Best of the West 2011

February 13, 2011 

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 23rd 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 Victoria Cougars left Vancouver Island for Prince George.

This year, 43 ballots were returned, two less than last season.

In the early years of the poll, clubs asked individual players to vote on each of the 19 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, Portland’s Sven Bartschi received 32 of a possible 38 first-place votes in the Best Rookie 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 85.6%
The Silvertips fans average more than 6,000 per game, and attendance is up 1.5 percent from last year. They won for the sixth year in a row.

Also
Kelowna . . . . 56.1%
Tri-City . . . . 53%
Vancouver . . . . 46.5%
Spokane . . . . 28.1%
Portland . . . . 3.3%
Seattle . . . . 2.9%
Chilliwack . . . . 0.1%
Prince George . . . . 0.07%
Kamloops . . . . 0%

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

Top Executive

Bob Tory, Tri-City • 60.2%
Made key trades early, and Americans have reaped the benefits. Looking for fourth consecutive U.S. Division title.

Also
Mike Johnston, Portland . . . . 60%
Tim Speltz, Spokane . . . . 40.6%
Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna . . . . 40.4%
Scott Bonner, Vancouver . . . . 38.7%
Dallas Thompson, Prince George . . . . 20.7%

Past winners
2010-2008, Scott Bonner, Vancouver; 2007, Bob Tory, Tri-City; 2006, Scott Bonner, Vancouver; 2005-03, Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna; 2002-01, Mike Moore, Kamloops.

Top Coach

Don Nachbaur, Spokane • 90.8%
Returns to WHL after a season in the AHL and has breathed life back into the Chiefs, who are vying for U.S. Division title.

Also
Don Hay, Vancouver . . . . 51.7%
Jim Hiller, Tri-City . . . . 48.7%
Ryan Huska, Kelowna . . . . 34.3%
Mike Johnston, Portland . . . . 28.9%
Dean Clark, Prince George . . . . 16.2%

Past winners
2010-09, Don Hay, Vancouver; 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.

Best Overage Player

Tyler Johnson, Spokane • 87.5%
Leads the league with 41 goals and is second in scoring with 89 points.

Also
Craig Cunningham, Portland . . . . 75.4%
Brandon Manning, Chilliwack . . . . 26.5%
Kruise Reddick, Tri-City . . . . 20%
Tyler Schmidt, Tri-City . . . . 18.6%
Sena Acolatse, Prince George . . . . 16.9%

Past winners
2010, Shane Harper, Everett; 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 • 87.6%
A runaway winner for the third straight year. Has a plus-20 rating and five short-handed goals.

Also
Craig Cunningham, Portland . . . . 24.5%
Kruise Reddick, Tri-City . . . . 21.6%
Clayton Cumiskey, Everett . . . . 19.5%
Levko Koper, Spokane . . . . 14.2%
James Henry, Vancouver . . . . 13.8%

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

Derrick Pouliot, Portland • 74.7%
The young defenseman has 4 goals, 21 points and a plus-5 rating, but his value doesn’t show on the score sheet.

Also
Troy Bourke, Prince George . . . . 60.9%
Connor Rankin, Tri-City . . . . 59.5%
Brendan Leipsic, Portland . . . . 52.3%
Dalton Sward, Vancouver . . . . 7.8%
Brandon Magee, Chilliwack . . . . 4.8%

Past winners
2009, Brett Connolly, Prince George; 2008, Tyson Barrie, Kelowna; 2007, Kyle Beach, Everett; 2006, Thomas Hickey, Seattle; 2005, Zach Hamill, Everett; 2004, Gilbert Brule, Vancouver; 2003, Mike Card, Kelowna.

Best Goaltender

Calvin Pickard, Seattle • 88.8%
A two-time winner. Leads league in minutes with 3,087, has .915 save percentage and 3.36 GAA for struggling T-birds.

Also
James Reid, Spokane . . . . 62.5%
Drew Owsley, Tri-City . . . . 54.9%
Adam Brown, Kelowna . . . . 29.1%
Kent Simpson, Everett . . . . 19.3%
Mac Carruth, Portland . . . . 6%

Past winners
2009-08, Chet Pickard, Tri-City; 2007-06, Carey Price, Tri-City; 2005, Jeff Glass, Kootenay; 2004, Kelly Guard, Kelowna; 2003, Billy Thompson, Prince George; 2002, Shane Bendera, Kelowna.

Best Skater

Tyler Johnson, Spokane • 61.5%
Johnson breaks a three-year stranglehold on category by Seattle players.

Also
Tyson Barrie, Kelowna . . . . 51.2%
Kevin Sundher, Chilliwack . . . . 19.2%
Ryan Johansen, Portland . . . . 16.7%
Brenden Dillon, Seattle . . . . 15.6%
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . . 15.5%

Past winners
2010, Prab Rai, Seattle; 2009-08, Thomas Hickey, Seattle; 2007, Michael Grabner, Spokane; 2006, Ryan Russell, Kootenay; 2005-04, Shawn Belle, Tri-City; 2003, Scottie Upshall, Kamloops. ; 2002-01, Josef Balej, Portland.

Most Underrated Player

Adam Hughesman, Tri-City • 34.7%
Has 36 goals — twice what he had last year — and is fifth in league scoring with 75 points.

Also
Brenden Kichton, Spokane . . . . 26.4%
Chase Schaber, Kamloops . . . . 22.2%
Brendan Ranford, Kamloops . . . . 12.5%
Brenden Dillon, Seattle . . . . 12.2%
Kruise Reddick, Tri-City . . . . 10.9%

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; 2004, Shea Weber, Kelowna ; 2003, Tyler Mosienko, Kelowna.

