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Calgary Hitmen forward Brett Sonne named WHL's top player

NHL.com @NHL

EDMONTON - Calgary Hitmen forward Brett Sonne has been named the Western Hockey League's player of the year.

The 19-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C., finished third in WHL scoring with 48 goals and 52 assists in 62 games, to go along with a plus-minus rating of plus-39.

Sonne's contributions helped the Hitmen finish first in the regular-season standings at 59-9-3-1.

Calgary opens the WHL championship series Friday against the Kelowna Rockets with the winner advancing to next month's Memorial Cup in Rimouski, Que.

"Coming in, I wanted to prove I could be a top forward in this league and also be here for my team," Sonne said. "It's a good feeling at the end of the 72 games, but there's still a lot more work ahead of me.

"We're four wins away from the big dance in Rimouski. We recognize Kelowna is a tough team to beat and we're going to have to put some work in."

Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio was also named the league's top executive Wednesday.

Sonne is a third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues and has signed a three-year contract with the NHL club. He has four goals and six assists in eight playoff games. He sat out four post-season games due to injury.

The six-foot, 184-pound forward led the WHL in game-winning goals this season with 11. He also helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2009 world junior hockey championship in Ottawa with a goal and a pair of assists in six games.

"After coming off such a big high of playing for your country, you've got to get back to work," he said. "At that point, we were on our way to being the top team in the league and working for a season title. When I got back, it was kind of a reality check to get back to work.

"It's been a good run. That's for sure."

Sonne broke his ankle 20 games into the 2007-08 season and didn't return to the Hitmen lineup until there were two games remaining in the campaign. He was able to showcase his talents this season, however.

He'll have his name engraved on the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to the WHL's top player in memory of Swift Current Broncos Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff who died in a team bus crash in 1986.

Sonne was chosen ahead of Western Conference nominee Casey Pierro-Zabotel of the Vancouver Giants, who won the WHL's scoring trophy with 36 goals and 79 assists in 72 games.

In other awards handed out Wednesday, Prince George Cougars winger Brett Connolly was chosen rookie of the year. The Prince George, B.C., native had 30 goals and 30 assists in 65 games.

Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans was named the WHL's top goaltender. The first-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg native posted a 35-12-0-3 record, a goals-against average of 2.28 and a save percentage of .921.

Jonathan Blum of the Vancouver Giants earned the defenceman award. Another first-round pick of the Nashville Predators, the 20-year-old from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., totalled 16 goals and 50 assists in 51 games.

Vancouver's Don Hay won the coaching award for the second time in his career after receiving the trophy with Tri-City in 1999. Vancouver finished runner-up to Calgary in the regular season with a 57-10-2-3 record.

Saskatoon Blades defenceman Stefan Elliott was chosen the league's top scholastic player. Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman Tyler Ennis, who also played for the Canadian junior team this year, earned the WHL's sportsmanship award.

Tri-City winger Taylor Procyshen received the humanitarian award. Mike Bortolussi of the Medicine Hat Tigers picked up the WHL's marketing and communications honour.

Chris Savage of Medicine Hat, Alta., was singled out as the league's best official.

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