The Canadian Junior A Hockey League (CJAHL) has announced the eight finalists for the 2007 RBC Financial Group CJAHL Player of the Year. One finalist was chosen from eight of the CJAHL’s member leagues.
The 2007 RBC Financial Group CJAHL Player of the Year will be announced on Friday, April 20th.
British Columbia Hockey League – Kyle Turris (Burnaby Express)
To say Turris has had a strong year in his final year of Junior A would be a bit of an understatement. Following his MVP performance in last year’s RBC Royal Bank Cup championship game, the New Westminster, BC native won a gold medal as a member of Canada’s National Under-18 Team at the Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic in August, and was named MVP of the inaugural World Junior A Challenge in Yorkton, SK in November.
Turris, who will be attending the University of Wisconsin beginning in the fall, finished second in BCHL scoring in 2006-07, scoring a league-leading 66 goals (including 50 in 39 games), and finishing with 121 points in 53 games. He put up another 26 points (12g, 14a) in 14 playoff games as the Express advanced to the seventh game of the conference semi-final.
Off the ice, Turris represents the Express at various functions, serving as a guest coach at minor hockey practices and going to elementary schools to read to children and tell them about the importance of school. As for his own schooling, the Grade 12 student at St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby will be enrolling in the business program at Wisconsin, with the goal of obtaining a business degree.
Alberta Junior Hockey League – Dustin Sather (Grande Prairie Storm)
There’s not much Dustin Sather hasn’t been able to accomplish while a member of the Grande Prairie Storm. The 2006/07 AJHL Most Valuable Player and Source for Sports Cup winner, Sather was also named to the AJHL’s First All-Star Team – a unanimous selection – and was named his team’s Most Valuable Player and Top Forward. Throw in the fact that he led the AJHL in scoring with 104 points (41g, 63a) and Sather had a season for the ages in 2006/07.
Sather, who will attend the University of Alaska-Fairbanks next season, finished his AJHL career as the Storm’s all-time leader in games, goals, assists, points and power play goals, and sits 8th on the AJHL’s all-time scoring chart.
A participant in the ‘Read Up A Storm’ program in Grande Prairie, Sather traveled to local schools to read to students and explain how important an education is. He also worked with numerous Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association teams, helping coach aspiring players.
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League – Kyle Reed (Notre Dame Hounds)
The Notre Dame Hounds’ sniper was one of the most consistent scorers in the SJHL in 2006/07, averaging more than a point per game in racking up 61 points in 48 games. He finished third in the league with 32 goals, impressive considering he missed two weeks of action in November to join Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge, where he won a gold medal, scoring twice in four games.
While in Yorkton, SK for the WJAC, Reed kept the rest of Canada updated on Canada West’s progress, writing a daily diary that was posted on the SJHL’s website, as well as Hockey Canada’s.
Despite having a year of Junior A eligibility remaining, Reed will move on to Ohio State University for the 2007/08 season and continue his hockey career with the Buckeyes while pursuing an education.
Manitoba Junior Hockey League – Brant Hilton (Winnipeg South Blues)
After joining the Blues around Christmas from the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, Hilton turned the MJHL into his own personal playground, winning the MJHL MVP and Top Goaltender awards while leading the league in almost every major statistical category and making the MJHL’s First All-Star Team.
Hilton turned in a 31-15-2 record, with a league-leading 2.60 goals against average, a league-leading .925 save percentage and a league-leading seven shutouts in 48 games, helping the Blues to a second-place finish in the MJHL’s Addison Division, although they were upset in the opening round of the playoffs by their cross-town rivals, the Winnipeg Saints.
Away from the Blues, Hilton works as an instructor at the Starbuck Hockey Academy, and values giving advice to young goaltenders, sharing some of his experiences with the hope it will help them in their careers. He aspires to have a career in communications, possibly in writing or broadcasting.
Superior Int’l Junior Hockey League – Jordan Smith (Fort William North Stars)
Being captain of the defending league and regional champions would put a lot of pressure on a young hockey player. But not Jordan Smith. As a 20-year-old with the North Stars, Smith put up 86 points (46g, 40a), tops in the SIJHL in scoring among defensemen, and almost 20 points ahead of his nearest competitor. He was also the leading scorer among CJAHL defensemen.
Smith has led the North Stars to another SIJHL regular season championship, with a 41-6-3 record, and has helped them into another SIJHL Championship Series, as they look for league title number four in a row.
A student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, ON, Smith has aspirations of becoming a high school teacher and having the same influence on his students that teachers had on him. He is currently majoring in History and Kinesiology, and has plans to graduate in the spring of 2010.
Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League – Anthony Libonati (Blind River Beavers)
A two-year captain of the Beavers, Libonati has led by example, both on the ice and off, as evidenced by being awarded the NOJHL Best Overall Team Player for 2006/07. A Second Team NOJHL All-Star and point-per-game player (26g, 33a, 59p in 43gp), Libonati finished in the top ten of league scoring in 2006/07.
Off the ice, Libonati volunteered his time with a Novice team in the Blind River Minor Hockey Association, going out to practices and doing what he could to help the team. His leadership skills and positive attitude are just two of the reasons he was chosen as the Beavers’ captain for a second consecutive year.
With a number of NCAA scholarships available to him, Libonati will go to school in the fall and work towards a degree in business management, with a minor in graphic design and/or music. He already has his mind set on what he wants as a career: creating custom drum sets that can combine his love of art with his love of music.
Central Junior Hockey League – Doug Jewer (Kanata Stallions)
Returning to the CJHL after one year of NCAA hockey at Northeastern University meant Jewer had the experience needed to excel. He did just that, winning CJHL MVP – as well as Stallions MVP – along with a spot on the CJHL First All-Star Team and the league’s Top Goaltender Award.
As a player with NCAA experience, Jewer stepped up in the dressing room, becoming more vocal both on and off the ice and taking a leadership role. For his efforts, both this season and the two previous years he spent in Kanata, Jewer will have his jersey retired by the team in 2007/08.
Jewer looks forward to returning to an NCAA school in 2007/08 and continuing the college education he began at Northeastern University.
Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League – Nicolas Lafontaine (Action de Joliette)
A three-year QMJHL veteran (Rouyn-Noranda and Chicoutimi), Lafontaine took the LHJAAAQ by storm, scoring 47 goals and adding 38 assists in 50 games. He was awarded the league MVP award, as well as the Student Player of the Year award. He was also the RBC Financial Group Junior A Scholarship recipient for the LHJAAAQ.
Being a three-year vet of the QMJHL, Lafontaine brings a lot of experience and leadership qualities to the Action. Just because Lafontaine does not wear a letter on his jersey does not mean to him that he cannot speak up and be a leader in the dressing room and on the ice. He is constantly talking with the younger players, giving advice and making them better players.
An Actuarial/Finance Mathematics student at Concordia University, Lafontaine will continue his hockey career with the Stingers while getting his education. He has his sights set on being an actuarial analyst once his playing career is over.