Val-d’Or forward Mantha named QMJHL MVP

Anthony Mantha (Vincent Ethier)

MONTREAL — Val-d’Or’s Anthony Mantha powered his way into Quebec Major Junior Hockey League lore.

Mantha was named the league’s most valuable player at the Golden Puck Awards on Wednesday night, taking home the Michel Briere Trophy after scoring 57 goals in as many games this season.

"It’s a great honour to have," the Foreurs right-winger said. "I worked hard for myself and with my teammates to reach that goal."

Mantha also took home the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer. The six-foot-four Mantha added 63 assists to his league-high goal tally to lead Val-d’Or to their first division championship in seven years, and help book a trip to the playoffs.

"People didn’t see us coming this year," said Mantha. "We have a great team. Being third, and division champion a that’s great for us."

Mantha, 19, will likely not play in the QMJHL much longer. The Longueil, Que., native signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Red Wings last October after Detroit selected him 20th in the first round of last year’s NHL draft.

"To be honest, I’m not really thinking about it," he said. "I’m trying to focus on my playoffs right now. Who knows? Maybe if Grand Rapids (Detroit’s AHL affiliate) go far this year, I might head up after my season here is finished."

Sharing in Mantha’s success was his Val-d’Or teammate Guillaume Gelinas, who was named the league’s best defenceman and awarded the Emile Bouchard Trophy.

Gelinas led all defencemen in goals (23) and assists (69), while more than doubling his point total from the 2012-2013 season. The 20-year-old finished the year with most power-play assists, most power-play points and a plus-24 rating.

"It’s always fun to be honoured this way," said Gelinas. "I’m playing against some of the biggest opposing trios every game. But there were a lot of other great defencemen that could have won tonight."

Both Gelinas and Mantha, along with their Foreurs teammate Randy Gazzola, were named to the QMJHL’s First All-Star Team. Joining them were Baie-Comeau netminder Philippe Cadorette, Halifax’s Jonathan Drouin (centre) and Quebec’s Anthony Duclair (left wing).

Mantha’s Val-d’Or, which swept Acadie-Bathurst in the first round of the ongoing playoffs, hosts Drummondville in the first game of the quarter-final series on Friday.

"We’re going to expect a big second round," said Mantha, who already has three goals and four assists in these playoffs. "It’s going to be an intense series."

Baie-Comeau Drakkar coach Eric Veilleux won the Ron Lapointe Trophy for coach of the year. Veilleux guided Baie-Comeau to a league-best 99 points and a 47-16-5 record in his first season with the team. Their general manager, Steve Ahern, won the Maurice Filion Trophy for manager of the year.

"It’s a great honour," said Veilleux. "But if we had lost our final game of the season, would I have deserved this award?" The Drakkar’s 99 points were only two better than Halifax and Rimouski. "People don’t realize how much time this coaching staff dedicates to hockey and the team."

Baie-Comeau also swept its first-round opponents, Veilleux’s former squad, the Shawinigan Cataractes. Veilleux was at the helm of the Cataractes for seven years, including their Memorial Cup victory in 2012.

The Drakkar face Rouyn-Noranda in the first game of their quarter-final, also on Friday.

"They’re playing with a lot of intensity right now," said Veilleux of the Huskies. "They’re a physical team with an offensive style of play. They do things that other teams just don’t do. It will be a great playoff series."

Rimouski hosts Blainville-Boisbriand, and Gatineau heads to Halifax in the remaining QMJHL matchups.

Two Halifax Mooseheads players also won big on Wednesday. Goaltender Zachary Fucale won the Jacques Plante Trophy for the goalie with the best goals-against-average, as well as the Paul Dumont Trophy for personality of the year.

Fucale won 36 games, recorded six shutouts, and posted a league-best 2.26 goals-against-average this season. Fucale was a second-round draft pick for the Montreal Canadiens in 2013.

"At the end of the day, this is a team victory," said Fucale. "Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible. I need to give them a lot of credit and thanks for helping me all year."

Fellow Moosehead Nikolaj Ehlers was awarded the RDS Cup for best rookie of the year. Ehlers also took home the Michael Bossy Trophy for best professional prospect. With 49 goals in 63 games, rookie Ehlers is touted as one of the best QMJHL prospects for the upcoming NHL draft.

"I was not expecting a year like this," said Ehlers. "I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I play with great players."

Ehlers finished the season with a whopping plus-65 rating.

"I don’t really know what to say about it. It feels great," he added.

Ehlers and Fucale were both named to the Second All-Star Team, alongside Halifax teammate Mackenzie Weegar (defenceman), Rouyn-Noranda right-winger Marcus Power, and Cape Breton’s Justin Hache (defenceman) and Cameron Darcy (centre).

Frederick Gaudreau’s two penalty minutes on the year, with both Drummondville and Shawinigan, earned him the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the most sportsmanlike player.

Jeremy Gregoire of Baie-Comeau won the Marcel Robert Trophy as the league’s most scholastic player of the year, while Charles-David Beaudoin of Drummondville won the league’s Humanitarian and Community Involvement Trophy.

Notes: Halifax’s Drouin, who finished the season third in points, did not win an award. a Four hockey players were inducted into the QMJHL Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday: Gerard Gallant (Saint John), Jean-Luc Phaneuf (Montreal), Patrice Brisebois (Drummondville), and Normand Caisse (as a referee). a The second round of the playoffs will get underway on Thursday.

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