Brendan Shinnimin has been blowing the dust off Tri-City Americans scoring marks that have not seen the light of day for years.
The overage forward unearthed Daymond Langkow's 1994-95 Bob Clarke trophy Saturday night, becoming just the second Tri-City player to win the Western Hockey League scoring title with 134 points.
"I look back to the beginning of the season with the start I had (55 points at the end of December)," said Shinnimin, who finished the season with points in a franchise-record 23 consecutive games. "It's not a start that would see me first with the points I have. From there, it has been a steady pace."
Shinnimin led the Canadian Hockey League (WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) in scoring. Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67's led the OHL with 99 points, while Yanni Gourde of the Victoriaville Tigres led the QMJHL with 122 points.
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Shinnimin had a brilliant February with 23 goals and 20 assists in 14 games.
"The month of February was pretty special," he said. "My goal coming into this season was to earn a pro contract and win a scoring title."
He did both.
After his outpouring of points in February, Shinnimin signed a three-year free-agent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes on March 2.
"He has had a tremendous year and elevated his play when it mattered," Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said. "It's a tremendous honor for someone who was a list player, sent home at 16 and had to work to earn a roster spot at 17. It requires you to play at a high level all season and be consistent, which is hard to do with injuries, suspensions and the long bus rides."
Shinnimin began his assault on the franchise scoring marks Feb. 21, hitting the 100-point mark in a 7-2 home win against Everett. The last player before Shinnimin to hit the century mark was Eric Johansson, who had 103 points during the 2001-02 season.
Adam Hughesman (50 goals and 116 points) and Patrick Holland (84 assists and 109 points) later joined Shinnimin in the 100-point club.
"You look at the wall (outside the Tri-City dressing room) and the guys over 100 points, like Stu Barnes, and it's pretty special," Shinnimin said.
Shinnimin then reached the 50-goal plateau Feb. 26 in a 5-1 road victory against Seattle, marking the first time a Tri-City player scored 50 goals since Dylan Gyori had 53 during the 1998-99 season. Shinnimin finished the season with 58 goals, and Hughesman scored his 50th Friday against Everett.
"You have to be on a good team to have individual success," Tory said. "The team supports not just one player, but every player."
Shinnimin, Hughesman and Americans captain Mason Wilgosh are childhood friends that have put together a season to remember in their final WHL season.
"We have played together since we were 7 years old," Shinnimin said. "To be on the same junior team, that just doesn't happen. As 20-year-olds, we are all leaders (Shinnimin and Hughesman are assistant captains). Hughey has had a great year with more than 100 points, and Willie is our captain and a great leader."
Tory first struck gold in Winnipeg when he drafted Jonathan Toews No. 1 overall in the 2003 bantam draft. Though Toews never played for the Americans, Tory kept going back to the Manitoba capital.
"We've been fortunate," Tory said. "Part of it is planning, and part of it is luck. They have been fortunate to play together most of their lives, and it will create bonds they will carry with them the rest of their lives. We have a lot of guys who have played 4-5 years here, and that creates a family atmosphere, which carries over onto the ice and into the community."
After winning their third U.S. Division banner together, the Winnipeg trio has its sights set on the Memorial Cup. Tri-City never has played for junior hockey's biggest prize.
"We have all the ingredients to make a nice long run," Shinnimin said.
*Annie Fowler; 582-1574; email@example.com