WICHITA, Kan. – As the President’s Cup Playoffs and season-ending awards continue to be revealed in the SPHL, I figured I would follow Mike’s lead and share who I had on my ballot.
This year, we were privileged to be allowed to vote on the end-of-season awards for the first time. Like Mike, this was a task I took extremely seriously and had some reservations about sharing my ballot. However, in the spirit of transparency, I decided to make my ballot public for this year’s regular season awards.
With my ballot, I took a different track in my awards than Mike did. If I had someone on the first or second all-star team, they were not on another all-star team. Second, most of the league’s award winners comprised my first all-star team.
G – Ian Sylves – Macon
D – Alec Bandrup – Huntsville
D – Caleb Apperson – Birmingham
F – Rob Darrar – Huntsville
F – Brian Bowen – Fayetteville
F – Scott Cuthrell – Knoxville
Sylves, Huntsville netminder Max Milosek and Peoria’s Stephen Klein were my shortlist in net. Here, I went with Sylves, who came in and steadied the Mayhem out in net until Jordan Ruby came back for the playoffs.
On the back end, I wanted to have one stay-at-home defenseman in my list, and I felt Apperson was a solid choice. The rookie was a +10, fourth-best among rookie blueliners. I also wanted to have a puck-moving defenseman, and Bandrup fills that void. This season, he finished with 30 points, 13 coming on the man-advantage, and was a +17.
Up front, Darrar cemented his spot on the all-rookie squad with an impressive finish to the regular season, posting 13 points in 10 games (more impressively, he registered zero points in two contests during that run). Like Mike, I liked the energetic play of guys like Bowen and Cuthrell. I tended to gravitate towards the kind of players who never take a shift off, and could be relied upon in all situations.
All-SPHL Second Team
G – Stephen Klein – Peoria
D – Nick Neville – Peoria
D – Doug Rose – Knoxville
F – Sy Nutkevitch – Huntsville
F – Jake Trask – Macon
F – John Siemer – Macon
I was really torn between Brian Billett and Stephen Klein in net. Billett was arguably the league’s top netminder over the second half of the season and a big reason for the Ice Flyers’ late surge, but Klein gets the nod thanks to his impressive run during the regular season.
On the blueline, I went with scoring defensemen in this list with the additions of Neville and Rose. Not to be outdone, both Neville and Rose are solid in their primary jobs of keeping the puck out of the net.
For the forward trio, I went with three playmakers. Nutkevitch finished the season with the second most assists (46) in the league, while Siemer and Trask’s offensive skillsets made them the toughest duo to game plan against in the SPHL. Since I couldn’t bring myself to split them up, here they are…together on the All-SPHL Second Team.
All-SPHL First Team
G – Mavric Parks – Birmingham
D – Garrett Schmitz – Birmingham
D – Travis Jeke – Fayetteville
F – Ben Blasko – Peoria
F – Josh Harris – Birmingham
F – Ryan Salkeld – Huntsville
Parks was a slam dunk here, and I’ll have more on him later. The selection of Schmitz to this team should not come as a surprise. In all but two offensive categories (assists and power play assists,) the rookie defenseman was better than Jeke. Still, the thought of having both of those guys on a back end would give coaches lots of grey in the top of their head.
Forward wise, Blasko, Harris, and Salkeld are incredibly balanced players. I’ll get to Blasko in the next paragraph, but both Harris and Salkeld are well-rounded offensive players, who can be counted on to produce in all situations. If you’re looking for some feistiness, we have that in this group too, as Harris racked up 73 minutes in penalties during the regular season.
Rookie of the Year – Ben Blasko (Peoria)
It is not often you see a rookie come into a pro league and win the scoring title, but that’s what Ben Blasko did this season. His 68 points (19G, 49A) was five clear of Josh Harris. More than that, though, his impressive two-way game blew me away. His +40 was the highest in SPHL history. Don’t look for Blasko to be in the SPHL next season.
Defenseman of the Year – Garrett Schmitz (Birmingham)
The rookie from the Hamline University burst on the scene for the Bulls this season. Schmitz posted 23 assists along with ten goals and a +15 plus/minus rating. When compared to fellow defenseman (ultimate award winner) Travis Jeke, Schmitz was better than him in most offensive categories outside of assists and points, plus scored four game-winning goals. Excellent at moving the puck on the breakout, and playing physical when needed, Schmitz was an easy choice for me in this category.
Goaltender of the Year – Mavric Parks (Birmingham)
This will be a complete echo of Mike’s breakdown of Parks. But to us, it’s undeniable that Parks has had a monster year for the Birmingham Bulls. His 30 wins this season is the second-most in league history and his ten straight wins at the beginning of the season is tied for the fifth-longest streak ever in the SPHL. Parks appeared in 42 games, winning 30, backstopped six shutouts, made 1,300 saves with a .933 save percentage – leading the league in all of these categories.
Coach of the Year – Jamey Hicks (Birmingham)
Hicks was the unanimous choice among both Mike and me. His Bulls tied the ’12-13 Fayetteville FireAntz for the largest single-season point increase from the previous season – going from 50 points in Birmingham’s inaugural season to 80 this year. Hicks has provided the Bulls with the kind of steady leadership which should make his teams contenders for years to come.
Most Valuable Player – Mavric Parks (Birmingham)
Mike and I both agree that this is an award which should go to the player who is most invaluable to his team, and it’s hard to argue against the value of Parks to his Bulls teammates. If it were not for Parks’ monster season, the Bulls would have been closer to the middle of the pack in the league rather than contending for a regular-season title.
Now that our picks are here for you fans, who were your top players this season? Let’s hear it.
Follow Matthew on Twitter at @SinBinThunder.