Kootenay Ice Sam Reinhart has been named the WHL's Rookie of the Year, as the league handed out awards on Wednesday, honouring players for their successes on and off the ice.
Reinhart, 16, earned the nomination for the Eastern Conference, beating out his Western Conference competitor in Tim Bozon, a 17-year-old who had a stellar year with the Kamloops Blazers.
The Kootenay Ice forward-the youngest of three brothers who are playing in the WHL- put up 28 goals and 34 assists in his inaugural year in the league, co-leading the Ice in goals with his older brother, Max.
His name will earn a place on the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy but he was also presented with some smaller hardware as a keepsake during a luncheon in Calgary, where the ceremony was hosted.
"It was a great feeling," said Reinhart. "It's just such a huge honour to be in a room with such great players and the year they've had, and just being with the managers and all the scouts, it was a pretty neat experience."
Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch said the younger Reinhart stepped up his game during the Ice's nine-game road trip through the B.C. division, which sparked some pretty impressive numbers on the scoresheet.
Lining with his older brother, Max, Sam combined for 5 goals and 14 assists, while his sibling tallied 14 points as well, and the young rookie never looked back.
"Throughout the season, he was one of our go-to guys," said Knoblauch, "and that's quite something for a young guy at only 16 in this league, but he certainly played very well."
Reinhart knew the choice would be tough against his competitor in Bozon, a left-winger with the Blazers who put up 36 goals and 35 assists over the season.
But the young Ice forward seemed humbled enough to be considered for the award, especially against Bozon's numbers.
"I didn't really think too much into it, but was obviously pretty excited when I saw my name up there and got to go up on stage," said Reinhart.
Over the season, Sam occasionally found himself up on the first line with Max, but he eventually settled into the second unit with Dylen McKinlay and Jesse Ismond, where he was almost a point-a-game producer.
"He's a very gifted hockey player and a real treat for me to work with everyday," said Knoblauch. "Sam is very focused and determined to get to the NHL; that's his goal and he knows that's where he wants to go."
Sam will head back to his hometown of West Vancouver on Thursday, but he's still got his eye on the WHL and is cheering on his older brother, Griffin, who is in the hunt for a WHL championship with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Oil Kings are facing the Portland Winterhawks, and while the Ice only played them once, Sam knows his brother is in for a tough fight.
"I know they [Portland] have a lot of star power, but Edmonton is just really deep and they're getting contributions from everyone," said Sam, who wasn't about to give a definitive prediction of the championship round.
"I'm just going to say it'll be a close series in seven [games]."
While the league handed awards on Wednesday, all the franchise scouts will get down to business on Thursday for the WHL Bantam Draft. The Ice have the highest first-round selection since 2004 with the 10th overall pick.