NAHL announces 2017-18 season awards
May 2, 2018
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced the remainder of its awards for the 2017-18 season. The selections are based on performance during the 2017-18 regular season, as voted upon by the league’s 23 head coaches.
The 2017-18 season awards include: All-NAHL Team, Most Valuable Player, Forward of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, Vaughn Hockey Goaltender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, General Manager of the Year, Executive of the Year and Organization of the Year, along with the Apex Learning Virtual School Academic Achievement Award, Leadership Award and Community Service Award. Here is a look at the winners:
2017-18 All-NAHL 1st Team
Forward: Jakov Novak, Janesville Jets
Forward: Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin Bruins
Forward: Hunter Wendt, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Defense: Eric Gotz, Minnesota Wilderness
Defense: Luke Orysiuk, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Goalie: Mitchell Gibson, Lone Star Brahmas
2017-18 All-NAHL 2nd Team
Forward: Nathan Burke, Aberdeen Wings
Forward: Josh Boyer, Brookings Blizzard
Forward: Kip Hoffmann, Janesville Jets
Defense: Dominick Procopio, Shreveport Mudbugs
Defense: Brandon Koch, Coulee Region Chill
Goalie: Isaiah Saville, Minnesota Magicians
2017-18 Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year: Jakov Novak, Janesville Jets
The 19-year-old native of Riverside, Ontario, put together a remarkable season for the Jets. Novak, who is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Bentley University in the fall, led all NAHL players in scoring during the regular season with 73 points in 56 games played. That included 32 goals, which also tied for the NAHL lead. He also led the NAHL with a +41 rating during the regular season, showing his talent at both ends of the ice. Novak (6’3/200) was also selected to and played in the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, where he improved his NHL Draft stock by recording four points in two games for one of the two NAHL Selects teams. Novak is one of several NAHL players who were listed in the NHL Central Scouting’s Final Draft Rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft. In his two-year NAHL career, he has recorded 101 points in 108 career regular season games.
2017-18 Vaughn Goaltender of the Year and Rookie of the Year: Mitchell Gibson, Lone Star Brahmas
Lone Star Brahmas goaltender Mitchell Gibson, 18, had a record-breaking season in more ways than one. The 6’1/186 lbs. native of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, who is committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Harvard University, tied an NAHL single-season record with 11 shutouts in 2017-18. Gibson also finished the regular season leading in the NAHL in goals against average (1.59) and save percentage (93.5%), which were both the lowest numbers in the league since the 2014-15 season. He was also 2nd in wins with 26 and played in the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for one of two NAHL Selects teams. In mid-April, Gibson one of several NAHL players, including three goalies, who were listed in the NHL Central Scouting’s Final Draft Rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft. The last goalie to win both the NAHL Goaltender of the Year and NAHL Rookie of the Year honors in the same season was current Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who did it in 2011-12 with the Odessa Jackalopes.
2017-18 Defenseman of the Year: Eric Gotz, Minnesota Wilderness
Minnesota Wilderness defenseman Eric Gotz, 19, not only led his team in scoring during the 2017-18 season, but he also led the entire league in scoring for all defensemen with 47 points (8 goals, 39 assists), while playing in all 60 regular season games. The 20-year-old from Hermantown, Minnesota was also tied for 6th among NAHL blueliners with a +26 rating this season. The two-year veteran and Wilderness team captain would also be a viable candidate for most improved player if the award existed, as he had nine assists in 57 games played in 2016-17, marking a 38-point improvement from last year to this year. In 117 career NAHL games, Gotz recorded 56 points from the blueline.
2017-18 Coach of the Year: Trevor Stewart, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Now in his 7th season of being the head coach of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Stewart helped his team to another successful campaign on the ice during the regular season. The Ice Dogs posted a league-best 45 wins and 97 points, and also set a modern day NAHL record with a 24-game winning streak, which took place from December 8th to March 2nd. Even more incredible was that the Ice Dogs had a 33-game point streak during the season, which extended from November 11th all the way until March 3rd, in which the team did not incur a regulation loss. In addition, 10 players from this year’s team are committed to play NCAA Division I hockey. Stewart has previously guided the Ice Dogs to two Robertson Cup National Championships in 2014 and 2016.
2017-18 General Manager of the Year: Rob Proffitt, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Thanks again in large part to General Manager Rob Proffitt, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs continue to be the hottest ticket in town. On the ice, the Ice Dogs were crowned both the NAHL regular season and Midwest Division regular season champions, which included an NAHL-best 45 wins and 97 points. The team also has had 10 players commit to NCAA Division I schools to date this season. With a seating capacity of 2,242 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Proffitt helped the Ice Dogs sell out every single home game this season, all the while serving as the in-arena host/emcee and injecting his infectious energy into the passionate Ice Dogs fan base. Proffitt also demands his players to succeed in the classroom. He also requires a certain level of behavior when his teams are in public. He prepares them to succeed not only at their current level, but also several years into the future. This marks Proffitt’s sixth NAHL General Manager of the Year award in the last eight seasons.
