LAFAYETTE, La. — We’re at the time of year where the Southern Professional Hockey League hands out their seasonal honors to the players, coaches, and staff who have shown excellence throughout the 2018-19 regular season. We get to recognize all of the excellence in a very talented league and perhaps get into a little friendly debate as well.

This year, we were privileged to be allowed to vote on the end-of-season awards for the first time – a task I took extremely seriously. In the spirit of transparency, I decided to make my ballot public for this year’s regular season awards.

All-Rookie Team

G – Stephen Klein – Peoria
D – Doug Rose – Knoxville
D – Larry Smith – Macon
F – Ben Blasko – Peoria
F – Brian Bowen – Fayetteville
F – Mike Davis – Birmingham

Klein, along with Huntsville netminder Max Milosek and Roanoke’s Jacob Caffrey were my shortlist in net. I wanted to recognize a stay-at-home defenseman in my list, and I felt Smith to be an excellent choice. Blasko, leading the league in points (68) and assists (49) was an obvious choice, but I liked the energetic play of guys like Bowen and Davis. I tend to gravitate towards the kind of players who never take a shift off, as you’ll notice as I continue my picks.

All-SPHL Second Team

G – Brian Billett – Pensacola
D – Travis Jeke – Fayetteville
D – Doug Rose – Knoxville
F – Ryan Salkeld – Huntsville
F – Alec Hagaman – Peoria
F – Jacob Barber – Birmingham

Billett was arguably the league’s top netminder over the second half of the season and a big reason for his team’s late surge. I leaned towards scoring defensemen in this list with the additions of Jeke and Rose, and snipers such as Salkeld and Barber. Hagaman, perhaps one of the most controversial players in the league, has always been a favorite of mine as the Marchand-like pot-stirrer as well as a scorer.

All-SPHL First Team

G – Mavric Parks – Birmingham
D – Nick Neville – Peoria
D – Nathan Bruyere – Pensacola
F – Ben Blasko – Peoria
F – Josh Harris – Birmingham
F – Jake Trask – Macon

I’ll get to Parks and Neville later, and Bruyere’s selection may be a shock to some – but his all-around skill set makes him the kind of player other coaches in the league specifically game-plan for. Harris and Trask make my first-team list as possibly two of the toughest players to defend against in the league.

Rookie of the Year – Stephen Klein

One of the things that stood out to me about Klein is just how un-rookielike he plays. Klein plays his position in almost an unassuming manner, and it’s that kind of consistent steadiness which earned him my vote this season.

Defenseman of the Year – Nick Neville

A third-year player from the University of Denver, Neville put up 29 assists along with four goals and a +2 plus/minus rating. An unselfish and fearless shot-blocker, Neville is also one of the big reasons why Peoria goaltenders face the fewest shots on goal in the league. Excellent at moving the puck on the breakout as well as a physical, disciplined defender who plays a ton of minutes, Neville was an easy choice for me to make in this category.

Goaltender of the Year – Mavric Parks

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)

When I was selecting our All-Star Team back in January, I polled all of the coaches in the league for their coaching picks and Hicks was the unanimous choice. 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

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 contend for a regular-season title until the final couple of weeks this season.

Now that my picks are here for you fans, who were your top players this season? Let’s hear it.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @SinBinSPHL.

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