This season, more than 3,000 players suited up for Junior A games across Canada, from Nanaimo, B.C., to Woodstock, N.B. But only 10 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 announced during the 2012 RBC Cup in Humboldt, Sask., and presented with his award at the tournament awards banquet on May 11.
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 2012 nominees for RBC Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year are (in alphabetical order):
JAYSON ARGUE – SWAN VALLEY STAMPEDERS (MANITOBA JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE)
What didn’t Jayson Argue do this season? The Swan Valley netminder was invited to the Canada West selection camp ahead of the 2011 World Junior A Challenge, was named MJHL Goaltender of the Year, earned a spot on the MJHL First All-Star Team and took home the MJHL MVP award for good measure, posting 23 wins, a 2.61 goals against average and .923 save percentage while leading the Stampeders to the postseason despite scoring the second-fewest goals of any playoff team.
A Swan River, Man., native, Argue helps give back to those who have supported him in his hometown. He works with young goaltenders in the local minor hockey association, taking to the ice during practices, and has volunteered his time with Swan Valley’s Special Olympics floor hockey team.
Argue, who has long had an NCAA scholarship in his sights, hopes to enter university this fall with hopes of earning a degree in business while taking his career as far as it can go on the ice.
VINCENT BLANCHETTE – COLLÈGE FRANÇAIS DE LONGUEUIL (LIGUE DE HOCKEY JUNIOR AAA DU QUÉBEC)
One-third of the LHJAAAQ’s highest-scoring trio – linemates Yannick Geoffrey, Maxime Charette and Vincent Blanchette finished one-two-three in league scoring, combining for 368 points – Blanchette was one of just four players in the league to average two points per game, and earned a spot on the LHJAAAQ team for the inaugural Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge, helping his team to the tournament championship.
Although just 18, Blanchette is a leader for Longueuil, bringing the same intensity and work ethic to practice that he does to games. He is a former captain in the prestigious Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec, and knows what it takes to be a successful leader both on and off the ice.
When he’s not on the ice, Blanchette – Longueuil’s sixth-round pick (75th overall) in the 2010 LHJAAAQ Draft – is a student at the Cégep Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and is planning on going to university beginning in the fall of 2013 to study business and marketing.
TIM CAMPBELL – WOODSTOCK SLAMMERS (MARITIME HOCKEY LEAGUE)
After the season Tim Campbell had in 2011-12, he may need to invest in a bigger trophy case. The Woodstock blue-liner was named MHL Defenceman of the Year, earned a spot on the league’s First All-Star Team and took home a trio of awards from the Slammers – MVP, defenceman of the year and the heart, soul and dedication award – all while helping Woodstock post the second-best record in MHL history at 45-6-1.
A vocal leader on the ice, Campbell also takes a leading role off the ice, volunteering his time for the Woodstock Slammer for a Day program with local schools, as well as with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the local minor hockey association, always making time for the community, even outside team functions.
The 21-year-old will see his Junior A playing days come to an end at the end of this season, but already has his sights set on a new career – Campbell’s future lies as a police officer, and he is in the process of selecting a post-secondary school that will help him realize his dream.
JORDAN CARROLL – SUDBURY CUBS (NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE)
Jordan Carroll turned the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League into his personal playground this season; the Sudbury forward put his name on the scoresheet in 49 of the 50 games he played, scoring 70 goals (including 50 in 37 games), racking up 136 points and taking the NOJHL’s MVP and scholastic player of the year awards. His offensive output was almost unrivalled across Canada – no one scored more goals than Carroll, and only Yannick Geoffrey from Longueuil (LHJAAAQ) finished with more points, with 144.
As important as Carroll was to the Cubs on the ice, serving as captain, he was just as important to the team’s impact off of it, taking part in fan skates, serving food at the local Boston Pizza and volunteering for Sudbury’s Pond Hockey Festival on the Rock, while visiting local schools to interact with the team’s youngest fans.
A first-year full-time student at Laurentian University, majoring in sport and physical education, Carroll has his sights on becoming a police officer, although he hasn’t ruled out a career in the health field and possibly a master’s degree in physiotherapy.
CRAIG COWIE – NEPEAN RAIDERS (CENTRAL CANADA HOCKEY LEAGUE)
As the captain of one of Canada’s top ranked Junior A teams for much of the season, Craig Cowie was front and centre for the Raiders, running away with the CCHL’s scoring title with 120 points (41 goals, 79 assists) and leading Nepean to the league’s best record – just 11 regulation time losses in 62 games. He also received the honour of wearing the ‘C’ for the Yzerman Division at the first-ever Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge, helping his team reach the semifinals of the eight-team event.
A Nepean native and two-year captain of the Raiders – following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, who also served as captain – Cowie does it all, quarterbacking the power play, leading the penalty kill and taking important face-offs. But he plays a major role off the ice as well, giving back to young players the same way the Raiders veterans did when he was growing up in Nepean.
