By Matt Stefano
After finishing the 2019-2020 regular season with a record of 30 wins, 19 losses, 3 overtime losses and 4 shootout losses, the Soo Thunderbirds announced its team award winners on Thursday.
Two Thunderbirds that won more than one award, were defenceman Nolan Ford and forward Jake Kovacs
SCHOLASTIC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: NOLAN FORD
Thunderbirds captain Nolan Ford was the recipient of this year’s Scholastic Player of the Year Award.
The Richards Landing, Ontario native attended Sault College here in Sault Ste. Marie, where he studied Occupational Therapy.
PLAYER’S PLAYER AWARD: NOLAN FORD
This year’s Player’s Player Award was awarded to Thunderbirds captain and defenceman Nolan Ford.
Ford, who is one of this year’s graduates, has been a good role model for the Thunderbirds both on and off the ice during the 2019-2020 season.
MICHAEL DOAN MEMORIAL AWARD – MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: COOPER SMYL
Thunderbirds rookie forward Cooper Smyl finished the 2019-2020 regular season with 16 goals and 15 assists in 49 games.
Smyl became the third player in team history to win the Michael Doan Memorial Award, following Max Techel (2019) and Nolan Ford (2018).
DEFENCEMAN OF THE YEAR: WARNER YOUNG
Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Warner Young led all team blueliners in scoring during the regular season with 3 goals and 28 assists in 53 games.
His 28 assists also tied the team record for most assists by a rookie defenceman in a regular season, joining Barnabas Birkeland (2003).
The Newberry, Michigan native became the first Thunderbird rookie defenceman to win the Defenceman of the Year Award since Steven Bellini (2018).
MOST SPORTSMANLIKE AWARD: RYLAN CLEMONS
After coming over to the Thunderbirds in a trade from the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons back on November 28th, 2019, Frankiln, Michigan native Rylan Clemons scored 17 times as a member of the orange, white and blue and set up 21 others in 23 games along with recording just 6 penalty minutes.
TED BROOKS AWARD – EXCELLENCE IN THE COMMUNITY: WILL JOSEPHSON & KURTIS ROGERS
Thunderbirds rookie forwards Will Josephson and Kurtis Rogers shared this year’s Ted Brooks Award for being active in community events around the Soo.
Josephson and Rogers became the first duo to share the Ted Brooks Award since Anthony and Joey Miller did back in 2013.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: JAKE KOVACS
Despite being the youngest player on this year’s team, Thunderbirds rookie forward Jake Kovacs put up some impressive numbers during the 2019-2020 regular season.
The 2003 birth year forward scored 27 times and set up 31 others in 55 regular season games.
Following his impressive season, Kovacs was selected in the 13th round by the Barrie Colts in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
He also became just the fourth player in Thunderbirds history to be drafted by an Ontario Hockey League team, joining Patrick Jarrett (Mississauga IceDogs, 2000), (Jeff Whitfield Sarnia Sting, 2001) and Matt Dias (Sudbury Wolves, 2004).
HIGHEST SCORING FORWARD: JAKE KOVACS
Thunderbirds rookie forward Jake Kovacs led his club in scoring during the regular season with 27 goals and 58 points in 55 games.
The 16 year old became the first Thunderbird rookie to finish first in team scoring at the end of a regular season since Brett Perlini (2007).
ZOLTAN TOOTS KOVACS MEMORIAL AWARD – HARDEST WORKING PLAYER: JAKE KOVACS
For a player who entered the NOJHL as a 15 year old this past season, Jake Kovacs worked hard game in and game out during his rookie season in 2019-2020.
Kovacs became the first Thunderbird rookie to win the Zoltan Toots Kovacs Memorial Award since Eric Hillock and Brett Jeffries both did back in 2014.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: JAKE KOVACS
After leading the Thunderbirds in scoring this past season, Thunderbirds rookie forward Jake Kovacs has been named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Kovacs, who led the Thunderbirds in goals (27) and points (58), also led the club in power play goals with 8.
He also finished tied for first in team power play assists (10) and game winning goals (5).
(Photo by Matt Stefano)