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Ryan Ellis named CHL top player

by Bill Hoppe /
MISSISSAUGA, Ont.Ryan Ellis, who had 24 goals, 77 assists and 101 points this season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year on Saturday.

Ellis, a first-round pick by the Nashville Predators two years ago, became the first OHL defenseman to score 100 points in a season since Jamie Rivers in 1993-94. He won a silver medal at the World Junior Championship and set IIHF and Team Canada records for most career points by a defenseman with 25 in 20 games. He was named the tournament's top defender.

"I was always surrounded by guys like Taylor Hall, Greg Nemisz, Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler – people that were such good hockey players I really didn't even need to try half the time," Ellis joked about the Spitfires' recent NHL graduates. "I think this year every game was a battle. To win any game you had to be involved, and for me I think that's what allowed me to elevate my game. I was relied on so much more than previous years. I think I just kind of relished in the role."

Ellis beat out Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier, NHL Central Scouting's No. 6 North American Skater for the 2011 Entry Draft, and Red Deer Rebels goalie Darcy Kuemper, a Minnesota Wild prospect, for Player of the Year.

Ellis edged out the Saint John Sea Dogs' Simon Despres, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, and the Saskatoon Blades' Stefan Elliot, a Colorado Avalanche prospect, for Defenseman of the Year.

Niagara Ice Dogs' defenseman Dougie Hamilton, Central Scouting's No. 4 North American Skater in this year's Entry Draft, won the Scholastic Player of the Year. Hamilton, who will participate in the NHL Scouting Combine, which starts Monday in Toronto, said he doesn't care which team selects him.

"I put in all the work already," Hamilton said. "(I'm) obviously honored to be ranked so highly through the year. The Draft's just some team that wants you and that's where you're going to go. I don't think it really matters. You're playing in the NHL. Whoever wants you most is the team you are going to go to. That's thrilling."

Kuemper was named the CHL's best goalie. He beat out the Ice Dogs' Mark Visentin, a Phoenix Coyotes prospect, and the Sea Dogs' Jacob DeSerres.

Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov was named CHL Rookie of the Year; Gatineau Olympiques center Philip-Michael Devos was named Sportsman of the Year; Moose Jaw Warriors right wing Spencer Edwards was named Humanitarian of the Year; Medicine Hat Tigers right wing Linden Vey, who led all CHL players with 116 points, won the Top Scorer of the Year.

Former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant was named CHL Coach of the Year for leading the Sea Dogs to the QMJHL championship.

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