CANMORE – The Canmore Eagles recognized the professionalism and leadership of its outbound veteran players during the 2020-21 Alberta Junior A Hockey League (AJHL) Awards.
Winners on each team were selected league-wide and top honours for the hometown club included Isaac Suppin (top rookie); Cameron Chin (top defenceman); Mike Spafford (top forward); Devin Chapman (top goalie); and Zach Carlson (Team MVP).
Due to the few number of games actually played, it's impossible to determine who would have risen to claim each award this season, said Andrew Milne, Eagles head coach and general manager. But he knew who was most deserving.
The decision to award 20-year-old vets Chin, Spafford and Carlson – who won’t be returning to the team – was a way of acknowledging their season's potential, leadership, and drive as members of the Eagles over the past few seasons.
“Those are the guys I feel the most sympathy for with the way this year unfolded," said Milne. "That’s obviously not how anyone pictured their 20-year-old junior year to go. I feel really bad for those guys and this situation.
“They weren’t able to have that opportunity to be the 20-year-old, and be the man and take control of the team. That really sucked for those guys.”
The Eagles laced up just twice in 2020-21, winning both games against the Drumheller Dragons.
Right winger Carlson scored two goals and four points; left wing Spafford had three helpers; Chin had two assists; and Suppin had one assist.
Chapman had a .923 save percentage in his only start with the Eagles last season.
After the home and home against Drumheller, the club’s season was halted by a COVID-19 outbreak in November, which was followed by the AJHL suspending league-wide action in December.
In February, the league announced it was restarting a modified season in March, but the Eagles opted out and cited a lack of billets contributing to the decision. The Lloydminster Bobcats also opted out due to provincial restrictions at the border city's arena in Saskatchewan.
As part of the Eagles opting-out, five of its players were loaned to other teams in the AJHL and BCHL.
Ex-Eagle Dylan Witzke, who transferred to the Whitecourt Wolverines, won the northern team’s top defenceman award. As a Wolverine, the 19-year-old scored three goals and nine points in 12 games.
Defenceman Drae Gardinar joined Witzke in Whitecourt, and goalie Chapman and forward Carter Myrol went to the Grande Prairie Storm. Suppin played seven games for the West Kelowna Warriors.
Suppin, Chapman, Gardinar and Myrol will be returning to the Eagles and Witzke committed to university.