Most Irritating Player

Curt Gogol, Chilliwack • 44.7%
He’s in the penalty box as much as he’s in your face, rolling up 157 PIMs — third in the league.

Also
Brad Ross, Portland . . . . 44.6%
Charles Inglis, Prince George . . . . 35.1%
Tyler Schmidt, Tri-City . . . . 24.9%
Mitchell Callahan, Kelowna . . . . 20.8%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . . 20.2%

Past winners
2010, Kyle Beach, Spokane; 2009, Zack Dailey, Everett; 2008-07, Garet Hunt, Vancouver; 2006-05, Brandon Dubinsky, Portland; 2004, Simon Ferguson, Kelowna. 2003, Blake Robson, Prince George; 2002-00, Brandin Coté, Spokane.

Best Pro Prospect

Ryan Johansen, Portland • 40.1%
Leads a parade of 4 Winterhawks. Was taken 4th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010 NHL draft.

Also
Ty Rattie, Portland . . . . 39.9%
Nino Niederreiter, Portland . . . . 39.1%
Sven Bartschi, Portland . . . . 38.8%
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . . 19.6%
Brett Connolly, Prince George . . . . 16.8%

Past winners
2010, Nino Niederreiter, Portland; 2009, Evander Kane, Vancouver; 2008, Oscar Moller, Chilliwack; 2007, Peter Mueller, Everett; 2006, Carey Price, Tri-City; 2005-04, Braydon Coburn, Portland; 2003, Scottie Upshall, Kamloops; 2002, Dan Hamhuis, Prince George.

Top Rookie

Sven Bartschi, Portland • 91.7%
The Swiss forward is tops in WHL rookie scoring with 27 goals and 64 points, which ranks him third with the Hawks.

Also
Martin Marincin, Prince George . . . . 51.7%
Troy Bourke, Prince George . . . . 28%
Connor Rankin, Tri-City . . . . 21.1%
Zach Franko, Kelowna . . . . 20.8%
Marcel Noebels, Seattle . . . . 15.7%

Past winners
2010, Nino Niederreiter, Portland; 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 • 63.1%
A two-time winner, he is the difference most nights. Thunderbirds have played 28 one-goal games, winning 11.

Also
Tyler Johnson, Spokane . . . . 43.2%
Brett Connolly, Prince George . . . . 31.2%
Brendan Ranford, Kamloops . . . . 28.2%
Tyson Barrie, Kelowna . . . . 21%
Brenden Gallagher, Vancouver . . . . 19.5%

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 • 71.2%
Repeat winner has a sparkling plus-26 rating and quarterbacks the Chiefs’ top-ranked penalty kill.

Also
Brett Ponich, Portland . . . . 57.4%
Tyler Schmidt, Tri-City . . . . 45.5%
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . . 19.8%
David Musil, Vancouver . . . . 14.7%
Corbin Baldwin, Spokane . . . . 10.4%

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

Sena Acolatse, Prince George • 77.3%
The overage D-man has been encouraged to use his big shot since he was a rookie. Has 11 goals, 5 on the power play.

Also
Jared Cowen, Spokane . . . . 35.5%
Martin Marincin, Prince George . . . . 33.4%
Ryan Howse, Chilliwack . . . . 29.9%
Brenden Dillon, Seattle . . . . 16.4%
Brandon Manning, Chilliwack . . . . 13.7%

Past winners
2010, Kevin Connauton, Vancouver; 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 • 92.6%
Quick with his stick, won for the third consecutive year in a runaway. Earned 28 of 37 first-place votes.

Also
Craig Cunningham, Portland . . . . 36.6%
Ryan Johansen, Portland . . . . 29.3%
Chase Schaber, Kamloops . . . . 13.6%
Carter Ashton, Tri-City . . . . 12.6%
Clayton Cumiskey, Everett . . . . 12.5%

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 • 79.3%
Two-time winner is third in the WHL with 37 goals, including 15 on the power play, and leads the Bruins with 62 points.

Also
Brett Connolly, Prince George . . . . 35.2%
Tyler Johnson, Spokane . . . . 28.1%
Nino Niederreiter, Portland . . . . 26.6%
Brendan Ranford, Kamloops . . . . 23.2%
Craig Cunningham, Portland . . . . 12.5%

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

Sena Acolatse, Prince George • 57.4%
Not the biggest brute on the ice, but with 13 fights and 102 PIMS, opponents pick their battles wisely.

Also
Darren Kramer, Spokane . . . . 52.5%
Josh Caron, Kamloops . . . . 44.7%
Tayler Jordan, Portland . . . . 34.4%
Curt Gogol, Chilliwack . . . . 21.4%
Jacob Doty, Seattle . . . . 19.3%

Past winners
2010, Tayler Jordan, Portland; 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 Ranford, Kamloops • 44.7%
With 16 games remaining, he has more goals and more points than he did last season, and Blazers are in playoff mix.

Also
Adam Hughesman, Tri-City . . . . 37.8%
Brenden Kichton, Spokane . . . . 29.2%
Brenden Dillon, Seattle . . . . 26.3%
Sena Acolatse, Prince George . . . . 12.9%
Nick Buonassisi, Prince George . . . . 11.4%

Past winners
2010, Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City; 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.

Top Referee

Pat Smith • 50.4%
Fourth last year, he unseated three-time winner Andy Thiessen.

Also
Andy Thiessen . . . . 37.5%
Trevor Hanson . . . . 31.9%
Steve Papp . . . . 20.6%
Derek Zalaski . . . . 11.5%
Sean Raphael . . . . 8.3%

Past winners
2010-08, Andy Thiessen; 2004-07, Rob Matsuoka; 2003-01, Kevin Acheson; 2000-1999, Kelly Sutherland; 1998-93, Tom Kowal; 1992-91, Brad Davis.

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