If fans complaining about officiating is the playoff hot topic, the debate about who the MVP could be is a close second.
With the 2016 edition of the Kelly Cup Playoffs nearing it’s halfway mark, I thought I would stoke the discussion by giving you my picks for MVP and a runner-up (where needed) for each of the remaining eight playoff teams.
Let the debate begin.
ADIRONDACK => The Thunder’s scoring charge in these playoffs has been well-rounded, with seven skaters collecting five or more points. Leading that charge is Greg Wolfe, who has 12 points (6G, 6A) in ten playoff games for the Thunder.
ALLEN => Chad Costello is a scoring machine. There is no doubt about it. The 2016 ECHL MVP (and should have been the two-time MVP) rounded out the regular-season on a 19-game assist streak. That streak continued into the first six games of the playoffs. Entering tonight’s game, Costello has recorded a point in 11 of 12 Americans playoff games this year (14pts in 12 games), including several big goals at key times during the seven-game series with the Idaho Steelheads.
Runner-Up: Americans goaltender Riley Gill. The 31-year-old goaltender has found the form which won the Allen Americans the Kelly Cup last year. So far this playoff season, Gill is 7-4 with a 2.06 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. More importantly, Gill has added stability between the pipes, which leaves Jake Hildebrand and Joel Rumpel left to duke it out for the back up position on most nights.
FORT WAYNE => Shawn Szydlowski has been the most complete player on the Komets roster in these playoffs. Not only does he lead the league in points with 15 (8G, 7A), but he also tied with teammate Gabriel Beaupre for the league lead in plus/minus, with a +11 so far. He is out there against the opposition’s top line most of the time and is one of the top defensive forwards in the league.
Runner-Up: The Komets are backstopped by a netminder who has “been there, done that” in the Kelly Cup Playoffs in Pat Nagle. The Komets’ tendy has eight wins so far (leading all active netminders) against three losses, has a 2.06 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. His 727 minutes played leads active netminders by 199 minutes — you can thank the three straight OT games against Cincy for that. Not to mention, his two shutouts are tied for the league lead.
MISSOURI => The once vaunted Missouri Mavericks squad, which rattled off 14 straight wins earlier this season, is on the ropes now in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. But if they are to advance to meet the Fort Wayne Komets, they will need stellar performances from our pick, Rocco Carzo. Like Szydlowski in Fort Wayne, Carzo leads his team in playoff points with 10 (3G, 7A) and also leads the team with a +6. Carzo has been the best defensive forward for the Mavericks all season and has seen a lot of time against the Arseneau-Costello-Jevpalovs line in this series with the Americans.
READING => Royals forward Brandon Alderson is tied for the playoff lead in goals (8) after having 11 during the regular-season. He has helped anchor one of the scoring lines for Reading in these playoffs, and has a great shot. The Oakville, ON forward also has a +6, which is tied for second best on the Royals squad.
SOUTH CAROLINA => After an impressive regular-season, Stingrays netminder Mark Dekanich has stepped his game up in the playoffs. The 30-year-old netminder leads all active goaltenders with a 1.78 goals against average, is fourth in save percentage with a .922, and tied for the league-lead in shutouts with two.
Runner-Up: Joe Devin has been the catalyst for the Stingrays offense this postseason. Tied for the team lead in points, Devin has collected points in the seven of the team’s 10 playoff games. Devin’s two game-winning goals is tied for second most in the league.
UTAH => After coming off an ECHL-career high in points (29G, 19A =48pts), Barry Almeida continued to be a focal point for the offense in Utah this postseason. The Ludlow, MA forward finished with 13 points (5G, 8A) in 10 playoff games for the Grizz.
WHEELING => Coming off his ECHL Defenseman of the Year Award, Mathew Maione is having a spectacular playoff run for the Nailers. The rearguardsman leads his team in points & all ECHL defenseman in points with 13 (5G, 8A). His five goals leads all defensemen, he is second in assists with eight and leads the league with three game-winning goals.
So there you have it, the cases made for eleven men to be named ECHL Playoff MVP at the half-way mark. Of course, there is still a lot of hockey left to play, and it is entirely likely the winner will not come out of this group.