As the 2018-19 regular season comes to a close, I look back on it very fondly. As a media member, I really don’t have any horse in the race when it comes to the AJHL, but I will say this: it is way more fun to cover a winning hockey team than it is a losing one.
This year’s Crusaders team won a whole hell of a lot more than they lost and that fact makes these awards that much more difficult to hand out. The team has made the playoffs every year I’ve covered them, but they’ve never been this good.
While most around the team are looking forward to the playoffs, I’ve decided to look back at the regular season starting with my yearly team awards, where I’ll give my thoughts on who should be the team’s MVP as well as some other individual awards, and finishing off with my year in review which will be up before round one of the playoffs kicks off.
MIDSEASON PICK: The Goalies
There are plenty of different ways I could go with this one. At the halfway point, I decided to name both Matt Berlin and Carter Gylander my vote for team MVP. I’m going in a different direction for my year-end pick. There are plenty of worthy candidates too.
Carter Savoie would be a great pick. He’s the teams leading scorer with 72 points. That also has him 5th in the entire AJHL. Seemingly every night he’s getting on the scoresheet. Garrett Clegg has eleven game winners this year, which is tied for the most in the league.
But I have to go with Arjun Atwal for my MVP Award. The veteran centre battled through some injuries earlier in the year but when in the lineup, he was one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league. His 1.6 points per game are third in the AJHL behind the league’s MVP Dylan Holloway and Storm forward Noah Carson who had a PPG of 1.7.
On top of that, he’s a leader and is one of their best players at both ends of the rink.
END OF YEAR PICK: ARJUN ATWAL
DEFENSEMAN OF THE YEAR
MIDSEASON PICK: Michael Benning
As much I have raved about the Crusaders scoring depth this season, the contributions they’ve gotten from everyone in their top-four on the backend has been tremendous. Michael Bentz has morphed into a reliable two-way defender and Tyler Jette’s seemingly effortless stride and calm play has been undervalued in my opinion.
That being said, I love offence and you need goals to win. That’s why I’m sticking with Michael Benning as my pick. He is a truly elite offensive player and the growth I’ve seen from him both in his own end and in the neutral zone (which is a very underrated area of the ice for a defender to be good in) is amazing. He’s going to be their number one for years to come and his dynamic play makes him my pick for “Defenseman of The Year”.
END OF YEAR PICK: MICHAEL BENNING
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
MIDSEASON PICK: Carter Savoie
I’m starting this segment with a shoutout to Brayden Hyland. The 20-year-old rookie was an incredible story and if you haven’t heard his story, listen to this edition of Inside The Cru.
I just finished raving about Michael Benning, so now it’s time to talk about Carter Savoie, who should probably be the AJHL’s Rookie of the Year when things get announced. He’s fifth in league scoring, he isn’t afraid to bring some physicality, and he competes every single shift. Just such a special hockey player and Crusaders fans should be excited to watch him take another step forward next year.
END OF YEAR PICK: CARTER SAVOIE
MIDSEASON PICK: Cody Laskosky
Well, I can’t pick Laskosky because he’s been traded but there are plenty of other candidates. I touched on him earlier, but I love what Tyler Jette has brought to this team. He’s rarely on the scoresheet but he impacts the game in so many other ways. He’s a smooth skating, smart defenseman and those are rare. One thing I noticed while looking at his stats: he’s only taken 48 penalty minutes this year. For a guy who regularly takes on the other team’s best players and succeeds at shutting them down, the fact he can stay out of the box the way he does is incredible.
END OF YEAR PICK: TYLER JETTE
ACQUISITION OF THE YEAR
MIDSEASON PICK: Nick Bowman
Nick Bowman was a great pickup and he’s still a very meaningful contributor but I want to credit Kyle Chase with the pickup of Zach Kaiser. After being picked up at the deadline, Kaiser has come in and given the team a truly elite one-two punch down the middle. He scores, he skates hard, and he can play with a multitude of wingers. Chase added an elite scoring centre to this team and it’s paying off.
END OF YEAR PICK: ZACH KAISER
MIDSEASON PICK: Will Zapernick
Will Zapernick is your wire-to-wire winner folks. He might hit 30 goals by the time this season is done and the fact he’s produced consistently all year has really impressed me. He never went more than three games without a point and even that only happened three times. He had point streaks of five games twice and a seven-game streak as well.
On top of that, he isn’t afraid to mix it up physically and snagged a scholarship to the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
END OF YEAR PICK: WILL ZAPERNICK