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Naming the VHLE Awards


CowboyinAmerica
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4 Inch Hand Painted Resin Ice Hockey Figure Trophy

Who Should Be on the VHLE Awards?

 

One of my favorite aspects of the VHL awards is that they’re named after VHL legends. To me, this gives the awards a real sense of history and adds to the history-buff’s desire to learn more about the players that came before them. Whether it’s Campbell, Kanou or the many that followed, VHL and VHLM awards’ namesakes have always given something to aspire to.

 

There’s one issue when it comes to these awards though: Most of them have been named for a long time already, with not much room for new entrants. One option could be to rename some awards, but let’s be real, that would be more of a headache than it’s worth. Luckily, however, there just happens to be a third league on the way, with a whole set of awards ripe for the naming…

 

That’s right, I want to name the VHLE awards. Granted, there isn’t exactly a VHLE history for me to rely on, but as noted above there are a lot of VHL players who haven’t even had the opportunity to have an award named after them. So I’m going to do the naming, with two caveats:

 

  • They can’t have a VHL or VHLM award named after them.
  • They have to either be from Europe or have played the majority of their career for an EU-based team.

 

The second one may be a bit controversial, but I want the VHLE to have a bit of a hometown feel to the extent possible. If this leaves someone out – like my own USA-based and Seattle Bears veteran Gabriel McAllister – I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off for some world building opportunities.

 

Now, to my suggestions! And a thanks to a heavy assist from the Top 75 Players list here.

 

MVP: The Thomas O’Malley Trophy

Thomas O’Malley (@OrbitingDeath ) has long been known as the top non-Campbell forward in VHL history, racking up back-to-back-to-back MVPs, four championships, and a whole host of record book honors. Although O’Malley himself was an American player from Boston, he played much of his career with European teams (most notably his S45-S46 run with the Helsinki Titans). His closest connection to the VHLE though might be where he was drafted: the since-revived Cologne Express franchise, which made O’Malley the first pick in the S40 Draft.

 

Playoff MVP: The Hans Wingate Trophy

Was this article mostly a conceit to talk about my own player? Perhaps. But the guy who was named the second-best goalie and seventh-best player in VHL history as of S75 was the goalie behind Toronto’s three-peat from S48-S50, still the only threepeat in VHL history as certain Molholts will remind you. During that S48 run, the Scotland-born Hans Wingate (@me) went 8-1-2 with a 0.938 SV% and a 1.53 GAA with 2 shutouts, gaining the Playoff MVP title in the process. Add in an S44 title with Calgary and a co-playoff MVP in a losing effort in S45, and it’s clear Wingate was one of the best playoff performers of all-time.

 

Points Leader: The Franchise Cornerstone Trophy

If there’s one thing that Franchise Cornerstone (@boubabi) knew how to do, it’s score. The center was taken with the first overall pick in the S53 Draft by Helsinki, and spent his entire career there. In his final five seasons, Cornerstone tallied 284 goals, an average of 56.8 per season, which netted him two different Most Goals awards over that time. But he wasn’t just a sniper adding 471 assists to his 384 goals as well, for a total of 855 points. That puts him 13th all-time in the points scored category.

 

Goals Leader: The Phil Rafter Trophy

I’m a bit surprised that there’s isn’t a Rafter trophy already, because England-born center Phil Rafter’s (@Phil) accomplishments speak for themselves. After bursting onto the scene with 43 goals in his rookie season with Davos in S27, Rafter would go on to retire as one of only four players with 400 goals – a number that has largely stood the test of time, being still tied for fifth at 407 total. Rafter would make his mark on European hockey in particular as well, winning the S31 title for a beloved Davos team.

 

Assists Leader: The Japinder Singh Trophy

Another Davos legend in a slightly older era, Japinder Singh (@8Ovechkin8) was one of the more underrated playmakers in VHL history. His 580 assists ranks second all-time in the VHL and first among all players after the league’s first ten season – he’s 38 assists ahead of O’Malley for the lead in that second category. Despite only one time being the assists leader himself, his consistency and three titles between Davos and Helsinki keeps the India-born defenseman as a beloved player in Europe.

 

Top Defenseman: The Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen Trophy

The most recent player to have a trophy named after him here, Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen (@Fire Vigneault) helped both revive Davos’s blue line and brought winning to recent expansion team Moscow in a three-straight run of Top Defenseman awards that established the American as one of the best defensemen of all-time. His Season 70 is particularly notable: winning Labatte, Slobodzian and Valiq trophies in the regular season, before scoring 21 points in the playoffs to help lead Moscow to its first ever title.

 

Top Goaltender: The Tuomas Tukio Trophy

I feel like Tuomas Tukio (@Higgins) sometimes gets lost to history, but the Finnish-born goaltender and S31 GM player to the Helsinki Titans remains a legend in Scandinavia. The winner of back-to-back Campbell and Slobodzian Trophies, Tukio combined dominance with overall consistency - only in his rookie season did he ever drop below a save percentage of .920, and only twice did he fail to win 40 games or post a GAA above 2.00. His back-to-back Victory Cups in S33 and S34 Continental Cup with Helsinki cements his status as a legend.

 

Top Two-Way Forward: The Theo Axelsson Trophy

For a league with two Swedish teams, it makes sense to me to end here with a Swede who reps Vasteras (who primarily plied his trade elsewhere in Scandinavia in Helsinki). A three-time winner of the Boulet for Two-Way Forward himself, S50 draftee Theo Axelsson (@solas) still ranks second all-time in the VHL with 2729 hits, while also sitting top 50 with 331 goals scored. A two-time Continental Cup winner with Helsinki, he also capture Playoff MVP honors with that two-way play: 13 points and 34 hits in 12 games, and the Cup-winning goal.

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