Best of the West 2010

February 14, 2010 

No fans, no media, no scouts. The Best of the West voting is done by the insiders -- players, management and broadcasters from the 10 clubs in the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League.

Therein lies the appeal, and why this marks the 22nd edition of the poll.

The Victoria Times-Columnist in British Columbia founded the survey in 1989. At the request of the Times-Colonist, the Herald took over the poll in 1994 after the Cougars left Vancouver Island for Prince George.

This year, 45 ballots were returned, one less than last season.

In the early years of the poll, clubs asked individual players to vote on each of the 20 categories.

Now, many organizations break into groups of three or four to collaborate on a ballot.

To prevent ballot-box stuffing, voters were not permitted to select anyone from their own organization. Teams with key players moved at the trade deadline were asked to vote on rosters as of mid-January. Votes ranked the Top 4 in each category, resulting in a 4-3-2-1 point system. The figures listed are the percentage of points possible.

For example, Seattle's Calvin Pickard received 32 of a possible 41 first-place votes in the Best Goaltender category.

The clubs represented are a combination of the B.C. Division (Chilliwack Bruins, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants) and the U.S. Division (Everett Silvertips, Portland Winter Hawks, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans).

Statistics listed are through Friday's games.

Best Fans

Everett - 82.9%
-- Through January, the Silvertips fans average nearly 5,300 per game, down about 9 percent from last year. They won for the fifth straight time.

Also
Kelowna . . . 56.5%
Vancouver. . . 54.5%
Tri-City 38.9%
Spokane . . . 29.4%
Portland . . . 32%
Prince George 1.7%
Kamloops . . . 0.3%
Seattle . . . 0%
Chilliwack . . . 0%

Past winners
2005-03, Kelowna; 2002-1999, Prince George; 1998-94, Portland; 1993, Seattle.

Top Coach

Don Hay, Vancouver -- 63.9%
The Giants are tops in the B.C. Division at 33-20-1-3.

Also
Marc Habscheid, Chilliwack . . . 50.9%
Jim Hiller, Tri-City. . . 45.6%
Mike Johnston, Portland . . . 43.3%
Craig Hartsburg, Everett. . . 41.6%
Ryan Huska, Kelowna . . . 11.4%
Hardy Sauter, Spokane . . . 6.5%

Past winners
2008, Don Nachbaur, Tri-City; 2007, Dean Clark, Kamloops; 2006, Don Hay, Vancouver; 2005, Jeff Truitt, Kelowna; 2004-03, Marc Habscheid, Kelowna.; 2002, Ed Dempsey, Prince George.

Top Executive

Scott Bonner, Vancouver -- 62.2%
Winning for the third straight year, he has the Giants in position to win their fifth consecutive B.C. Division title.

Also
Mike Johnston, Portland . . . 58.1%
Bob Tory, Tri-City. . . 53.9%
Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna . . . 29%
Doug Soetaert, Everett 27.7%
Craig Bonner, Kamloops . . . 13.1%

Past winners
2007, Bob Tory, Tri-City; 2006, Scott Bonner, Vancouver; 2005-03, Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna; 2002-01, Mike Moore, Kamloops.

Top Rookie

Nino Niederreiter, Portland -- 77.8%
The Swiss forward is fifth in WHL rookie scoring with 32 goals and 52 points, which ranks him fourth with the Hawks.

Also
Shane McColgan, Kelowna . . . 69.3%
Kevin Connauton, Vancouver . . . 43.5%
Ryan Johansen, Portland . . . 29.1%
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . 14.6%
Radko Gudas, Everett . . . 11.9%

Past winners
2009, Brett Connolly, Prince George; 2008, Jamie Benn, Kelowna; 2007, Kyle Beach, Everett; 2006, Peter Mueller, Everett; 2005, Andrej Meszaros, Vancouver; 2004, Gilbert Brule, Vancouver; 2003, Jonas Johansson, Kamloops.

