It's actually past time for me to present my annual awards. I'm sticking with the same four categories that I've used for the past 2 seasons. I considered adding categories but ultimately I like the simplicity of this format even if it doesn't recognize as many players as I'd like. So I'll encourage readers to make their selections in the comments section and/or add any categories you think are appropriate. With these awards in hand and 6 dollars in their pockets these guys can get a Grande Mocha Latte at Starbucks!
Rookie of the Year
At .55 points per game the 5ft 8in, 170lb defenseman was far and away the top producing rookie for the Seawolves 08-09 season and ranked him 5th on the team in points per game. In 22 total games Curtis scored 2 goals and added 10 assists of which 8 were the 1st or primary assist. His goal in OT versus DU on January 31st was quite probably the most memorable goal by any player this season. Curtis showed energy, enthusiasm and intensity whenever he took the ice this season. He spent two short stretches on the sidelines injured missing 12 games overall. Dynamic is perhaps an overused word when describing hockey players but I find no other adjective that does a better job of defining his play. Curtis has an ability to quickly size up the on-ice situation and makes quality decisions with the puck faster than 90 percent of his peers. He is a skilled puck handler with wheels to match. Curtis came to UAA after leading the AJHL in scoring by blueliners. With minimum polishing this gem will shine for the Seawolves in the next three years. Count on it.
Most Improved Player
Doubling one's output from one season to the next can often be used as a milestone to measure improvement. This season the 6ft 2in, 190lb winger tripled his goal production from 5 during his freshman season to 15 which included 2 shorthanders. Tommy had a helluva nice stretch from late October through the middle of January where he scored 12 goals in 16 games. Playing on a line with Paul Crowder certainly helped him succeed so nicely this season. Crowder provided 5 primary assists. But more importantly, Tommy did the finishing. His confidence with the puck was evident from my balcony seat. In every season one hopes for a super-soph season from some player on the squad. Not every year does such a player turn up as it seems that a sophomore jinx takes hold at least as often. Next year as an upperclassman he should be a legitimate scoring threat on just about any shift he takes.
Heart and Soul
I certainly couldn't have gone wrong by naming either of last years Heart and Soul players to this years award. Both Mat Robinson and Kevin Clark had very very solid seasons and contributed so much to the team's success. But I was so impressed with Nils consistently excellent play from the 1st game to the last that I simply couldn't pass him up for some recognition. My template for this award is former Seawolf Justin Johnson who never gave less than 115% effort. Nils matched that this season. He lived up to the potential that the Detroit Red Wings organization saw when they drafted him. Since being drafted Nils has quietly slipped further and further down Detroit's prospect chart. Someone down there ought to be paying attention. Nils didn't have spectacular numbers this season but he played nearly mistake free hockey in his own zone. I think he matured greatly during the past two seasons. He may not light up the league next season in terms of scoring but more importantly he'll be keeping the opponents top lines from adding to their scoring stats. And hey ... the Wooger has much love for him.
Most Valuable Player
I struggled with this choice more than any other. It wasn't that I had any doubt about Paul's contributions to the team or his worthiness. Those things were clear in my mind. But instead, I had to talk myself out of naming Kevin Clark as a co-winner. Kevin's very strong finish to the season weighed heavily for me. Ultimately though, it was Crowder's ability to make anyone he skated with a better player that tipped the scales. Of course, Paul's 14 goals and 19 assists trumped Kevin's 13 goals and 18 assists and his team leading plus/minus of +11 outpaced Kevin's -3. I remember talking with his dad between periods one night after Paul had been in a bit of a tussle near the end of the period. His dad told me that Paul was going to score because whenever someone pissed him off he usually scored. He was dead on right of course (fathers know best). I think everyone assumed that Paul was a free-agent flight risk and his signing by the Rangers was really only surprising in terms of how quickly it happened. He'll be missed.