RIMOUSKI, Que. – Top draft prospect John Tavares had no problem seeing his national junior teammate Cody Hodgson named player of the year in Canadian junior hockey.
Hodgson, of the Brampton Battalion, won the Canadian Hockey League award Saturday afternoon, beating out Brett Sonne of the Calgary Hitmen and goaltender Nicola Riopel of the Moncton Wildcats.
Tavares, the star forward for the London Knights who is expected to be picked first overall in the NHL draft next month in Montreal, was player of the year as a 16-year-old in 2007. Justin Azevedo of the Kitchener Rangers won it last year.
“Cody had a great season,” said Tavares, who got the Top Prospect award. “He’s a special player and he’s doing well now in the American Hockey League.
“You don’t come in here wanting to win the individual awards. I’d do anything to be in the Memorial Cup now playing in the final, but it’s a great person who won the award.”
Hodgson, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, could not attend the awards ceremony at a downtown Rimouski arts centre because he is playing for the Manitoba Moose in the AHL playoffs, but his brother Clayton accepted the trophy.
Tavares and Hodgson won gold for Canada at the world junior championship in Ottawa in January, when Hodgson led the tournament with 16 points in six games.
Hodgson had a career-high 43 goals and 49 assists in 53 games for the Battalion this season.
Tavares led the OHL with 58 goals in 56 games, setting a league record for career goals when he notched his 215th in March. Ranked No. 1 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Tavares beat out Drummondville defenceman Dmitry Kulikov and Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane for his award.
The New York Islanders are expected to take Tavares with the top pick, unless they decide to trade it. He and Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman are likely to be the top two selections.
Tavares has spoken to the Islanders but has not been told whether they will select him.
“Anywhere would be a good fit,” he said. “To be part of an organization that’s rebuilding and looking at the way the game is now building on young players, I think it’s a good opportunity to learn from older guys in my first few years.
“So wherever I go I’ll be happy.”
The Oakville, Ont., native has been hearing about the draft for years and can’t wait to see where he will end up.
“It’s coming, it’ll be soon enough, so I want to enjoy my time now,” he said. “It’s going to be a big change in my life.
“Everything’s going to get pretty crazy soon, so I want to enjoy my down time, relax and recover and get ready for an exciting time in my life.”
The Knights were knocked out of the OHL playoffs by the Windsor Spitfires, who will play in the Memorial Cup final on Sunday against the Kelowna Rockets at the Colisee de Rimouski. Tavares said the Spitfires can never be counted out.
“They always seem to find a way,” he said. “They found a way in this tournament even when they were down. But Kelowna’s going to have fresh legs and they’ll be antsy. I think whoever makes less mistakes and capitalizes on mistakes will win.”
Windsor coach Bob Boughner won the coach of the year award ahead of Vancouver’s Don Hay and Moncton’s Danny Flynn.
“It’s a great accomplishment and it’s great for our organization,” said Boughner.
Yannick Riendeau, whose Drummondville Voltigeurs were knocked out of the tournament by Windsor in the semifinal on Friday night, won the top scorer trophy as he led the three junior leagues with 126 points, including 58 goals. He beat out Tavares and Casey Pierro-Zabotel of Vancouver.
“Coach Guy Boucher showed a lot of confidence in me and that helped me a lot to have a good season like this,” the Boston Bruins prospect said.
The rookie of the year was Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars, who led his home town team with 30 goals and 60 points. He beat out Kulikov and Evgeny Grachev of Brampton.
Mike Murphy of the Belleville Bulls was named top goaltender after a 40-9-4 season with a league-best 2.08 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Others nominated were Riopel and Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans.
Vancouver’s Jonathan Blum was named top defenceman, edging Kulikov and Windsor’s Ryan Ellis.
The Humanitarian award went to Matthew Pistilli of the Shawinigan Cataractes, who donated game tickets to underprivileged children and took part in other charitable events.
“I have a lot of spare time so I might as well not waste it,” said the Montreal native, a 45-goal scorer who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes this week. “It made me feel good and the kids feel good.”
The top sportsman award went to Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll of Shawinigan ahead of Hodgson and Tyler Ennis of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The scholastic award was give to Stefan Elliot of the Saskatoon Blades ahead of Matt Duchene of Brampton and Payton Liske of the Saint John Sea Dogs.