Most Valuable to Team

Calvin Pickard, Seattle -- 65.6%
Seattle is struggling, but he has kept them in games with a .915 save percentage. Has played a league high 2,862 minutes.

Also
Ryan Howse, Chilliwack . . . 43.8%
Brett Connolly, Prince George . . . 27.3%
Tyson Barrie, Kelowna . . . 23.2%
Shane Harper, Everett. . . 12.6%
Lance Bouma, Vancouver . . . 11.3%

Past winners
2009, Dustin Tokarski, Spokane; 2008, Oscar Moller, Chilliwack; 2007, Aaron Gagnon, Seattle; 2006, Carey Price, Tri-City; 2005-04, Nigel Dawes, Kootenay; 2003, Kiel McLeod, Kelowna; 2002, Dan Hamhuis, Prince George.

Best Stay-At-Home D-Man

Jared Cowen, Spokane -- 67.8%
The 2009 Ottawa draft pick has a solid plus-20 rating, and the Chiefs have allowed just 147 goals -- best in the WHL.

Also
Tyler Schmidt, Tri-City . . . 42.5%
Radko Gudas, Everett. . . 37.5%
Jarrett Toll, Tri-City . . . 35%
Brett Ponich, Portland. . . 25.5%
David Musil, Vancouver . . . 10.27%

Past winners
2009, Tyler Myers, Kelowna; 2008, Luke Schenn, Kelowna; 2007, Brett Festerling, Vancouver; 2006, Mark Fistric; 2005-04, Shea Weber, Kelowna; 2003, Matt Spiller, Seattle; 2002-01, Kurt Sauer, Spokane.

Hardest Shot

Kevin Connauton, Vancouver -- 41.5%
The rookie defenseman wields a mighty stick. He has 21 goals and 59 points since transferring from Western Michigan.

Also
Kyle Beach, Spokane . . . 36%
Radko Gudas, Everett. . . 35.6%
Ryan Howse, Chilliwack . . . 28%
Dallas Jackson, Kelowna. . . 27.6%
Jared Cowen, Spokane . . . 15.9%

Past winners
2009, Jamie Benn, Kelowna; 2008, Dan Gendur, Everett; 2007-06, Roman Teslyuk, Tri-City; 2005, Dustin Byfuglien, Prince George; 2004, Richie Regehr, Portland; 2003, Matt Spiller, Seattle; 2002, Josef Balej, Portland.

Top Faceoff Man

Tyler Johnson, Spokane -- 80.8%
The gold medal winner with Team USA at the WJC ran away with the category for the second straight year.

Also
Zack Dailey, Everett . . . 22.1%
Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City . . . 14.5%
Mitch Wahl Spokane . . . 13.5%
Ryan Johansen, Portland. . . 12.9%
Kevin Sundher, Chilliwack . . . 9.8%

Past winners
2008, Mario Bliznak, Vancouver; 2007, Aaron Gagnon, Seattle; 2006, Tyler Spurgeon, Kelowna; 2005, Adam Taylor, Kootenay; 2004, Jarret Lukin, Kamloops; 2003, Blake Robson, Prince George.

Most Accurate Shot

Ryan Howse, Chilliwack -- 81%
Is third in the WHL with 38 goals, including 14 on the power play, and leads the Bruins with 59 points

Also
Kyle Beach, Spokane . . . 34.4%
Shane Harper, Everett. . . 23.2%
Kevin Connauton, Vancouver . . . 20.9%
Craig Cunningham, Vancouver. . . 18.2%
Mitch Wahl, Spokane . . . 15.4%

Past winners
2009, Jamie Benn, Kelowna; 2008, Colton Yellow Horn, Tri-City; 2007, Aaron Gagnon, Seattle; 2006, Justin Keller, Kelowna; 2005-04, Nigel Dawes, Kootenay ; 2003, Kiel McLeod, Kelowna ; 2002, Josef Balej, Portland.

