Best of the West 2012

Project by Annie Fowler, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 12, 2012 

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 24th edition of the poll.

The Victoria Times-Colonist 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, 53 ballots were returned, 10 more 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.

Voters ranked the Top 4 in each category, resulting in a 4-3-2-1 point system. On a few ballots, some categories were left blank (namely the Top Referee). The figures listed are the percentage of points possible.

For example, Everett’s Josh Caron received 29 of a possible 52 first-place votes in the Toughest Player category.

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

Statistics listed are through Friday’s games.

Best Fans

Tri-City • 59.4%
Tri-City won this category for the first time, ending Everett’s six-year run. Americans fans average more than 4,700 per game.

Also
Everett . . . . 46%
Kelowna . . . . 34.7%
Vancouver . . . . 34.6%
Spokane . . . . 32.1%
Portland . . . . 29.5%
Victoria . . . . 17.8%
Seattle . . . . 2.7%
Kamloops . . . . 4.8%
Prince George . . . . 0.02%

Past winners
2006-11, Everett; 2005-03, Kelowna; 2002-1999, Prince George; 1998-94, Portland; 1993, Seattle.

Top Executive

Bob Tory, Tri-City • 73.06%
Won for the second year in a row after putting together one of the best teams in the Western Hockey League.

Also
Craig Bonner, Kamloops . . . . 68.7%
Mike Johnston, Portland . . . . 43.2%
Scott Bonner, Vancouver . . . . 40.3%
Tim Speltz, Spokane . . . . 23.7%
Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna . . . . 12.8%

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

Guy Charron, Kamloops • 64.1%
Has brought respectability back to a franchise that hasn’t been past the first round of the playoffs since 1999-00.

Also
Jim Hiller, Tri-City . . . . 55.2%
Don Nachbaur, Spokane . . . . 50.1%
Don Hay, Vancouver . . . . 48.4%
Mike Johnston, Portland . . . . 26.1%
Ryan Huska, Kelowna . . . . 22.7%

Past winners
2011, Don Nachbaur, Spokane; 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

Adam Hughesman, Tri-City • 85.6%
Top-scoring overage player in the league with 32 goals and 50 assists. Has 12 power-play goals and a plus-31 rating.

Also
Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City . . . . 66.4%
Chase Schaber, Kamloops . . . . 37.2%
Drew Owsley, Prince George . . . . 13.9%
Josh Birkholz, Everett . . . . 11.9%
Hayden Rintoul, Victoria . . . . 10.9%

Past winners
2011, Tyler Johnson, Spokane; 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

Chase Schaber, Kamloops • 48.8%
Blazers have allowed just 151 goals — fourth best in the league — and his plus-24 rating speaks to that success.

Also
Taylor Peters, Portland . . . . 39.7%
Patrick Holland, Tri-City . . . . 28.2%
Justin Feser, Tri-City . . . . 24.7%
Colin Smith, Kamloops . . . . 11.8%
Steve Kuhn, Spokane . . . . 10.2%

Past winners
2011-09, Tyler Johnson, Spokane; 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

Alex Forsberg, Prince George • 56.9%
Top-scoring 16-year-old in Western Conference with 12 goals and 19 assists (31 points).

Also
Eric Comrie, Tri-City . . . . 50.8%
Matt Needham, Kamloops . . . . 48.2%
Nic Petan, Portland . . . . 42.1%
Shea Theodore, Seattle . . . . 24.1%
Madison Bowey, Kelowna . . . . 14.6%

Past winners
2011, Derrick Pouliot, Portland; 2010, Shane McColgan, Kelowna; 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 • 81.6%
The Pickards have won this category for 5 years. His numbers (3.45 GAA, .910 save percentage) don’t reflect his talent.

Also
Ty Rimmer, Tri-City . . . . 64.5%
Cole Cheveldave, Kamloops . . . . 48.9%
Drew Owsley, Prince George . . . . 26.8%
Adam Brown, Kelowna . . . . 17.4%
Adam Morrison, Vancouver . . . . 15.3%

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

Ryan Murray, Everett • 31.2%
Smooth skating D-man went from sixth last year to first. One of the top prospects for this year’s NHL draft.

Also
Josh Birkholz, Everett . . . . 30.9%
Patrick Holland, Tri-City . . . . 19.5%
Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City . . . . 18.3%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . . 17.2%
Sven Bartschi, Portland . . . . 15.3%

Past winners
2011, Tyler Johnson, Spokane; 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

Patrick Holland, Tri-City • 42.7%
Third in team scoring and 10th in the league with 71 points — nine better than all of last year — with 19 games remaining.

Also
Justin Feser, Tri-City . . . . 24.8%
Colin Smith, Kamloops . . . . 19.9%
Dylan Willick, Kamloops . . . . 15.6%
Mitch Holmberg, Spokane . . . . 9.9%
Dominik Uher, Spokane . . . . 9.8%

Past winners
2011, Adam Hughesman, Tri-City; 2010, Shane Harper, Everett; 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

Brad Ross, Portland • 64.5%
Eighth in the league in PIMs with 127 — it’s what he doesn’t get caught doing that landed him at the top of this list.

