The United States Hockey League announced today the recipients of the USHL Player of the Year, USHL Forward of the Year, USHL Defenseman of the Year, USHL Goaltender of the Year and USHL Rookie of the Year awards for the 2017-18 season. Winners are determined by a vote of League general managers. Team USA abstained from nominations and final voting this season.
USHL Player of the Year: Anthony Del Gaizo, Muskegon Lumberjacks (full release)
USHL Forward of the Year: Jackson Cates, Waterloo Black Hawks (full release)
USHL Defenseman of the Year: Ben Finkelstein, Waterloo Black Hawks (full release)
USHL Goaltender of the Year: Filip Larsson, Tri-City Storm (full release)
USHL Rookie of the Year: Matej Pekar, Muskegon Lumberjacks (full release)
Del Gaizo is the first Muskegon player to be named USHL Player of the Year since current University of Minnesota forward Rem Pitlick won the award in 2015-16 and joins Pitlick as the only two players in the history of the Lumberjacks to be named USHL Player of the Year. Del Gaizo led the USHL in points, assists, and played in all 60 of Muskegon's regular season games.
Cates is the first Waterloo player to win USHL Forward of the Year since Taylor Cammarata in 2012-13. He is also the fourth Black Hawks forward all-time to win the award, joining Cammarata, Jason Blake (1993-94) and Peter Ferraro (1991-92). Cates finished his second USHL season with 63 points (33G, 30A) in 57 games, one of only three players in the USHL to finish the year with at least 30 goals and 30 assists.
Finkelstein becomes the fifth Black Hawks blueliner to be named USHL Defenseman of the Year, joining Brandon Montour (2013-14), Blake Kessel (2007-08), Doug Schmidt (1996-97) and John Gruden (1989-90). In 23 games this season, Finkelstein recorded 34 points (8G, 26A) to lead all Waterloo defenseman and tie for seventh among all USHL blueliners. He earned at least one point in 18 of those 23 appearances, putting him at 1.48 points/game, the fifth-highest mark in the USHL, and won USHL Defenseman of the Week honors five times.
Larsson is the first goaltender in the history of the Tri-City Storm to be named USHL Goaltender of the Year. He played in 30 games and posted a 1.65 GAA and a .941 SV% in that span. Both of those marks led the league, and the .941 SV% is the best mark in USHL history, dating back to 1979. Larsson's 1.65 GAA is the second-highest mark in the history of the USHL, behind only Marty Magers (Omaha Lancers), who posted a 1.62 GAA during the 2001-02 season. Larsson's GAA is the highest such mark in the Tier 1 era, dating back to the 2002-03 season. He also posted seven shutouts this season, the fourth highest total in the history of the USHL and the second most among goaltenders this season.
Pekar is the second straight Lumberjacks player and second Muskegon player ever to win USHL Rookie of the Year, joining 2017 USHL Rookie of the Year Andrei Svechnikov. Pekar played in 56 games with Muskegon this season, putting up an impressive 54 points (14G, 40A) in those contests. He tied for the rookie scoring lead with those 54 points, led all rookies in assists (40) and finished 10th among rookies with his 14 goals.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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