Toughest Player

Tayler Jordan, Portland -- 51.3%
The 6-6, 200-pounder has 129 PIMs in 51 games, ranking him 13th in the WHL. Half his PIMs come from 13 fights.

Also
Ryan Letts, Spokane . . . 36.3%
Lance Bouma, Vancouver. . . 27.8%
Josh Caron, Kamloops . . . 27.8%
Scott Ramsay, Seattle. . . 25.6%
Mitchell Callahan, Kelowna . . . 14.9%

Past winners
2009, Ryley Grantham, Kelowna; 2008, Benn Olson, Seattle; 2007-06, Matt Kassian, Kamloops; 2005, Triston Grant, Vancouver; 2004, Cam McCaffrey, Tri-City ; 2003-02, Darren McLachlan, Seattle; 2001, Derek Boogaard, PG.

Most Improved Player

Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City -- 73.8%
In just one year, he's gone from 12 goals, 13 assists and a plus-9 rating to 25 goals, 40 assists and a plus-11.

Also
Craig Cunningham, Vancouver . . . 56.1%
Chris Francis, Portland . . . 9.9%
Ryan Howsem Chilliwack . . . 9.5%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . 7.4%
Luke Walker, Portland . . . 6.9%

Past winners
2009, C.J. Stretch, Kamloops; 2008, Colin Long, Kelowna; 2007, Brock Nixon, Kamloops; 2006, Ian McDonald, Tri-City; 2005, Aaron Gagnon, Seattle; 2004, Brad Schell, Spokane; 2003, Jesse Schultz, Kelowna; 2002.

Best Overage Player

Shane Harper, Everett -- 60.4%
Eighth in the WHL in goals (33), tied for 11th with plus-29 rating, leads playoff-bound Silvertips in scoring (64 points).

Also
Johnny Lazo, Tri-City . . . 47.7%
Jared Spurgeon, Spokane. . . 41.8%
Prab Rai, Seattle . . . 34.6%
Chris Francis, Portland. . . 27.4%
Dallas Jackson, Kelowna . . . 21.6%

Past winners
2009, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Vancouver; 2008, Colton Yellow Horn, Tri-City; 2007, Aaron Gagnon, Seattle; 2006, Adam Cracknell, Kootenay; 2005, Adam Courchaine, Vancouver; 2004, Ryan Kinasewich, Tri-City.

Top Defensive Forward

Tyler Johnson, Spokane -- 85.2%
A runaway winner for the second straight year. Has a plus-9 rating, but his value can't be measured in numbers.

Also
Brandon McMillan, Kelowna . . . 35.1%
Kruise Reddick, Tri-City . . . 22.7%
Zack Dailey, Everett . . . 20.7%
Stefan Schneider, Portland . . . 16.8%
James Henry, Vancouver . . . 10%

Past winners
2008, Mario Bliznak, Vancouver; 2007, Alex Aldred, Tri-City; 2006, Tyler Spurgeon, Kelowna; 2005, Adam Taylor, Kootenay; 2004, Cam Paddock, Kelowna ; 2003, Ryan Cuthbert, Kelowna.

Best 16-Year-Old

Shane McColgan, Kelowna -- 94.7%
He ranks first in rookie scoring with 61 points, including 23 goals. He also leads the Rockets in goals and scoring.

Also
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . 51.3% David Musil, Vancouver . . . 38.6%
Jesse Forsberg, Prince George . . . 36%
Colin Smith, Kamloops . . . 24.9%
Ty Rattie, Portland . . . 22.3%

Past winners
2009, Brett Connolly, Prince George; 2008, Tyson Barrie, Kelowna; 2007, Kyle Beach, Everett; 2006, Thomas Hickey, Seattle; 2005, Zach Hamill, Everett.