Also
Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City . . . . 40.6%
Darren Kramer, Spokane . . . . 34.3%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . . 27.8%
Brendan Leipsic, Portland . . . . 15.2%
Brett Bulmer, Kelowna . . . . 12.9%

Past winners
2011, Curt Gogol, Chilliwack; 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, PG; 2002-00, Brandin Coté, Spokane.

Best Pro Prospect

Ryan Murray, Everett • 72.2%
Without question, is the the top defenseman available for in the 2012 NHL draft. Projected to be a top 5 pick overall.

Also
Sven Bartschi, Portland . . . . 59.6%
Ty Rattie, Portland . . . . 43.1%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . . 32.7%
Joe Morrow, Portland . . . . 18.3%
Brett Bulmer, Kelowna . . . . 14.2%

Past winners
2011, Ryan Johansen, Portland; 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

Tim Bozon, Kamloops • 73.1%
Leads the league in rookie scoring with 27 goals and 29 assists. Third in team scoring with 56 points.

Also
Marek Tvrdon, Vancouver . . . . 52.9%
Logan Nelson, Victoria . . . . 33.7%
Alex Forsberg, Prince George . . . . 26.3%
Cole Cheveldave, Kamloops . . . . 23.3%
Nic Petan, Portland . . . . 16.8%

Past winners
2011, Sven Bartschi, Portland; 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

Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver • 76.2%
Has played just 38 games, but leads Giants in goals (31), power-play goals (14) and points (61).

Also
Calvin Pickard, Seattle . . . . 66.1%
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . . 23.8%
Drew Owsley, Prince George . . . . 20.8%
Brenden Kichton, Spokane . . . . 20.6%
Ty Rattie, Portland . . . . 14.8%

Past winners
2011-10, Calvin Pickard, Seattle; 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

Corbin Baldwin, Spokane • 41.7%
Improved from sixth last year to the top of the list. His plus-33 rating ranks first in Western Conference with Yuen.

Also
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . . 39.7%
William Wrenn, Portland . . . . 34.3%
Zach Yuen, Tri-City . . . . 29.8%
David Musil, Vancouver . . . . 21.9%
Tyler Hansen, Kamloops . . . . 16.9%

Past winners
2011-10, Jared Cowen, Spokane; 2009, Tyler Myers, Kelowna; 2008, Luke Schenn, Kelowna; 2007, Brett Festerling, Vancouver; 2006, Mark Fistric, Vancouver; 2005-04, Shea Weber, Kelowna ; 2003, Matt Spiller, Seattle; 2002-01, Kurt Sauer, Spokane.

Hardest Shot

Joe Morrow, Portland • 70.8%
There’s no radar gun in the WHL, but the voting shows who carries the big stick and knows how to use it.

Also
Myles Bell, Kelowna . . . . 40.7%
Ryan Murray, Everett . . . . 28.6%
Brenden Kichton, Spokane . . . . 16.2%
Patrick Holland, Tri-City . . . . 14.3%
David Musil, Vancouver . . . . 14.1%

Past winners
2011, Sena Acolatse, Prince George; 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

Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City • 61.9%
Possession of the puck leads to goals, which the Americans have scored 205.

Also
Taylor Peters, Portland . . . . 47.3%
Chase Schaber, Kamloops . . . . 45%
Steve Kuhn, Spokane . . . . 22.3%
Justin Feser, Tri-City . . . . 17.2%
Luke Lockhart, Seattle . . . . 14.2%

Past winners
2011-09, Tyler Johnson, Spokane; 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

Ty Rattie, Portland • 78.4%
Second in the league in goals with 43, and tops with 22 on the power play. Leads the league in scoring with 88 points.

Also
Brendan Ranford, Kamloops . . . . 41.1%
Adam Hughesman, Tri-City . . . . 34.2%
Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver . . . . 25.4%
Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City . . . . 15.1%
Josh Birkholz, Everett . . . . 10.2%

Past winners
2011-10, Ryan Howse, Chilliwack; 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

Josh Caron, Everett • 74.8%
His 14 fights rank sixth in the league. Guys know better than to throw down with the 6-3, 215-pound defenseman.

Also
Darren Kramer, Spokane . . . . 57.9%
Jesse Mychan, Tri-City . . . . 25.1%
Jacob Doty, Seattle . . . . 22.9%
Wes Vannieuwenhuizen, Vancouver . . . . 18.1%
Corbin Baldwin, Spokane . . . . 16.6%

Past winners
2011, Sena Acolatse, Prince George; 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

Ty Rimmer, Tri-City • 41%
He left his 3.29 GAA and .899 save percentage in Prince George. Has a 2.35 GAA and a league-high 5 shutouts.

Also
Colin Smith, Kamloops . . . . 40.2%
Jordan Martinook, Vancouver . . . . 30.1%
Patrick Holland, Tri-City . . . . 29.7%
JC Lipon, Kamloops . . . . 21.3%
Mitch Holmberg, Spokane . . . . 12.7%

Past winners
2011, Brendan Ranford, Kamloops; 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 • 48.8%
Not the best year for officials — a lot of teams left this category blank. Won for the second year.

Also
Andy Thiessen . . . . 25.7%
Steve Papp . . . . 24%
Trevor Hanson . . . . 23.4%
Derek Zalaski . . . . 20.2%
Ryan Benbow . . . . 8.4%

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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