Players Vote For Recipients of PHPA Top Prospect Award

Author: Darryl Dionne, PHPA Director of Communications and Business Development
Date: Jun 27, 2017

(Niagara Falls, ON) The Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016-17 PHPA Top Prospect Award as voted by the player Membership of the PHPA.

The PHPA Top Prospect Award is presented to one player from the ECHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences and one player from the American Hockey League’s Eastern and Western Conferences who stands out as the best next future star to succeed and make an impact at the next level of the sport.


AHL Eastern Conference: Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Marlies

The Finnish star was selected 22nd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and was later traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although plagued by an injury this season, Kapanen played 43 games with the Marlies registering 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists).  Kapanen also played in 8 regular season NHL games with the Leafs followed by 6 playoff games against the Washington Capitals, where he scored an overtime goal.

“I’m flattered and its an honor, I’ve been working hard to get better every day its nice to receive recognition for that hard work,” said Kapanen.  “I’ve been working hard to improve and other guys are noticing that I’ve gotten better, which means a lot.  It’s always nice knowing your hard work and improvements aren’t going unnoticed.”


AHL Western Conference: Pontus Aberg, Milwaukee Admirals

In his third season with the Milwaukee Admirals, the 23-year-old Swedish forward scored 31 goals and added 21 assists for 52 points in 56 games along with 40 penalty minutes.  He was recalled by the Nashville Predators where he saw action in 15 regular season games, before playing an integral role in the Predators run to the Stanley Cup Final, where he contributed 5 points in 16 playoff games.

“It’s nice to know all my hard work over the last few years is paying off,” said Aberg, “I’m just trying to play the way I want to and be the best version of me I can be.”


ECHL Eastern Conference: Brendan O’Donnell, Florida Everblades

Drafted by the Tampa bay Lighting in 2010, the 24-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba completed his second season at the pro level after spending four years with the University of North Dakota.  In only 61 games, O’Donnel recorded 41 goals and 39 assists for 80 points, including 39 penalty minutes and a +32 rating, helping the Florida Everblades to a first place finish in the Eastern Conference standings.  He also played 6 AHL games games with the Texas Stars during the 2016-17 season.

“This is pretty cool and unexpected.  Any time you get recognized directly by the people you’re playing against is definitely special,” said O’Donnell. “We had a great team, and there are a lot of great players in the conference.  As a team we did a lot of really good things and I think that individuals usually benefit directly from that.”


ECHL Western Conference: Jake Paterson, Toledo Walleye

Jake Paterson was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and made his professional debut with the Toledo Walleye in 2015.  In 2016-17, Paterson recorded the most wins (34) of any other ECHL goaltender, to go along with a 2.28 goals against average and .918 save percentage, leading the Walleye to first place overall in the ECHL standings. During the 2015-16 season, Paterson saw action in 2 AHL games with Grand Rapids, where he posted a .928 save percentage.

“It’s a pretty special feeling, obviously the Kelly Cup is the main goal but anytime you’re recognized for an individual award, especially when you’re being recognized by the guys you play with and against is definitely special” said Paterson, “We had so much good young talent on my team alone let alone in the rest of the league, it’s cool knowing the guys in the league view me like this.”

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