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Vancouver Giants dominate WHL's Western Conference all-star team

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CALGARY - The Vancouver Giants were heavily represented in the Western Hockey League's Western Conference all-stars and award nominees announced Wednesday.

Defenceman Jonathan Blum and forwards Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Evander Kane were named to the first all-star team and Blum was also a finalist for the WHL's top defenceman award.

Pierro-Zabotel led the WHL in scoring with 36 goals and 79 assists in 72 games. He and Blum were unanimous selections to the all-star team.

Giants coach Don Hay and general manager Scott Bonner were named Western Conference nominees for the WHL's coaching and executive honours respectively.

The Giants topped the Western Conference with a 57-10-2-3 record and ranked second in the WHL behind the Eastern Conference's Calgary Hitmen.

Tri-City Americans goaltender Chet Pickard, Seattle defenceman Thomas Hickey and Kelowna Rockets forward Jamie Benn round out the conference first all-star team.

Spokane goalie Dustin Tokarski, forward Drayson Bowman and defenceman Tyler Myers, Kelowna defenceman Brent Regner and forward Colin Long, and Tri-City forward Taylor Procyshen were selected to the second all-star team.

Pickard was nominated for the WHL's goaltending award and Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars was nominated for the rookie honour. Long was also nominated for the sportsmanship award.

Tyler Maxwell of the Everett Silvertips was nominated for the WHL' s scholastic award.

The Eastern Conference all-stars and award finalists will be announced Thursday. The WHL awards will be handed out April 29 in Edmonton.

The playoffs open Thursday with the Hitmen hosting the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series. All other series open Friday.

The Saskatoon Blades host the Lethbridge Hurricanes; the Brandon Wheat Kings have home-ice advantage against the Kootenay Ice and the Medicine Hat Tigers are in Swift Current to take on the Broncos in the Eastern Conference.

Vancouver meets Prince George, Tri-City is up against Everett, Kelowna faces Kamloops and it's Spokane versus the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference.

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