in the entire USHL. Not to mention he’s backstopping the league’s best team. All McKay does is win games and he’s won 11 of them so far. We have him listed as a darkhorse candidate for Player of the Year because he’s been that good. But he does have competition for Goaltender of the Year.
-Matthew O’Connor, Youngstown: He’s our pick to win Player of the Year to this point. That says it all.
-Jackson Teichroeb, Lincoln Stars: Teichroeb is finally showing people what made Lincoln go out and trade for him. Teichroeb always had the skills. He was set to be Dubuque’s No. 1 goalie last season but Morris emerged and the rest is history. With Teichroeb getting more minutes, he’s been a rock for the Stars. He’s gone 11-7-1 with a 2.51 GAA and a .903 save percentage to boot. Teichroeb will really get tested after the break with Lincoln fighting it out with Omaha for Western Conference supremacy.
DARKHORSE: Waterloo’s Jay Williams gets overlooked because of the firepower on his team. Williams (Miami (Ohio)) has gone 9-4-4 this year and has managed to keep the Black Hawks in games in case the offense has an off night.
FRONTRUNNER TO THIS POINT: It really does come down to Gillies vs. O’Connor. That being said, we take O’Connor.
Rookie of the Year:
-Taylor Cammarata, Waterloo Black Hawks, forward (Minnesota): Cammarata came into the USHL with quite a bit of hype and so far he’s been living up to expectations. He opened the season setting up goals and now he’s scoring them. He has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) and it has helped the Black Hawks to third place in the Western Conference heading into the Christmas Break. Waterloo was expected to do well with all the firepower it has on the team. How Cammarata would do was a question. So far he’s answered the question with ease.
-Austin Cangelosi, Youngstown Phantoms, forward (Boston College): Kind of like Cammarata, Cangelosi has played a major role in how his team is doing this season. Youngstown had plenty of experienced players on the roster. But having a player jump out as a surprise, in a good way, is never a bad thing. Cangelosi has been an extremely pleasant surprise for Youngstown this year. He gives them a consistent offensive threat as he’s second on the team in scoring with 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in just 17 games. He’s also a plus-15, which is a team high.
-Michael Downing, Dubuque Fighting Saints, defenseman (Michigan): Dubuque with a first-year defenseman for a ROY candidate. Not a shocker. His first name is Michael. Once again, not a shocker. Michael Downing? Yep. That’s the surprise for some. People expected Michael Matheson to have a good year and he has. Matheson will probably be a first-round pick in the draft and could still win this award. But for now, you have to take notice with what Downing is doing. He’s come in and has been a steady force at the back for Dubuque, which lost starting goaltender Matt Morris (Maine) for more than a month due to injury. Downing doesn’t have great numbers (5 points in 22 games) but he’s bringing consistency to a team which could do some damage in the second half.
-Kevin Roy, Lincoln Stars: Yeah, he’s a rookie. Makes what he’s doing even more impressive.
-Alex Lyon, Omaha Lancers, goaltender (Yale): Lyon has been able to transfer what he did at Lake of the Woods (MN-HS) last season into the USHL. He’s getting a lot more help offensively but is still finding ways to keep games close for his team. The 6-1, 200-pounder might not jump out as a ROY candidate right away but look at the numbers. His 11 wins are tied for third in the USHL. His 2.93 GAA is kind of high but knowing Lyon, he’ll find a way to lower it. He’ll have to if Omaha wants to stay atop the Western Conference standings.
DARKHORSE: Calling Matheson (Boston College) a darkhorse sounds weird but for now, he’s in the spot. Matheson has been getting warm as of late with three points in his last five games. He has eight points in 24 games this season. He’s been playing a more defensive role and not getting the points people expected. We have seen defenseman (i.e. 2010-11 Schmaltz) go off on a late-season tear and shock the masses. Matheson could do it.
FRONTRUNNER TO THIS POINT: Cammarata looks very good but at the same time Roy is just killing people. Roy for ROY just looks cool. We’ll take Roy.
Coach of the Year:
-Chad Johnson, Lincoln Stars: Ocho Cinco, Wait. Steve Johnson’s brother. Wait. Luke’s uncle. Wait. Chad Johnson made a name for himself last year leading the Stars back to relevance. This year. He’s taking them to new heights. Between having players like Roy, Ladue and Teichroeb, he and his staff have found the right group to really build in their image. What Johnson is doing in his second year with the team cannot be overlooked.
-Derek Lalonde, Green Bay: The former Denver assistant has pretty much been rocking out in Green Bay. He and his NHL Draft Picks pretty much cruise around the Midwest shattering dreams and ruining hopes like they’re a natural disaster. They lost to the Phantoms the other day showing they’re human. Soon, they’ll look like a machine again with the inhumane way they beat people. And by inhumane, we mean they don’t give anyone a chance.
-Brett Larson, Sioux City Musketeers: When Schmaltz high-tailed it out of town many left Sioux City for dead. The Musketeers are very much alive these days. They went on a tear following the trade and are now third place in the Western Conference. Once they get over .500, more people will probably take notice with the job the first-year coach has done. When you think about it what the former Minnesota-Duluth assistant has done in the last month has been impressive. His superstar left town, he got other players in return and is winning more now than he did with his previous roster.
-Anthony Noreen, Youngstown: Noreen, who was an assistant last season, has taken over the Phantoms and has made them scary. His knowledge of the personnel and the system has them playing really well. The Phantoms missed the playoffs by a point last season. Thanks to Noreen, they are tied for second place in the Eastern Conference and should be on point by the time the playoffs roll around.
DARKHORSE: Jim Montgomery has to be considered. The other day we compared his team to Cobra Kai. They’re waiting to strike hard and strike fast. Guy thrives in the second half of the season. Ask teams in the Western Conference. He walked in a trail of their blood on the way to getting the Clark Cup.
FRONTRUNNER TO THIS POINT: It’s Lalonde. He took a team with high expectations and made them even higher. That being said, Noreen and others are still in this race.