If not for social media, Justin Feser may not have known he was named the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference Player of the Year on Thursday.
“I saw it on Twitter, actually,” Feser said in a telephone interview from Portland, Maine, where he is playing for the Portland Pirates (AHL).
Feser, from Red Deer, Alberta, is the third Tri-City Americans player to earn the award in the last five year, joining Brendan Shinnimin (2012) and Colton Yellow Horn (2008), who earned the honor five years ago to the day as Feser.
“The (Tri-City) organization gives you a chance to succeed and gets the most out of its players,” said Feser, who played five years with the Americans, serving as team captain this past season. “This is one of those things that if it happens, it happens. If not, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s nice to be recognized.”
Americans general manager Bob Tory said it was an honor that was well deserved.
“What he did with our club this year and throughout his career is amazing,” Tory said. “He never got the credit he deserved because he is so humble. He is one of the greatest players in our history.”
Feser and forward Adam Lowry of the Swift Current Broncos are the finalists for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL Player of the Year. The winner will be announced May 1. Shinnimin won the award last year.
Lowry led the Broncos with 45 goals, 43 assists (88 points) and a plus-18 rating.
Feser, who led the Americans with 106 points (44 goals, 62 assists), a plus-20 rating and 57 penalty minutes this season, signed an Amateur Tryout Contract with the Portland Pirates earlier in the month, reuniting him with Shinnimin.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Feser was fourth in WHL scoring and was named a Western Conference first-team all-star. He also set the WHL Iron Man record with 321 consecutive games, breaking the former record of 311 games held by Dwayne Newman for 21 years.
Feser twice was named WHL Player of the Week and was Player of the Month for February after scoring 24 points in 11 games.
In his five-year career with the Americans, Feser scored 155 goals and 198 assists (353 points) in 351 games. He ranks second in franchise history in games played, third in goals, sixth in assists and fourth in points.
“Every year we have a four- or five-year veteran that was important to our team and community,” Tory said. “They pass on those lessons to the younger players — about the game and life in general. Our goal every year is to win a championship, but to be able to do what we have done year after year, winning 40 games seven years in a row, is a credit to our players.”
With the Pirates, Feser still is getting his feet wet at the AHL level. He has played four games, registering one assist.
“It’s a big step up from juniors,” Feser said. “They are bigger, faster, stronger and everything happens faster. It takes time to adjust to. Shinny has shown me around town and helped me with stuff at the rink — how to be a professional. He’s done a good job of that for me.”
Feser is playing on an ATO and said he has not yet been offered a contract.
“I’m just hoping for the best,” he said. “Show them what I can do. When I get into the lineup and get a shift, I make the most of it.”
The Pirates finish the regular season this weekend with three games. They need one point to secure a playoff spot.
Note: Americans defenseman Mitch Topping is a finalist for the WHL Humanitarian of the Year award, along with Cody Sylvester of the Calgary Hitmen. Topping and Feser formed Making Awareness a Top Priority to Fes Out Muscular Dystrophy. Their efforts raised more than $14,656 for MDA.
The recipients of all WHL individual awards will be announced at the 2013 WHL Awards Luncheon, which will be held in Calgary, Alberta, on Wednesday, May 1, 2013.
WHL Player of the Year, Four Broncos Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Adam Lowry (Calgary, AB), Swift Current Broncos
Western Conference – Justin Feser (Red Deer, AB), Tri-City Americans
WHL Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Leon Draisaitl (Cologne, Germany), Prince Albert Raiders
Western Conference – Seth Jones (Plano, TX), Portland Winterhawks
WHL Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy
Eastern Conference – Patrik Bartosak (Koprivnice, CZR), Red Deer Rebels
Western Conference – Mac Carruth (Shorewood, MN), Portland Winterhawks
WHL Defenceman of the Year, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Morgan Rielly (Vancouver, BC), Moose Jaw Warriors
Western Conference – Brenden Kichton (Spruce Grove, AB), Spokane Chiefs
WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Brad Hornung Trophy
Eastern Conference – Dylan Wruck (Saskatoon, SK), Edmonton Oil Kings Western Conference – Zach Franko (Winnipeg, MB), Kelowna Rockets
WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Josh Morrissey (Calgary, AB), Prince Albert Raiders
Western Conference – Rourke Chartier (Saskatoon, SK), Kelowna Rockets
WHL Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Ryan McGill, Kootenay Ice
Western Conference – Ryan Huska, Kelowna Rockets
WHL Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Bob Green, Edmonton Oil Kings
Western Conference – Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna Rockets
WHL Humanitarian of the Year, Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Cody Sylvester (Vernon , BC), Calgary Hitmen
Western Conference – Mitch Topping (Red Deer, AB), Tri City Americans
WHL Marketing / Business Award
Eastern Conference – Saskatoon Blades
Western Conference – Kamloops Blazers