The Canadian Junior A Hockey League (CJAHL) has announced the eight finalists for the RBC - Canadian Junior A Hockey League Player of the Year. One finalist was selected from eight of the CJAHL’s member leagues.
British Columbia Hockey League – Brett Hextall (Penticton Vees)
The son of former NHLer Ron Hextall, Brett has refused to ride the coattails of his famous father, making a name for himself based on his play, not his last name. In just his second season in Penticton, Hextall has made an impact both on and off the ice, captaining his team to a BCHL championship.
The Vees’ rookie of the year in 2006-07, Hextall stepped up his play in 2007-08, leading the team in scoring (28G 54A 72P) and taking home the team’s Most Inspirational Player and Fan Favourite awards. Off the ice, he stepped up as a leader with the Vees’ Read to Succeed program, working with local elementary schools.
However, the highlight of the season for Hextall – who has committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2008-09 season – came in November in Trail, BC when he donned the maple leaf and won a gold medal at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge with Team Canada West.
Alberta Junior Hockey League – Joe Colborne (Camrose Kodiaks)
The AJHL’s second-leading scorer during the regular season (33G 57A 90P), Joe Colborne has solidified himself as a top prospect for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with a 2007-08 season that included a gold medal at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge, two assists in the CJAHL Top Prospects Game, a spot on the AJHL South Division All-Star Team and a trip to the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp.
Off the ice Colborne carries himself with the same poise he shows on the ice, as the Calgary native is active in local schools, reading to children and tutoring those that need help with their school work. Despite missing more than three weeks to join Team Canada West for the 2007 World Junior A Challenge, Colborne was able to sustain his 90% average, a testament to his drive not only on the ice, but off it as well.
Committed to the University of Denver for the 2008-09 season, Colborne will bring the same leadership qualities to NCAA hockey that he brought to the AJHL for the past two seasons, helping his team win a league championship in 2006-07.
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League – Jordie Johnston (La Ronge Ice Wolves)
If 2006-07 was a great season for Jordie Johnston – he scored two goals and was named Player of the Game in Team Canada West’s gold medal game victory at the 2006 World Junior A Challenge – 2007-08 was off the charts.
Johnston was named captain of the Ice Wolves and proceeded to finish second in the SJHL in scoring (35G 53A 88P), break the franchise record for points in a career (197), win the SJHL Player of the Year award, make the SJHL First All-Star Team, win conference MVP at the SJHL All-Star Game and record points in 29 of 30 games during one stretch.
The Ferris State University recruit – he has plans to major in Education – is active in northern Saskatchewan elementary schools, reading to young students, and often travels to remote communities, sometimes by plane, to teach grassroots skills to young players who may not otherwise have the opportunity.
Manitoba Junior Hockey League – Stephan Vigier (Swan Valley Stampeders)
An alternate captain with the Stampeders in his rookie season, no first-year player made as big an impact on the MJHL in 2007-08 than Stephan Vigier. The MJHL rookie of the year – he took home three consecutive Rookie of the Month awards at one point – Vigier not only led all rookies in scoring (37G 49A 86P), he topped the Stampeders in scoring, and was the only rookie to play in the MJHL All-Star Game.
Vigier is active with his minor hockey association, dropping by the local arena twice a week to help on the ice with practices, sometimes doing nothing more than just moving pylons and pucks.
In addition to his NHL dreams – he is eligible for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft – Vigier has aspirations of earning an NCAA scholarship, something he will work towards when he returns for a second season with the Stampeders in 2008-09.
Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League – Justin Troiani (St. Michael’s Buzzers)
In a league with 36 teams and more than 700 players, Justin Troiani was a stand-out in the Ontario Junior A Hockey League in 2007-08, helping the Buzzers to an OPJHL-best 43-4-2 record. Troiani finished as the league’s second-highest scoring blueliner (6G 42A 48P) and appeared in the OPJHL Future Stars Game, the OPJHL All-Star Game and the CJAHL Top Prospects Game.
The Woodbridge, ON native was also one of the leaders for Team Canada East at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge in Trail, BC, helping the easterners to a silver medal at the event.
An Ontario Scholar from the St. Michael’s College School – he graduated with an 86% average – Troiani has received no shortage of scholarship offers and will no doubt play NCAA hockey, with aspirations of studying Medicine.
Central Junior A Hockey League – Nicholas Tremblay (Smiths Falls Bears)
The CJHL scoring champion (51G 59A 110P), Tremblay was a force for the Bears from start to finish in 2007-08, racking up impressive totals in powerplay goals (12), powerplay assists (19) and game-winning goals (6) in helping lead Smiths Falls to a second-place finish in the CJHL.
In addition to his on-ice accomplishments, Tremblay made many notable off-ice contributions as well. A native of Quebec and a French speaker growing up, he has worked hard to learn English to fit in with his teammates and become a bigger part of his new community.
Tremblay has devoted a lot of his time to his school work, and that persistence paid off when he accepted a scholarship to Clarkson University for the 2008-09 season, where he will play hockey while completing his post-secondary studies.
Ligue de hockey junior AAA du Quebec – Danny Mireault (L’Action de Joliette)
After leading his team to the LHJAAAQ championship in 2006-07, Danny Mireault put on a pretty good encore in 2007-08, finishing as the league leader in wins, with 39 (in 49 games) and shutouts, with six, and finishing second with a 3.01 goals against average while helping Joliette to a league-best 41-9-1-1 record.
Off the ice, Mireault finished the school year with a 92% average – he is studying Natural Sciences at CEGEP de Lanaudière – and was awarded the LHJAAAQ’s Student Player of the Year award, as well as being named the national winner of the prestigious RBC Junior A Scholarship. He has plans to attend university next year, studying in the field of Health Sciences.
While deeply committed to his responsibilities with L’Action, as well as his studies, Mireault is always willing to help young players, often joining young goaltenders on the ice to share his knowledge of the position.
Maritime Junior A Hockey League – Pierre-Alexandre Marion (Truro Bearcats)
The trophy case in Pierre-Alexandre Marion’s home in Gatineau, QC became a little more crowded after a stellar 2007-08 season. Marion was named MJAHL MVP, MJAHL Top Goaltender, MJAHL Top Goaltending Duo (with Luke Gallant) and to the MJAHL First All-Star Team. He also finished with a league-leading 2.18 goals against average and six shutouts.
Marion is very active with the Truro Minor Hockey Association, taking to the ice with everyone from novices to seniors to teach the basics of the game or just provide support. In addition, he worked with the Debert Skating Club teaching young players to skate and become better skaters and also read to elementary school students at local schools.
While an MJAHL championship eluded his grasp on 2007-08, his regular season success and off-ice selfishness have shown that the sky is the limit for Marion, who will continue his education in 2008-09 – majoring in either Civil Law or Finance.