Mickey Lang has the opportunity to succeed former teammate Brandon Marino as the CHL's MVP.|
Fellow Quad City Mallards Mike Hellyer (Rookie of the Year) and Matt Duffy (Defender of the Year) also are contending for postseason honors in the Double-A circuit.
The trio were among the five finalists announced for their respective awards this week by the CHL, and that's saying a lot for a squad that's still fighting for the 10-team league's eighth and final playoff spot with 16 days of regular-season remaining.
Heck, three teams ahead of the Flock in the standings only combine for three candidates in the four awards categories being voted on by the CHL's coaches and media.
No players made the list from Arizona, expansion Denver has a pair of candidates and only All-Star goaltender Tim Boron represents Rapid City, which currently owns home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
Just behind QC? Bloomington boasts MVP candidate Jon Booras. Nobody from Tulsa made the list.
In fact, only in the Goaltender of the Year honor did the Mallards miss joining league-leading Allen in having a candidate for each award.
Not bad at all for a team that nearly had its season derailed before it ever started, thanks to a failed ownership transfer during an already-delayed training camp in October.
So what are the chances the CHL-controlled club claims some league hardware?
These are the league's only postseason awards determined in part by the meda.
The votes are due Monday, so here's this Mallards beat writer's vote.
MVP: You have to love watching the pesky Lang play. The second-year Mallard is one of those rare guys always with a smile on his face and an unbridled passion for what he's doing in his heart.
The numbers are there, too. The undersized Lang leads the league in shorthanded goals (5), shares the lead in game-winning goals (6), sits tied for second in overall goals (30) and also ranks sixth in points (66) and power-play goals (9).
The 26-year-old also has the rep. After a brief Triple-A call-up to AHL Rockford, Lang was the CHL's Player of the Month in January, and was the league's Third Star for the month of February. A year ago this month, the Nevada native was the CHL's Rookie of the Month and March's First Star.
Yet, while Lang deserves my vote, the guess here is that Missouri's Sebastien Thinel or Denver's A.J. Gale get the leaguewide nod.
With a league-leading 80 points, Thinel is on his way to a third CHL scoring title in five seasons.
Otherwise, Gale gets a sympathy vote as the face man for first-year Denver, and still leading the CHL with 35 goals despite a recent AHL call-up.
Defender of the Year: Duffy's done great work as QC's most-productive blue liner.
The 26-year-old is tied for fifth among defensemen in points (35), ranks sixth in assists (28) and shares ninth in goals (7).
Duffy's also been key in an 18-13-3 postseason push since mid-December with 22 points in the last 22 games.
However, despite a strong +8 plus/minus margin, the former NHL fourth-round draftee figures to check in behind an anchor for one of the CHL's two scariest defensive units.
Wichita's Kevin Young and Allen's Tyler Ludwig are tied for the lead among defenders with 46 points.
Young leads all blue liners with 17 goals for a team fighting for the top spot. Wichita also boasts the circut's best penalty-kill (86.72 percent).
Allen, though, is mere tenths of a percent behind, while also being the CHL's stingiest team with 146 goals allowed.
Young by a whisker on my ballot.
Rookie of the Year: Hellyer has made a heck of a debut with QC.
The 26-year-old leads all CHL rookies in points (49), ranks second in assists (30) and sits fifth in goals (19).
Often pairing with Lang and fellow Canadian Mike Stinziani, Hellyer already has zoomed past Lang's rookie numbers.
The only thing standing in his way is Allen's Aaron Dell, who also should win the goaltender award.
Goalie of the Year: Dell is a rare three-award candidate, also ranking as one of the five MVP finalists.
Dell leads the CHL in goals-against average (2.18) and save-percentage (.924).
Dell's also the bet here over Boron and Fort Worth's Kristofer Westblom, despite each being the poster boy behind their team's success this season.
Steve Tappa covers the Quad City Mallards for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, You can reach him at 309-757-4967 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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