(1090 The Fan) — The Thunderbirds administered their year-end honors Saturday night after their final regular-season game of the season, a 6-3 victory over rival Portland in front of 6,220 at the ShoWare Center.
The ceremony could hardly have been held under better circumstances. A healthy portion of the season-best crowd looked on as an elated group of Seattle players lingered on the ice to discover which of their teammates received awards.
In the end, the team chose to honor several different players. Rookie forward Luke Osterman received the award for Most Improved Player, Keegan Kolesar for the team’s Scholastic Player of the Year and 20-year-old overage defenseman Evan Wardley was honored with the Humanitarian Award.
The biggest award, though, went to overage goaltender Taran Kozun. Kozun was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after a season in which he finished with a 2.41 goals against average, second among qualified goalies in the Western Hockey League, and a .915 save percentage in 60 games. Kozun, 20, is favored to win the WHL Goaltender of the Year Award.
With six goals over the last two games, second-year forward Ryan Gropp surpassed Mathew Barzal for the Top Scorer Award which left Seattle’s most gifted player shut out in the awards ceremony. Donovan Neuls, a rookie forward from Grenfell, Saskatchewan who played both wing and center for the T-Birds this season, took home the most awards.
Neuls earned both the Rookie of the Year and Most Dedicated Player Award for his efforts on Seattle’s “shutdown” line alongside Scott Eansor for much of the season and his play on both special teams units. In addition to his hard work on the defensive end, Neuls showed more than capable as a scorer with seven goals and 17 assists in 69 games.
Shea Theodore, who likely played his final regular-season game of his T-Birds career Saturday, took home the Defenseman of the Year Award. Theodore, 19, played in 43 games after missing the early portion of the season with an injury suffered in camp with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. He then left the team in December to compete with Team Canada in the 2015 World Junior Championship, winning a gold medal.
Theodore departs as the Thunderbirds’ highest scoring defensemen. With 13 goals and 35 assists in 2014-15, Theodore surpassed former T-Birds defensemen Craig Channell and Deron Quint on the points and goals lists respectively. Theodore has 212 career points and 58 goals.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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