At their final home game of the season this past weekend, the IceCaps presented their players with the first annual team awards. Three of the awards were chosen with votes from the media, and in the spirit of transparency, I'm going to take a page from Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated and detail whom I voted for and why.
The voting system involved each media member ranking three players in each category, where the first nominee received three points, the second received two and the third received one point. The overall point leaders were the winners, which turned out to be each of the players I awarded first place. In addition to these, I'll also list my honorable mention for each category, as it was difficult narrowing the selections down to three players.
Rookie of the Year: Eddie Pasquale
1st: Eddie Pasquale - This wasn't a difficult pick for me, as the netminder's 22 wins in 36 appearances played a major role in the IceCaps' division title. He also received AHL All-Rookie Team honors at his position.
2nd: Zach Redmond - The first-year defenseman has played a steady, simple game all season, putting together 8 goals, 31 points and a plus-11 rating. He also represented the IceCaps at the AHL All-Star game in January.
3rd: John Albert - I went a little off the board with this pick, but the center has played dependably in all situations, up and down the forward lines. His point production has improved steadily throughout the season, and the praise I've heard from Head Coach Keith McCambridge about Albert's effort and work ethic were evidence enough for me.
Honorable Mention: Carl Klingberg - The left-winger began this season on a scoring tear that had him as lock for this award. Yet his production went cold before the half and many nights he can't seem to buy a goal. With Albert's game improving as the season progressed, I gave the Ohio-native the nod.
Defenseman of the Year: Paul Postma
1st: Paul Postma - At a glance, one could view Postma`s minus-12 rating as cause to deny him this award, but that narrow analysis doesn't accurately reflect his impact on the IceCaps. Postma dictates his team's attack every time he`s on the ice, is one of league`s best power-play skaters, and kills penalties as well. McCambridge, along with every player I've spoken to, refers to Postma as the team`s best defenseman.
2nd: Arturs Kulda - Kulda has every tool that you would want in a d-man: he hits, hustles, blocks shots, has a heavy shot, and makes a good outlet pass. His plus-16 rating leads all IceCaps this year.
3rd: Zach Redmond - Not known as a hitter, Redmond plays more of a Lidstrom-esque game, where one tends not to notice him because he makes very few mistakes. He's sound positionally, has a good stick and makes the simple play more often than not.
Honorable Mention: Travis Ramsey - This was a tough call, as I love Ramsey's shutdown game. He eats huge minutes for the IceCaps and get the toughest assignments most nights. He also takes very few bad penalties, despite his physical style, but I gave the edge to Redmond as awards tend to lean heavily on stats.
Most Valuable Player: Paul Postma
1st: Paul Postma - A first team All-Star this season in the AHL, Postma's 0.8 points-per-game average is the best among defensemen league-wide. He sits second in team scoring and since he's been injured, the IceCaps have had considerable trouble winning games.
2nd: Spencer Machacek - As the IceCaps leading scorer, Machacek makes a good case for MVP-status. He spent the first half of the season as the IceCaps' best playmaker, but has developed other elements of his game, such as goal-scoring and forechecking. This hard work was evidenced by his strong second stint with the Winnipeg Jets late this season.
3rd: Jason Jaffray - The St. John's captain has been Mr. Everything to his team this year. In only 47 games, he has put up 17 goals - good for second on the team - but he also hits, blocks a ton of shots, plays on both special teams, and brings leadership and character to the group.
Honorable Mention: Eddie Pasquale - You can always make a case for a successful team's top goalie being their MVP. Yet he's only played six more games than fellow netminder David Aebischer, so it would be hard to hand the title to Pasquale outright.