Best Goaltender

Calvin Pickard, Seattle -- 89.2%
His numbers -- .915 save percentage, 2.98 GAA, 12-27-5-4 record -- don't tell the whole story. He is the real deal.

Also
Drew Owsley, Tri-City . . . 47.4%
James Reid, Spokane . . . 39.6%
Kent Simpson, Everett . . . 29.6%
Thomas Heemskerk, Everett . . . 20%
Kurtis Mucha, Kamloops . . . 19.3%

Past winners
2009-08, Chet Pickard, Tri-Cities; 2007-06, Carey Price, Tri-Cities; 2005, Jeff Glass, Kootenay; 2004, Kelly Guard, Kelowna; 2003, Billy Thompson, Prince George.

Best Skater

Prab Rai, Seattle 64.1%
The third straight year a Seattle player has won the category. Has used his skills to score 30 goals.

Also
Brandon McMillan, Kelowna . . . 39.8%
Johnny Lazo, Tri-City . . . 39.3%
Tyler Johnson, Spokane . . . 25.7%
Tyson Barrie, Kelowna . . . 16.7%
Shane Harper, Everett . . . 14.1%

Past winners
2009-08, Thomas Hickey, Seattle; 2007, Michael Grabner, Spokane; 2006, Ryan Russell, Kootenay; 2005-04, Shawn Belle, Tri-Cities; 2003, Scottie Upshall, Kamloops.

Most Underrated Player

Shane Harper, Everett -- 30.6%
Silvertips' leading scorer has 33 goals and 64 points. His plus-minus went from minus-16 last year to a plus-29.

Also
Johnny Lazo, Tri-City . . . 26.4%
Craig Cunningham, Vancouver . . . 25.5%
Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City . . . 16.3%
Chris Francis, Portland . . . 13.2%
Prab Rai, Seattle . . . 12.3%

Past winners
2009, C.J. Stretch, Kamloops; 2008, Colin Long, Kelowna; 2007, Brock Nixon, Kamloops; 2006, Ian McDonald, Tri-City; 2005, Clayton Stoner, Tri-City.

Most Irritating Player

Kyle Beach, Spokane -- 49.7%
Not often you find a guy who's rolled up 160 PIMs and 9 fights with 37 goals. His mouth is as lethal as his shot.

Also
Brad Ross, Portland . . . 49.2%
Mitchell Callahan, Kelowna . . . 36.5%
Lance Bouma, Vancouver . . . 22.4%
Zack Dailey, Everett . . . 21.9%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . 19.4%

Past winners
2009, Zack Dailey, Everett; 2008-07, Garet Hunt, Vancouver; 2006-05, Brandon Dubinsky, Portland; 2004, Simon Ferguson, Kelowna; 2003, Blake Robson, PG.

Best Pro Prospect

Nino Niederreiter, Portland -- 58.4%
Swiss forward is ranked 14th among skaters eligible for the 2010 NHL draft by Central Scouting.

Also
Brett Connolly, Prince George . . . 48.4%
Ryan Howse, Chilliwack . . . 27.6%
Calvin Pickard, Seattle . . . 24.3%
Jared Cowan, Spokane . . . 21.2%
Luca Sbisa, Portland . . . 19.7%

Past winners
2009, Evander Kane, Vancouver; 2008, Oscar Moller, Chilliwack; 2007, Peter Mueller, Everett; 2006, Carey Price, Tri-City; 2005-04, Braydon Coburn, Portland.

Top Referee

Andy Thiessen -- 52.6%
He's the top choice for the third straight year, but others are closing the gap.

Also
Trevor Hanson . . . 25.4%
Steve Papp . . . 24.3%
Pat Smith. . . 21.3%
Derek Zalaski . . . 15.3%
Chris Savage . . . 15.3%

Past winners
2004-07, Rob Matsuoka; 2003-01, Kevin Acheson; 2000-1999, Kelly Sutherland; 1998-93, Tom Kowal; 1992-91, Brad Davis.

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