We're almost half way through this season so Minnesota writers have huddled together (literally - it's freaking freezing in Minneapolis right now) and came out with their midseason awards for the WHL. Here is their compilation of thoughts:
1. Alex Tanguay - Where would the Sparrows be without Tanguay's talents? Tanguay truly is the leader of one of the league's most surprising teams. He continues to be one of the league's top scorers and has all of the skills and talents to continue straight through the playoffs.
2. Marek Svatos - Svatos is not only the WHL's leading scorer but he's also one of the quickest, most creative and most exciting young players in the game today. Svatos has been a treat for Las Vegas fans all season as the Bulls continue to be one of the best teams in the WHL.
3. Ryan Miller - Take Ryan Miller out of Minnesota's lineup and where would they be this season? Probably not in position to make the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. Minnesota fans are going nuts for this kid and are optimistic about their future because of his strong play all season.
1. Marc-Andre Bergeron - Bergeron is one of the league's top scoring defenseman but has also been strong in his own zone. Bergeron has 41 points and is plus 11 this season. Bergeron has been one of the main reasons for the Sparrow's success this season.
2. Dan Boyle - Boyle has been absolutely awesome with his strong play for the Citadels. Rumored to be on the trade block earlier in the year because of the depth on the Citadel's point, the Citadels have to be happy they hung onto him.
3. Brad Stuart - There were a lot of votes for many players in this 3rd spot, but the consensus was Stuart. Stuart is one of the league's better offensive defensemen and hopes to help turn around HC Slavia's early season misfortune.
1. Tomas Vokoun - Vokoun is the best goalie on the league's best team. He ranks No. 1in wins, save percentage shut outs and goals against average. Although he's got a lot of help in front of him, it's hard to not appreciate what this kid is doing in Las Vegas.
2. Kari Lehtonen - Lehtonen has been lights out all season. The Citadels are one of the league's best teams and Lehtonen has played a big part in that. He ranks 2nd in GAA, save percentage & shut outs behind No 1 Tomas Vokoun.
3. Ryan Miller - Miller is one of the league's most valuable players but he's not the best goaltender this season. There were votes for many players in this position as well but Miller has played awesome all season long and is one of the league's top young goalies. Of the top 5 leaders in save percentage, Miller has more shots against him then any other goalie. He doesn't have the help in front of him that other teams do and that's what puts him on this list.
Surprise Underachiever (Team)
1. Badgers - The Badgers looked as though they had a bit of playoff hangover starting out this season. The team had a rough start and was among the lowest rated teams in the Campbell Conference. The team has since rebounded and are looking to charge their way into the playoffs for their second consecutive year.
2. Hoodrats - The Hoodrats are the 3rd worst team in the league this season above the Dynamite and Orcas. The Hoodrats have talent and depth but are one the league's oldest teams. It seems some of their guys don't have the legs they once used to and they'll be sellers around All Star break.
3. Saints - The Saints are a young, very talented team and although Minnesota writers put them on this list, they all acknowledge that the Saints will be one of the better teams in the WHL in future years. Kovalchuck is one of the league's top scorers and they have help on both the offensive and defensive side. I think people are surprised to see the team hovering near the bottom of the league's standings.
Surprise Overachiever (Team)
1. Fighting Irish - The Fighting Irish is one of the Campbell Conference's newest premier teams. The team is stacked with young talent and looks to be a strong team for many seasons to come.
2. Sparrows - Who would've thought before this season that the Sparrows would be on the verge of making the playoffs? The team has proven doubters wrong and with talent such as Alex Tanguay, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Martin Lapointe the Sparrows have proved doubters wrong. The team is currently in 8th place in the Wales Conference and doesn't look to stop winning games anytime soon.
3. Rink Rats - Minnesota was one of the league's worst teams last season. The team has seen improvements in many of their players and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this season. Despite a 9 game losing streak earlier this season, the Rink Rats have seen a lot of successes out of their team.
Team on the Rise
1. Badgers - The Badgers have been hot recently going 7-3 in their last 10. They're playing as well as any other team in the league. GM Olson surely shook his coach & team up after their early season woes and now the team is making a run for the playoffs. Look out for Badger, Badger, Badger.
2. HC Slavia - The Slavics are under new management and the team hopes to turn their season around in the 2nd half. The team has assets to sell off if they find their season going downhill close to the trade deadline.
3. Vipers - The Vipers have been buyers all season and GM Skidmore is still looking to bring in guys who can make an impact. The team has young assets and may look to sell some of their prospects in order to bring in high quality talent. They're 2 players away from being a playoff contender.
Surprise Overachiever (Player)
1. Anson Carter - Carter has surprised all of those in the WHL this season and has a legitimate shot at becoming a WHL All Star. The feisty veteran has provided leadership & points for the Fighting Irish the first half of this season which may be one of his last.
2. Manny Legace - He may not even be the best goaltender on his team but he's looking like one of the better goaltenders in the league this season. He ranks 4th in GAA and wins this season.
3. Carey Price - Price has only played 12 games this season but he's looked good when he plays. The Orcas have got a future star on their hands in Price.