I would guess that within the next few weeks Minnesota State will announce its team award winners for this season. I don't get a vote, but I do like to guess. So here are PucKato's picks for MVP, Unsung Hero, Most-Improved and Hustle Award:
Most valuable player: Tyler Elbrecht. I actually made this case in an earlier post/column this season, and I'll stand by it. Certainly, freshmen Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Matt Leitner deserve some consideration here, but I'll go with Elbrecht, the junior captain, and team leader. Forget the one goal, five assists. Elbrecht brought much more to the team than that. Not only did the Mavericks go 2-10-1 without his presence and 10-14-1 with him, but they allowed 4.38 goals per game during the 13 games he was out with a broken arm and 2.88 goals per game with him back. That's a difference of 1.5 goals per game.
Unsung hero: Joe Schiller. I wonder if Schiller ever could have imagined how his career would pan out when he came to MSU as a freshman four seasons ago. He has been moved from forward to defense back to forward again. This year was no exception to that. He simply said something like, "I'll play where they ask me to play." But he also played power play and penalty kill and ended up with career highs in assists and points. He finished the year with three goals and 15 assists for 18 points and 31 points in 109 career games.
Most improved player: Johnny McInnis. There are lots of candidates here — Zach Lehrke, Josh Nelson, Mat Knoll among them. Lehrke went from six points as a freshman to 29 but expectations on him were high and he was made a top-line center from the get-go. Nelson made big strides throughout the year and was a reliable D toward the end. Knoll was the freshman who made the biggest improvement from Day 1 to the end of the season. But McInnis, the sophomore wing, took advantage of opportunities he got early in the year and made it tough to take him out of the lineup. He went from one goal, three assists as a rookie to eight goals, seven assists this year. He scored two game-winners, including an OT goal against Nebraska-Omaha.
Hustle award (hardest worker): Tyler Elbrecht. Elbrecht won it last year, and it's hard to think he won't get it again. LaFontaine should be a candidate, too, but Elbrecht certainly seems to be the most determined player on the team, and his hustle was evident throughout that double-overtime game on Saturday night in Duluth, a night in which he played a ton of minutes (as he so often does) and scored his first goal of the season.
What do you think?