As a team, the Kelowna Rockets enjoyed the most successful regular season in franchise history.
Two players who played significant roles in their club’s 57-win, 118-point campaign were honoured this week by the Western Hockey League.
At the league’s awards ceremony Wednesday in Calgary, Jordon Cooke, 20, was named the league’s goaltender of the year, while forward Nick Merkley, 16, was selected as the WHL’s rookie of the year for 2013-14.
Cooke, in his fourth and final season with the Rockets, racked up some impressive numbers between the pipes with 39 wins, a 92.2 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average.
“I’d like to thank my team, game in and game out they did everything possible for me,” Cooke said upon accepting the award. “Our year has been so amazing, I think this is just a reflection of how well we did.”
Rockets head coach Ryan Huska commended Cooke for a stellar final season of junior hockey.
“There’s no doubt Jordon was our most valuable player this year, he was the guy who raised his level of play when we needed him to,” Huska said of the Leduc, Alta. native. “He came in this year with something to prove, that he was the best goaltender in our league, and that’s what he did. Working with (goalie coach) Kim Dillabaugh, Jordon just continued to get better, and the recognition is well-deserved.”
In Merkley’s case, the Calgary native scored 25 goals and added 33 assists in 68 regular season games to lead all 16-year-old WHL players in scoring. And while it wasn’t part of the voting process, the talented centre added 17 more points in 14 playoff games.
“Just like to say thank you to my coach, Ryan Huska he helped a lot throughout the year,” Merkley said. “I think coming in as a 15-year-old (last year) and getting that playoff run in was good for me.”
Huska said Merkley is a unique young player with a bright future in the game.
“We knew Nick was a special player when he started with us,” Huska said. “He started with a small role, but it wasn’t long before he earned more ice time and became one of our key forwards. He’s a guy who works as hard as he can, and he sees the game differently than most players do. He has some high-end abilities that you don’t often see. We’re excited for him.”
The Rockets were also honoured Wednesday for winning the WHL’s overall regular season title and the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy.
For a list of all the award winners, visit whl.ca.
The Rockets will have the 22nd and last pick in the opening round of the WHL bantam draft tomorrow in Calgary. The league’s 22 teams will choose available 1999-born talent from Western Canada and the Western U.S.
Olsen to AHL…
Rockets’ forward Ryan Olsen has joined the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps, for the remainder of the playoffs. Olsen, 19, was drafted by the Jets in the sixth round of the 2012 draft and signed an entry level deal with the NHL club this season.