This season, more than 3,000 players suited up for Junior A games across Canada, in locations from Nanaimo, B.C. to Woodstock, N.B. But only six have been named as finalists for the RBC Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year award.
The finalists were selected by their respective CJHL leagues, with the winner – who will be announced during the 2010 RBC Cup in Dauphin, Man. and presented with his award at the tournament awards banquet on May 7 – chosen by a panel that includes Hockey Canada’s five living Life Members: Don Johnson, Frank Libera, Frank McKinnon, Gordon Renwick and Clair Sudsbury.
The winner will join a distinguished list of past honourees that includes current and former NHLers Kyle Turris (2007), Jeff Tambellini (2002), Dany Heatley (1999), Mike Comrie (1998), Paul Kariya (1992) and Greg Johnson (1989).
The 2010 nominees for RBC Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year are (in alphabetical order):
ETIENNE ARCHAMBAULT (COLLÈGE FRANÇAIS DE LONGUEUIL – LHJAAAQ)
Archambault was Mr. Everything in the LHJAAAQ this season, taking home the league’s scoring title (46g 48a 94p) and player of the year award, while also winning the league’s RBC scholarship, the only of the six finalists to be in the running for both the national player of the year and national scholarship. An alternate captain with Longueuil, the 20-year-old let his play on the ice do the talking, helping his team to the LHJAAAQ’s second-best record and a spot in the league final. As a four-year veteran of the team, Archambault knows the importance of setting an example for young players, and lets his determination and eagerness to do whatever it takes to win inspire his teammates, young and old.
Off the ice, Archambault is enrolled at the University of Montreal, taking classes towards a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Public Relations. He hopes to pursue a Masters in Labour Law, but hopes to do so while also continuing his hockey career at a college or university in the U.S. or Canada.
DAMIAN CROSS (PEMBROKE LUMBER KINGS – CJHL)
Canadian Junior A hockey’s scoring leader, Cross racked up a remarkable 140 points in 62 games for the Lumber Kings, helping them to a franchise-best season with 52 wins and 105 points while taking home the league’s most outstanding player award. He added an additional 23 points in 16 playoff contests as the Lumber Kings won their fourth-consecutive CJHL title and came within one victory of a trip to the 2010 RBC Cup. A former captain in Cornwall and alternate with the Lumber Kings, Cross leads by example both on and off the ice, knowing the playing hockey in a small town like Pembroke means the players are treated by celebrities by the community.
Recently committed to Providence College (NCAA DI) for the 2010-11 season, Cross will major in Business and Sports Management, with hopes to one day work in hockey, work with the next generation of players and give back to the game that has given him so much.
CODY KUNYK (SHERWOOD PARK CRUSADERS – AJHL)
The Alberta Junior Hockey League’s most valuable player, Kunyk finished in the top five in league scoring with 87 points (44g 43a) while taking home Sherwood Park’s awards for most valuable player, top scorer and fan favourite. He made a splash on the international stage in November in Summerside, P.E.I., leading the World Junior A Challenge in scoring and earning a spot on the tournament all-star team while helping Canada West to a silver medal. A lead-by-example type of player, Kunyk lets his play on the ice do the talking, coming up with big goal after big goal for the Crusaders while helping the younger players along in their development.
A player who has always found a way to balance school and hockey – he attended a hockey academy beginning in Grade 5 – Kunyk is a 2010-11 recruit of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks who will pursue a business degree while continuing to chase his dreams of a professional hockey career.
DENVER MANDERSON (PENTICTON VEES – BCHL)
Penticton’s captain for the past two seasons, Manderson had a breakout season for the Vees, doubling his point total from the 2008-09 campaign with 113 points in 50 games, earning the BCHL Interior Conference nod as most valuable player and his second-consecutive Penticton MVP award. The Fergus, Ont. native combined with Beau Bennett to form a lethal one-two punch, combining for 233 points as Penticton pushed the Vernon Vipers for first place during the regular season and again in the playoffs, when Manderson had 25 points in 16 games. Never a rah-rah player in the dressing room, Manderson earns respect by playing to his limits every day, whether it be in a game or at practice.
Non-committal as of yet regarding his hockey/education plans for 2010-11, Manderson works with the Read to Succeed program in Penticton, going into local elementary schools to read to students and talk about the value of reading and education.
STEVEN SHAMANSKI (DAUPHIN KINGS – MJHL)
The captain of the RBC Cup hosts, Shamanski was far and away the best defenceman in the MJHL this season, racking up 71 points (19g 52a), 29 more than the second-highest scoring blueliner in the league. He saved perhaps his best performance for the playoffs, leading the Kings in scoring as they won their first MJHL championship in 17 years and first ANAVET Cup since 1983. A two-time MJHL all-star, Shamanski donned the ‘C’ this season after one year as an alternate captain and was the leader on the ice who worked to get his team the bounces, instead of the leader off the ice who talked about getting them, putting the term ‘actions speak louder than words’ to good use.
Shamanski plans to attend an NCAA Division I school in the fall to continue his education and his hockey career, although he has yet to commit to a school. After two years of general sciences and math, he will major in Pharmacy with the goal of working in rural Manitoba hospitals or opening a pharmacy in his hometown of Carberry, Man. (pop. 1,502).
DUSTIN STEVENSON (LA RONGE ICE WOLVES – SJHL)
The SJHL’s No. 3 scorer among defenceman, Stevenson captained the Ice Wolves to the SJHL playoffs one year after a last-place finish, and led them on a Cinderella run to their first league championship and a berth at the 2010 RBC Cup. His reward? The SJHL’s player of the year award and a three-year entry level contract the NHL’s Washington Capitals, which begins next season. Stevenson likes to pattern his game after two-time Olympic gold medallist Chris Pronger – a player who leads by example on and off the ice, who can play in any situation and is feared by opponents for his all-around game.
Stevenson has committed to St. Lawrence University for this fall, with an eye towards majoring in Business, but has yet to decide whether to continue his education or begin his professional career with the Capitals.