CALGARY — Moose Jaw Warriors winger Dryden Hunt was named the Western Hockey League’s player of the year on Wednesday.
Hunt, who led the WHL with 58 goals and 58 assists in 72 regular-season games, accepted the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy at the WHL awards ceremony in front of former NHLers Joe Sakic, Bobby Clarke and Lanny McDonald.
"I’m honoured to have those guys here," said the 20-year-old Hunt. "I think it’s great for us young guys to see those guys come in and I think they enjoyed this experience as much as we did. It’s great to see those guys and to win this award in front of them â€¦ it’s a pretty special way to end off my WHL career."
Hunt also had seven goals and nine assists in 10 playoff games.
As part of the WHL’s 50th season celebrations, Sakic and Clarke were recognized as the league’s top two players while McDonald accepted this year’s WHL governors award.
Hunt said he battled nerves on his way up to the stage to accept the award in front of Sakic and Clarke, both previous winners of the Trophy.
"Just walking up there in front of those guys and having to speak not only in front of the room but in front of three Hall of Famers, it’s a pretty cool experience," said Hunt, who signed an entry level contract with the Florida Panthers in early March. "Obviously there’s so many great players in this league. You take a look at the list of past players who’ve won it and it’s kind of surreal.
"Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it."
Former Tri-City Americans goalie Carey Price finished third in fan voting for the WHL’s top 50 players, but was unable to attend the awards ceremony because he’s with his wife Angela as the couple is expecting their first child any day.
Also up for the WHL player of the year award was Victoria Royals defenceman Joe Hicketts, who recorded eight goals and 53 assists in 59 games during the regular season with the Victoria Royals before scoring once and setting up six others in six playoff games.
Hicketts also finished as runner up behind Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings for the WHL defenceman of the year award.
Provorov finished with 21 goals and 52 assists in 62 games in his second season with the Wheat Kings, who will face the Seattle Thunderbirds in the best-of-seven WHL finals.
"There’s a lot of great defencemen in the league this year," said Provorov. "It’s an honour to receive this award. Also, there’s a lot of great defencemen to receive this award in the past and to be included in this group, it’s pretty special."
Victoria bench boss Dave Lowry was named WHL coach of the year while two of his players — Matthew Phillips, rookie of the year award, and Tyler Soy, most sportsmanlike player — also came away with awards.
"It means a lot," said Phillips. "You look on the award and there’s some really good players who have gone on to have not only good WHL careers, but good NHL careers. This year alone there was some extremely talented rookies nominated and looked at for the award, so it’s definitely a big honour to be recognized."
A pair of Lethbridge Hurricanes also won awards. Tyler Wong was chosen as humanitarian of the year, while general manager Peter Anholt was named as executive of the year.
Other awards went to: Adam Brooks of the Regina Pats, top scorer; Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips, goaltender of the year; Rylan Parenteau of the Prince Albert Raiders, hardest working player; and Tanner Kaspick of the Wheat Kings, scholastic player of the year.
The Spokane Chiefs were named the scholastic team of the year, Brandon won the WHL marketing/business award, and Chris Schlenker was chosen as the top official of the year.