2017-18 Executive of the Year: Bill McCoshen, Janesville Jets
The Janesville Jets have established themselves as one of the model teams in the NAHL, thanks in large part to Bill McCoshen. McCoshen is the Founder, President and Managing Partner of the Jets, and also Chairman of the North American Hockey League Board of Governors. Through his tireless and dedicated work and leadership, the Jets had another successful season on the ice and in the Janesville community. McCoshen hired head coach Gary Shuchuk, who had previously been an assistant at the University of Wisconsin. The team won 38 games during the regular season and had 13 players on the 2017-18 team with NCAA Division I commitments. McCoshen, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016, has also been the driving force surrounding the Jets community efforts, which averages 2,000 total hours of service per season. That includes partnerships with the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Club, Junior Achievement, Janesville Youth Hockey, Wisconsin School for the Blind, and Visually Impaired, and dozens of other schools and local organizations. In the boardroom, he has helped direct NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld and the rest of the NAHL staff to unprecedented levels of league prosperity and stability.
2017-18 Organization of the Year: Fairbanks Ice Dogs
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs continue to be a model organization in the NAHL and the 2017-18 season was no exception. Their fan base is as passionate and supportive as they come, as they sold out every single one of their home games this season and operated at an incredible 100% capacity, continuing to be the hottest ticket in town on Friday and Saturday nights. On the ice, the Ice Dogs were crowned both the NAHL regular season and Midwest Division regular season champions, which included an NAHL-best 45 wins and 97 points. They also set a modern day NAHL record with a 24-game winning streak, which took place from December 8th to March 2nd. The team also saw 10 players commit to NCAA Division I schools to date this season. In addition, the Ice Dogs also had two players listed on the All-NAHL 1st Team.
2017-18 Apex Learning Virtual School Academic Achievement Award: Nic Azarovitz, Johnstown Tomahawks
In his first season of junior hockey in the NAHL, Azarovitz, who spent most of the season playing as a 17-year-old rookie, took six classes at the Great Lakes Cyber Academy. He maintained straight A's and a perfect 4.0 average throughout the year while taking Honors classes in English, Statistics, Physics, Business Communication, Psychology, and Art History. At the conclusion of the season, he then returned back to Canton High School to graduate with honors, taking a full load of classes. On the ice, the 6’2/200 lbs. native of Canton, Michigan, appeared in 31 games and had three assists.
2017-18 Leadership Award: Austin O’Rourke, Amarillo Bulls
O’Rourke joined the Amarillo Bulls midway through the 2017-18 season from the Lone Star Brahmas and within three days was named Co-Captain. He changed the culture of the team, creating a level of accountability amongst the players that was not there prior to him being on the roster. He emphasized the things the coaching staff was preaching and got the players to follow him. His leadership skills are one of the big reasons that he earned a NCAA Division I commitment to UMass-Lowell. He added a game night award that emphasized blocking shots, helped young players to develop their confidence and maturity, and was an integral part to building the foundation for the culture that will exist long after he moves on to college. He also volunteered for every community service event, went out of his way to spend time with fans and kids, and always had a smile on his face. He is a difference maker both on the ice and in the lockerroom. The Amarillo Bulls success in the coming years will be a direct result of the time that he spent with the team this season. “In my nine years coaching in the NAHL I would really struggle to find many players that had such an incredible impact on an organization as Austin did with us. I know that we did not have the success that would generally reflect an award like this, but I can assure you that Austin's impact on our young players will be seen next season and beyond,” stated Bulls head coach Rocky Russo.
2017-18 Community Service Award: Jonathan Bendorf, Aberdeen Wings
Jonathan understands the value of giving back, and continues to go above and beyond for the team. He never has to be asked to participate, and often shows up when not requested. It is never a question when it comes to who to send to an event, as Jonathan always steps up and volunteers. He is truly unique when it comes to his passion for the community. He was acquired in a trade, which Coach Scott Langer hails as one of the best trades he has made in his career. He is a tremendous locker room guy, who excels in every way, and motivates his teammates to give back to the community. This season, the Aberdeen Wings have completed thousands of hours of community service between players, staff, and volunteers. One of the appearances the players do each season, is to the non-profit Aspire, an organization supports people with disabilities of all types. After one appearance there, Jonathan took it upon himself to organize a group of guys that visited Aspire every week. The difference this has made in Aspire client’s lives is tremendous. From throwing darts, doing spin art, playing BINGO, and just hanging out, the relationships developed are truly special. Each year the team focuses on spending a large amount of their time making a difference in the community, and Jonathan has been a driving force around growing this. The Wings have team appearances at the School for the Blind, Aspire, the YMCA, helping victims of domestic abuse, waiting tables for the community theater, and spreading awareness by participating in the Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention 5k. This season, they Wings also held a jersey auction for the Shriners, and were able to donate over $20,000 back into the community. "Jonathan is committed to being at as many community events possible and his compassion and heart in the community is a huge reason why he is a fan favorite in Aberdeen. Jonathan truly makes a difference each time he steps into the community, and the Wings are proud to have him wearing their logo and representing the team," said Wings head coach Scott Langer.