Welcome to our look at the MVP Candidates for the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs. I’ll revisit this feature now and as the race for Mr. Kelly’s cup continues.
For the purposes of this initial article, every team left in the playoff field was represented, however, additional weight were given to teams if it appears they are advancing toward the next round.
Here’s my top 10, through Wednesday night:
10. Matt Leitner – Manchester Monarchs
After finishing the regular season with 53 points in 51 games, Leitner is continuing his success in these playoffs. He recently had a five-game point streak snapped in game five on Wednesday night and his twelve points (5G, 7A) leads the Monarchs, who are poised to make their first trip to the conference finals as members of the ECHL.
9. Greger Hanson – Allen Americans
After playing second fiddle to Chad Costello in offensive output during the regular season, Hanson has stepped up to become the best Americans player in these playoffs. He is tied for the team lead in points with eight in eight playoff games (3G, 5A). In addition, he is chipping in on the power play, with two goals on the man-advantage.
8. Pat Nagle – Fort Wayne Komets
It is fair to say that the Komets’ goaltenders have been the victims of a copious amount of turnovers that the defense and forward corps have committed through the first round and a half of the playoffs. Despite that, Pat Nagle has provided the Komets with excellent goaltending so far. In seven games played, Nagle is 4-3 (two of the losses coming in overtime,) has a 2.46 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. If it weren’t for Nagle, the Komets may well be golfing.
7. John McCarron – Florida Everblades
The Florida Everblades certainly have scuffled in the playoffs, but one of the standout players for Brad Ralph‘s team has been John McCarron. McCarron is your prototypical power forward that loves to mix things up while being a playmaker and his numbers certainly back that up. Through 11 games, McCarron has 13 points (2G, 11A) and 29 penalty minutes. Interestingly, four of those 13 points have come on the power play.
6. Zach Fucale – Brampton Beast
After a pedestrian regular season, the Brampton Beast netminder has stepped his game up in the 2017 playoffs. Fucale finished the regular season with a 3.17 goals against average, and a .898 save percentage. He now leads all active goaltenders with 1.86 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. With Brampton’s struggle to score (only scored two or more goals three times during these playoffs) and the defense continuing to lack a shutdown guy, Fucale has clearly been the difference maker for Colin Chaulk‘s club.
5. Tyson Spink – Toledo Walleye
Even though he sits one point behind teammate Kyle Bonis for the team lead in scoring, it’s clear that Tyson Spink has been the offensive sparkplug for the Walleye. He has registered points in all but two playoff games this season and six of his 13 points have come by way of the power play.
4. Lukas Hafner – Colorado Eagles
Hafner has been the story for the Colorado Eagles during this playoff run. Heading in, there was a thick cloud of uncertainty over the club after Clarke Saunders was called up to the San Jose Barracuda. After a Kent Simpson loss in game one of the Idaho series, the Eagles have ripped off seven wins in a row and during that streak, Hafner has allowed 16 goals.
3. Sam Brittain – Manchester Monarchs
For a defense that had some questions going into the playoffs — after all, the Monarchs allowed an average of 3.5 goals per game (252 total goals) during the regular season — Brittain has done his part to silence the critics. His .936 SV % and 1.91 goals against average have him squarely in the top five among playoff goaltenders.
2. Alex Belzile – Colorado Eagles
Belzile is putting on a scoring clinic for the Eagles during the playoffs. He leads all scorers with 17 points (10G, 7A) in just eight playoff games. Further, he is tied with Tyson Spink for the league lead in power play scoring with six points, has multiple points in five of the eight playoff contests and has multiple goals in three games (including two goals each in the last two games.)
1. Parker Milner – South Carolina Stingrays
This is going to take some creative accounting, so follow me here. If you take out the 10 goals he allowed in the first two games against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Milner has allowed 11 goals in the last eight games, has three shutouts, including a double overtime effort against Florida on Tuesday night.
He made amends for the 10 goals allowed in games one and two of the Greenville series by allowing just three goals on 118 shots, good for a .975 save percentage and .75 goals against average in the final four games of that series.
Overall, Milner has a 1.22 goals against average and a .948 save percentage in his last eight outings. After a bit of a stumble, Milner is doing what he has done all year long, provide the backbone of the Stingrays defense.
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