Captain Cooper takes home four honours
It was the Captain Cooper and Willie T. show at the Charlottetown Islanders fan choice awards Monday in Charlottetown.
Team captain Oliver Cooper earned the mayor's class act, offensive player of the year, player's player and MVP awards, while defenceman Will Thompson nabbed the hardest working, defensive and play of the year honours.
Cooper, who's been out of the lineup with a throat infection, was in fine form in accepting his quartet of trophies, although he said the player's player award, voted on by his teammates, went to No. 1 on his list.
"To have the respect of my teammates (means everything). I'm grateful they feel that way," said Cooper. "It's a huge honour."
Cooper was named captain of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club in January after former C-wearer Quinn O'Brien wrist injury shut him down for the season.
Cooper, the 20-year-old Fredericton, N.B., native, has been solid for the Isles all season, especially early when several of the team's top players were at NHL camps.
Cooper also held fast when the Isles struggled before the Christmas break, and he's flourished following key moves at the trade deadline that brought in Samuel Blais, Jake Coughler, Alexis Vanier and Nicholas Leblond.
That, and the return of Daniel Sprong from the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, spurred the Isles second-half resurgence, improving it from barely a post-season team to ninth overall and, with two games left, fighting for eight place and home-ice advantage in the first round of playoffs.
It's like a compressed version of Cooper's last two seasons.
Last year, he had a disappointing 15 goals and 34 points, while this year he's tallied 24 goals and 47 points with two games to go. Before last season, Charlottetown spent two first-round draft picks to pry the forward away from the Saint John Sea Dogs.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself last season after the trade. This year, (coaches and management) said you're here to play hockey and forget about all the rest," said Cooper. "I think we have all the pieces (for the playoffs). If we can keep our confidence rolling, I think the ball's in our court."
Thompson, 18, also arrived from Saint John for a first-round pick in the 2014-15 pre-season, and the Fredericton native has provided depth and steady blue-line play as his minutes and responsibilities increased.
"Through the year, I think I gained a lot of confidence as I gained playing time. I can make better plays, get up in my gap and challenge offensive players," said Thompson, who has five goals and plus-4 plus-minus ratio and is most proud of the hardest worker nod. "I try and put my best foot forward everyday. It's a big honour."
Charlottetown (33-26-5-2) is on a five-game win streak and hosts Acadie-Bathurst on Friday and Halifax on Saturday to close out the regular season. Game times are 7 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, at Eastlink Centre.
Winners at the Charlottetown Islanders fan choice awards.
MVP - Oliver Cooper.
Offensive Player - Oliver Cooper.
Defensive Player - Will Thompson.
Player's Player Award (voted on by players) - Oliver Cooper.
Rookie - Matthew Welsh.
Hardest Working Player - Will Thompson.
Scholastic Player - Dexter Weber.
Fan Favourite - Matthew Welsh.
Mayor's Class Act Award - Oliver Cooper.
Volunteer of the Year - Bo Ford.
Play of the Year - Willie T. in OT, Will Thompson.