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Rangers prospect Staal named OHL playoff MVP

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Defenseman Marc Staal made history on Sunday night as the first player from a losing team to win the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the Ontario Hockey League's postseason MVP.

Rangers prospect Marc Staal, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, added yet another big accomplishment to his hockey resume on Sunday night.

Although his Sudbury team lost the OHL Championship Series to Plymouth in six games, Staal, the Wolves' captain, was named the winner of the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award, which goes to the league's postseason MVP.

The Wolves fell to the Whalers 3-2 when Plymouth's scored at 3:22 of overtime, lifting Plymouth into the Memorial Cup tournament in Vancouver later this month.

Staal had been looking to lead Sudbury to its first OHL championship since the team relocated from Niagara Falls in 1972. Right to the end, he was having a big impact on the team, earning No. 2 star honors in the Game 6 loss on home ice.

The Wolves' run to the finals was remarkable. Seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference, they upset Mississauga in five games in the opening round before pulling off a stunning sweep of No. 1 Barrie in Round 2. Sudbury then went on to knock off No. 3 Belleville in six games to earn their berth in the finals.

In 21 playoff games, Staal scored five goals and added 15 assists for 20 points. He finished 13th in the OHL in playoff points and was the top-scoring defenseman. He also had a plus-17 rating over those 21 games, tying for the league lead and tied with teammate Jonathan D'Aversa for the most assists by a defenseman.

By winning the Gretzky 99 Award, Staal collected his second major trophy in a week. Last Monday, he was named the winner of the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL's Outstanding Defenseman in the regular season.

Drafted 12th overall by the Rangers in 2005, Staal also captured the gold medal with Team Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden. The 20-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ontario had won his first gold the previous year representing Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver where he was named the Top Defenseman of that tournament.

Past winners of the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award, which was first presented in 1999, include Derek Roy of the Buffalo Sabres, Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, and Brad Boyes of the St. Louis Blues. Staal is the first player ever to win the award while playing for a team that did not win the OHL title.

Staal is the brother of two NHL players. His older brother, Eric, plays for the Carolina Hurricanes, while younger brother Jordan is a finalist for the Calder Trophy after an outstanding rookie year with Pittsburgh this past season.

Asked about Marc Staal last Tuesday, Rangers head coach Tom Renney had high praise for the major-junior star.

"We're all optimistic, naturally, and pretty excited about what we have in front of us here," Renney said.
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