Friday, April 8, 2016

Texas Media Chapter Reveals Fred T. Hunt Award Ballot

Cameron Gaunce (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The American Hockey League has begun announcing the 2015-16 year-end awards. As the media representatives for the Texas Stars, Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey and Sean Shapiro of the Austin American-Statesman submitted a ballot for each award. Over the next week and a half as the AHL announces the winners, they’ll break down their choices. Today’s ballot: the Fred T. Hunt Award.

It’s important to note that we aren’t allowed to vote for Texas Stars, since we cover the team. And, due to the nature of the AHL scheduling, we haven’t seen an Eastern Conference team or player this season (Texas has played three Eastern Conference teams all-time: the Hershey Bears, St. John’s IceCaps, and Syracuse Crunch).

Keep that rule and guideline in mind. We can’t vote for Texas, and we tend to vote for Western Conference players.

Award winner: Tom Kostopoulos, Wilkes-Barres/Scranton Penguins

Texas media ballot:

  1. Derek Ryan, Charlotte Checkers
  2. Pat Cannone, Chicago Wolves
  3. Cameron Gaunce, Portland Pirates

Sean: While we didn’t vote for Kostopoulos, we have no problem with his selection. In fact, the Hunt Award is the one award where you can’t have any qualms with who wins. All of the candidates are recognized for their service off the ice and it’s often a collection of the better overall people in the AHL.

Stephen: If I’m being honest, I feel like this is one award where the league should release as many runners up as they want. There are so many good stories in the league every single year, and the fact that only one gets told and recognized with this award is too bad.

For the record, the award ballot includes writeups for each player nominated for the award by their team. Some are short and to the point, but others really tell a story of “sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.” Voters can vote for anyone in the league, but usually someone who is nominated ends up winning.

Derek Ryan, Charlotte Checkers

Sean: We put Derek Ryan first on our ballot because of the backstory behind his season. He’s a player who never had a fair chance early in his career and went to Europe, where he was eventually named the MVP of the Swedish league last season.

He then came back to North America seeking an NHL opportunity and earned that with his play in Charlotte. He scored on his first career NHL shot with the Hurricanes and has appeared in six NHL games so far. He was also named the captain for Charlotte and helped a young team turn into a contender in the playoff race.

Pat Cannone, Chicago Wolves

Stephen: Pat Cannone probably doesn’t get the press he deserves for what he goes through to play the game. The Chicago Wolves did a nice writeup of their captain that painted the full picture.

Cannone has, of course, been an excellent leader for the Wolves, now in his first year as captain. He scores points, like a lot of points. He is also a great guy off the ice, earning the Wolves’ Man of the Year selection. The thing that keeps him on the ice is a grueling routine of daily therapy and injections to ensure that his recurring shoulder injury doesn’t end his season prematurely at any point. When you have to deal with something like that daily but then still make the time for off-ice hospital visits and other charitable activities. It’s an easy choice for Cannone.

Cameron Gaunce, Portland Pirates

Sean: Cameron Gaunce is a former Star, but that isn’t the reason we voted for him.

The reason we voted for Gaunce goes back to the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse. There was a hospital visit on the schedule for Syracuse Crunch players the day before the All-Star Classic and AHL officials were only expecting the three Syracuse players to attend.

Gaunce wasn’t on the list of player scheduled to attend, but when the bus arrived to take players to the hospital he was there and went on the trip, even though he wasn’t required. Kind of a cool story, and for that reason he’s on our Hunt ballot.

Up Next: Coach of the Year (later today)

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