The Rockford IceHogs named the 2016-17 season team award winners in a pregame ceremony on Fan Appreciation Night during their season finale earlier in the month. Finishing at the bottom of the AHL Central Division during a disappointing campaign record wise, the IceHogs didn’t exactly have a great year.
That it ended with the firing of head coach Ted Dent amid reports of a deteriorating relationship with management shows how things got off the rails. But there were still team awards to be handed out, and some guys in Rockford still performed well even with chaos behind the scenes.
So with that in mind, here’s a look at each player who won a team award, and whether we think that’s the right choice.
Most Valuable Player: Brandon Mashinter, 15 goals, 30 points in 61 games
Who could have also been named the team MVP?
Spencer Abbott went for 15 goals and 35 points in 53 games before a midseason deal to Anaheim’s AHL affiliate. If Abbott was not traded later in the season the winger would surely have held on to the team lead in points. Abbott actually finished one point ahead of Kyle Baun’s 34 points despite playing in 21 fewer games.
Rookie of the Year: Luke Johnson played in 72 of 75 games with 17 points
Who could have also been named the best rookie?
Martin Lundberg racked up nine goals and 21 points in 67 games. Transition from the Swedish League showed increased progress as the season unwound, but at age 26, he’s little more than organizational depth. The same goes for William Pelletier, who put up seven point in eight games. Nearly a point-per-game skater in his late addition to the club, Pelletier could be primed for a good season after joining on a tryout deal.
Defenseman of the Year: Erik Gustafsson, 30 points with 183 shots on goal
Who could have also been labeled the best on the blue line?
Ville Pokka played in every game and added five power play points on 184 shots, so he’s one of the obvious contenders. Pokka seems to be falling out of favor in the organization to a degree, however, and part of that is that he’s failed to make meaningless progress in multiple AHL seasons. The Hawks have waited for Pokka to breakout at the lower level, but he’s been consistently solid rather than spectacular.
Unsung Hero Award: Martin Lundberg, center led the team in +/- with a +1
Who could have also been named the Hogs Unsung Hero?
Team captain Jake Dowell took on the task of keeping together a young and constantly changing roster in the dressing room along with the hard-working example he set on the ice. It may have been his last year with Rockford, but he has voiced his desire to return.
Heavy Hitter Award: Chris DeSousa, 2.14 PIM per game
Who could have also received the award?
Michael Latta’s 128 penalty minutes by far led the club as the midseason addition’s tough style of play still allowed for a 22-point scoring effort. You can see why the Blackhawks brought in Latta to make sure the AHL team has an edge.
Most Improved Player: Kyle Baun went from nine points to 34 points in an expanded role in 2016-17. He showed his power play presence with five goals and should be a major contributor in Rockford again next season unless he can earn a shot in the NHL.
Man of the Year: P.C. Labrie. Fan favorite scored his first goal in the season finale. Off-ice contributions setting the bar high for future IceHog players in the community. Labrie increased area awareness with his anti-bullying campaign. Labrie, Baun, and Mike Liambas all visited Rockford area schools and are deserving of mention for this award.