A first-year student at Algonquin College, taking courses in business administration, Cowie is focused on obtaining an NCAA Division I scholarship, with hopes of majoring in accounting while he continues his hockey career.
PAUL DE JERSEY – PRINCE GEORGE SPRUCE KINGS (BRITISH COLUMBIA HOCKEY LEAGUE)
The winner of the BCHL’s Interior Conference MVP award, Paul De Jersey came out of nowhere to claim the Brett Hull Trophy as the league’s leading scorer; he finished with 98 points (41 goals, 57 assists) in 59 games after posting just 15 points in 33 games with Salmon Arm in 2010-11, and led the Spruce Kings back to the playoffs after a two-year absence, while also receiving an invite to the Canada West selection camp leading up to the 2011 World Junior A Challenge
A leader both on and off the ice, De Jersey put in considerable time this season with the St. Vincent DePaul Society, which prepares and serves meals for the less fortunate in Prince George. He was also committed to visiting elementary schools in the city, reading to and talking to young students.
His Junior A playing days over, De Jersey will head south next season to Providence College, an NCAA Division 1 school, to continue his hockey career with the Friars, with an eye towards majoring in business.
CHRISTIAN FINCH – STOUFFVILLE SPIRIT (ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE)
A defenceman until the start of the 2010-11 season, Christian Finch has settled right in at forward for the Stouffville Spirit, taking home the OJHL scoring title this year with 104 points (37 goals, 67 assists), 18 more than any other Ontario leaguer. He was rewarded for his offensive efforts, taking home the OJHL MVP award and earning a spot on the league’s First All-Star Team.
An alternate captain with the Spirit for the last two seasons, Finch’s leadership extends off the ice as well; he volunteers his time with minor hockey players, at events like the Terry Fox Run and Stouffville Santa Claus Parade and at local schools, making his impact in the community with more than just his play on the ice.
Finch’s offensive exploits in the last two seasons, along with his academic abilities – he was an Ontario Scholar in high school – caught the attention of a number of NCAA Division I schools, and he fulfilled a long-long dream by accepting a scholarship to Clarkson University, where he’ll hit the ice for the Golden Knights this fall.
BYRON KATAPAYTUK – FORT FRANCES LAKERS (SUPERIOR INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE)
The SIJHL Player of the Year and league scoring champion, Byron Katapaytuk was the offensive lynchpin for Fort Frances, finishing 16 points ahead of any other Laker and racking up 15 more assists to help Fort Frances to a second-place finish in the SIJHL during the regular season.
An alternate captain, Katapaytuk is a quiet leader who lets his play do the talking; the native of Moose Factory, Ont., prefers to motivate his team with the big hit or big goal, rather than a big speech in the dressing room. He also leads by example off the ice, spending time with players in the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association, reading to students through the Lakers’ adopt-a-school program and ringing the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas, among his many endeavours away from the rink.
The 20-year-old has used up his Junior A eligibility and turns his focus towards a post-secondary career both on the ice and in the classroom; Katapaytuk is looking at options both north and south of the border, with hopes of majoring in sport management or business.
PETER QUENNEVILLE – SHERWOOD PARK CRUSADERS (ALBERTA JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE)
Peter Quenneville has something no other nominee for this year’s RBC Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year has – a gold medal. Quenneville was a member of Canada West at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge and brought that success back to Sherwood Park, where he led the Crusaders in scoring and finished third in the AJHL point race en route to the league’s MVP award.
Although he does not wear a letter for Sherwood Park, Quenneville is a leader by example, bringing a consistent work ethic to every practice and every game and letting his actions on the ice speak for themselves; he finished 10 points ahead of any other Crusader, and his 50 assists led the team.
Quenneville will head south of the border in the fall of 2013 to begin the next phase of his hockey and academic career, attending Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., where he will take the ice for the Bobcats.
BLAKE TATCHELL – BATTLEFORDS NORTH STARS (SASKATCHEWAN JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE)
Blake Tatchell was the Battlefords North Stars’ offence in 2011-12, finishing second in the SJHL scoring race with 86 points (42 goals, 46 assists), 31 more than any other North Star. His 42 goals not only made him the lone Battlefords player to crack the 40-goal barrier, he was the lone one to break 20. It was little surprise then that Tatchell earned the league’s MVP award – undoubtedly, no player was more responsible for his team’s success than the North Battleford, Sask., native, who helped the North Stars to the SJHL’s second-best record.
A hometown North Star, Tatchell is the ideal ambassador for the Battlefords program, taking to ice with a number of teams in the local minor hockey association and teaching young players not only how to be a better players, but how to be a better person as well.
Next season, for the first time, Tatchell’s hockey journey will take him away from home – 3,500 kilometres away, to be exact. The 20-year-old forward will head north to the University of Alaska-Anchorage, continuing his hockey career with the Nanooks.