By RYAN MCCRACKEN on June 1, 2021.
After serving as leaders on a roster rife with rookies, Medicine Hat Tigers overagers Ryan Chyzowski, Cole Clayton and Brett Kemp shared the title of the team’s most valuable player.
The announcement came Monday morning, just over an hour before the Western Hockey League unveiled its 2021 East and Central Division all-star teams, which feature Kemp and Clayton on the Central Division roster.
“We all had a really good year,” Clayton said in a phone call with the News. “We were leaders for our team and led the way offensively. That award just exemplifies that.”
Clayton also took home the Cliff Bast Memorial Award for best defenceman on Sunday. The 21-year-old Strathmore product recorded nine goals and 21 assists to lead all WHL defencemen with 30 points. He also logged a plus-four rating while playing in all 23 of Medicine Hat’s games this season.
“Obviously we had a good year, and I was able to have a good individual year. I think getting those awards just shows that. It’s pretty special for me, that’s for sure,” said Clayton. “Hopefully I can get a pro contract, but if not I’m going to go to U of S and play for the Huskies (next season).”
Kemp closed out his campaign with 12 goals and 19 assists for a team-best 31 points, while Chyzowski followed just behind with 11 goals and 18 assists. Both were held off the scoresheet only five times this season.
Oren Shtrom was named Medicine Hat’s rookie of the year after putting up five goals and nine assists to finish sixth in team scoring.
Defeceman Eric Van Impe got the nod for most improved player after finishing with four goals and nine assists in 22 games – four points back of last year’s career-best of 17 points in 63 games.
Rounding out the team’s awards, Corson Hopwo earned the title of top defensive forward after finishing with a plus-six rating and a team-best 14 goals.
It may not have been the full 68-game season with playoffs that players were hoping for, but looking back on his final season in the WHL, Clayton says he’s thankful to have got the chance to play at all.
“I’m just really grateful that we were able to actually have a season,” he said. “I know lots of guys didn’t really get to play, but the Western Hockey League was able to make something work for us and I’m really grateful I was able to spend my last year in Medicine Hat and actually get some games in.”