Following the team’s thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over the Penticton Vees on Thursday night, the Surrey Eagles announced their yearly award winners in front of 578 fans at South Surrey Arena.
The team hands out 10 awards annually: Most Points, Most Sportsmanlike, Most Improved, Rookie of the Year, Hardest Worker, Unsung Hero, Heart & Soul (in memory of Jeff Nabseth), Best Defenceman, Fan Favourite, and Most Valuable Player.
Ending the year with 63 points, including three in the final game – this year’s Most Points award winner was 21-year-old Darius Davidson. Essentially leading the team from start to finish in all three major point categories, this award was a lock for Davidson. The next closest scorer, Paul McAvoy, finished with 15 fewer points. Davidson will now look to take that scoring touch to American International College, a NCAA division I school where he will begin next season.
Davidson wasn’t done with the hardware. He also took home the team’s Most Valuable Player award, which was a fairly easy choice considering how much he contributed to the team offensively.
The Most Sportsmanlike award went to assistant captain Paul McAvoy. Known as a quiet leader in the dressing room, he preferred to set his example on the ice. As a gritty player, he was often close to stepping over the line, but rarely did. That was definitely a contributing factor in winning the award. He will begin playing next season with NCAA division I’s Colgate University.
This year’s Most Improved Player award was handed out to defenceman Jackson Ross. Ross, a native of Centennial, CO, came to the Eagles from the Kamloops Storm of the KIJHL. A relative unknown heading into training camp, he quickly planted himself as an integral part of the team’s defensive core. His role with the club steadily expanded as the season wore on, and he eventually finished with 10 points in 50 games.
The Eagles had a number of fantastic rookies in 2016-17, but none were better than 18-year-old defenceman Cory Babichuk. He was an easy choice to take home the Rookie of the Year award. Acquired in a pre-season trade with the Penticton Vees alongside Desi Burgart, Babichuk was nothing short of brilliant in his first BCHL season. The Edmonton, AB native posted 31 points in 47 games – an astounding number considering he missed time due to injury. He also spent some time away from the team while competing for Team Canada West at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge, and at the CJHL Prospects game.
Babichuk would also walk away with the team’s top defenceman award, narrowly edging out Jacob Dupont for the honours.
The other half of the pre-season trade with the Penticton Vees, Desi Burgart, received the Hardest Worker award. Many people assumed that he would improve on his 6-point rookie season, but he exceeded all expectations in 2016-17. He finished the season with a 0.87 points-per-game average, which was good enough for third on the team. He achieved such an increase in points through his dedication and commitment off the ice. For that, he was awarded with the Hardest Worker trophy.
Cole Williams would take home the Unsung Hero award. The fact that he had to receive the award while on crutches should say enough about his style of play. His gritty, never-give-up attitude rubbed off on his teammates. He was another player that wasn’t in the picture at the beginning of the season, but quickly became a major role player for the defensive group. With 9 points in 38 games, he even occasionally chipped in on the offensive side as well.
The Surrey Eagles Heart & Soul award is dedicated to the memory of Jeff Nabseth. If there was anyone on the Eagles 2016-17 roster that embodied the spirit of Nabseth, it was Jordan Robert. There wasn’t a player in the room more respected than him, which was publicly acknowledged when he took over the captaincy reigns from Paul McAvoy partway through the season. The Clarkson-committed forward had everything you would expect from a captain, especially the ability to inspire his teammates. That’s what the Heart & Soul award is all about.
The final award of the evening was voted on by the fans at South Surrey Arena. Jeff Stewart, a Surrey native, took home the Fan Favourite award. The fans couldn’t have given him a better present, because Stewart received it on his 19th birthday! Improving his point total by four in 2016-17, Stewart was a consistent offensive threat all season long. He is committed to Colgate University alongside Paul McAvoy, but isn’t expected to join them until the following season – 2018-19.
Thank you to all of the fans that came to South Surrey Arena and witnessed the final game of the regular season, and a special thanks to those that stayed for the post-game awards celebration. See you next year!