RED DEER, Alta. — Carter Hart bounced back from illness early in the Western Hockey League season to win the league’s most valuable player trophy and top goaltender award.
The Everett Silvertips netminder from Sherwood Park, Alta., who also backstopped Canada to gold at the world junior hockey championship in January, received both awards Wednesday at a ceremony in Red Deer, Alta.
The start of Hart’s season was delayed by mononucleosis, but he was a standout once he recovered.
The 19-year-old went 31-6-1-3 in the regular season and led the league in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (7).
The WHL’s MVP Award is the Four Broncos Trophy named in memory of four Swift Current Broncos who died in a bus crash in 1986. Carter also won the goaltending award for the third straight year.
"I just wanted to be the best that I could," Hart said. "Coming into this year, had a bit of a minor setback getting mono at the beginning of the year.
"Mono isn’t very fun getting, but at the same time it was nice to get that breather and get some down time and maybe come back hungrier. When I got back to Everett, I was ready to roll and it’s been a lot of fun ever since."
The Silvertips face the Broncos in the WHL championship series starting Friday in Swift Current.
"The team we have this year, we’re in the Western Hockey League final so that shows what kind of team we have and some of the players we have down in Everett," Hart said.
"It’s been a real fun journey with those guys. I’m really lucky to share those memories with those guys and hopefully we can make a couple more memories here in the next month or so."
The second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers was chosen league MVP ahead of finalist and 70-goal man Jayden Halbgewachs of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Halbgewachs, from Emerald Lake, Sask., earned the Bob Clarke Trophy as top scorer with 70 goals and 59 assists. He has signed an entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks.
Lethbridge Hurricanes centre Dylan Cozens got the nod for rookie-of-the-year honours. The Whitehorse product collected 22 goals and 31 assists in 51 games. Cozens is eligible for the 2019 draft.
Kale Clague of Lloydminster, Alta., was named top defenceman in a season in which he played for both the Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Los Angeles Kings draft pick had 11 goals and 60 assists to tie for third among WHL defenders. Clague also won gold with Canada’s junior team.
Swift Current’s Manny Viveiros won the coaching award after navigating the Broncos to a 48-17-5-2 record. The team’s 103 points was second-highest in franchise history.
The team executive award went to Everett general manager Garry Davidson, who engineered the Silvertips to a division title and a berth in the WHL final.
Swift Current Broncos centre Aleksi Heponiemi received the league’s most sportsmanlike player trophy.
The Finn, who won the WHL’s rookie award last year, had 28 goals and 90 assists and 28 penalty minutes in 57 games.
Spokane Chief defenceman Ty Smith picked up the scholastic award.
The Lloydminster, Alta., native ranked second in scoring among WHL defenders with 14 goals and 59 assists, while maintaining a 3.57 grade point average in computer applications, anatomy and physiology, pre-calculus, English, physics and statistics.
The team scholastic team award went to the Saskatoon Blades.
Vancouver Giants forward Ty Ronning, who has signed an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers, earned the humanitarian award.
The 20-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., volunteered at the Vancouver Giants Hockey School and in the team’s Read to Succeed program.
When he received a letter from a fan this season, Ronning delivered a Giants’ jacket to the fan’s home.
Brett Iverson of Richmond, B.C., was named top on-ice official for a second straight year.
The referee was named to the pool of international officials for the Olympic Games in February and will officiate at the men’s world championship starting Friday in Denmark.