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Whalers Season Over, Accolades Continue

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Whaler's Matt Hackett
Whaler's releases

The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau named Plymouth Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett as the top prospect among North American goaltenders for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, held June 26-27 in Montreal.

Hackett moved up the Central Scouting list from not being listed in the preliminary rankings to eighth in the Mid-Term rankings to number one in Central Scouting final list released April 21.
"A huge improvement over last year," Central Scouting's Al Jensen, the group's goalie specialist, told "Great potential, got very good size (6-2, 170), very poised. His angles, his net positioning are very good. He's a very smart goaltender with excellent net coverage."

Hackett – who posted a 3.04 goals against average, .913 save percentage, two shutouts and a 34-13-3-0 record in 55 games for the Whalers this season – started 2008-09 as a backup to Jeremy Smith. But when Plymouth struggled at the start of the season, Hackett won the lead-goaltender’s position in November and was effective all year. Hackett continued his fine work through the playoffs, posting a 3.01 goals against average and .930 save percentage in 11 playoff appearances.

Hackett was named ADT Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Week twice this season – for the weeks ending January 10 and March 31. In addition, Hackett started 29 consecutive regular season games from January 9-March 15 and continued with 11 straight playoff starts from March 21-April 11.

“You look at Matt, and he’s a pure goaltender,” said Plymouth Whalers goaltending coach Stan Matwijiw. “He’s the type of goaltender that NHL teams are looking for. He’s big in stature and takes up a lot of net. He’s very fundamentally sound. The work that I’ve done with him is tweaking a thing here and there. He’s already had good instruction, with his uncle (former NHL goaltender Jeff Hackett) already a goaltending coach in the NHL (for Colorado).”

“He’s taken the ball and run it with,” said Plymouth President, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Vellucci earlier this year. “He’s improved his reflexes and his rebound control is very good. One of the things I like about Matt is the fact that the players play really well for him. He’s a likeable guy, and our guys play great and want to play in front of him. They help him, they block shots and they clear the pucks away from in front of the net.”

While London’s John Tavares has been rated first or second in the Central Scouting’s rating all season long, Hackett has come a long way during his time with the Whalers. Hackett – acquired by the Whalers from Windsor on November 13, 2007 – was Windsor’s third string goaltender at the time he came to Plymouth.

Plymouth defenseman Beau Schmitz (Howell) was also listed by Central Scouting at 195th overall.

VELLUCCI FINISHES THIRD IN MATT LEYDEN TROPHY VOTING: Although Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci didn’t start the season behind the Whalers bench, he still finished third in the voting for the Matt Leyden Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League’s Coach of the Year. Vellucci – who took over for Greg Stefan on November 10 – finished third in the voting, behind Windsor’s Bob Boughner and Belleville’s George Burnett.

Boughner – who won the Matt Leyden Trophy for the second consecutive year, finished in the voting with 58 points, Burnett with 38 and Vellucci with 34. Vellucci won the Matt Leyden Award in 2007.

Whaler's Team Awards
The Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers finished the 2008-09 season tonight with an Awards Banquet held tonight at CJ’s Brewing Company at Compuware Sports Arena. The following players received awards:

REGULAR SEASON MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, LEADING SCORER, ACADEMIC PLAYER and HUMANITARIAN of the YEAR: Captain Chris Terry, who led the Whalers with 39 goals and 55 assists for 94 points and was +25 during the regular season.  Terry is third overall in franchise career scoring with 114 goals and 175 assists for 289 points in 253 games.  Selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fifth round (132nd overall) in the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Terry may be well signed by the Hurricanes by this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.  Terry has been a leader in the Whalers’ Community Relations efforts over the past three seasons and is Plymouth’s nominee for the Ontario Hockey League’s Dan Snyder Award as Humanitarian of the Year.

ROOKIE of the YEAR: Center Tyler Seguin, who scored 21 goals with 46 assists for 67 points and was +14 in 61 games.

DEFENSEMAN of the YEAR: Defenseman Michal Jordan, who scored 12 goals with 30 assists for 42 points and was a team-leading +28 in 58 games.  Jordan – a fourth round pick (105th overall) of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft – has played for the Czech Republic in the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Championships.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER of the YEAR: Goaltender Matt Hackett, who won the lead goaltender’s position with the Whalers in November and posted a career-best 3.04 goals against average, .913 save percentage, two shutouts and a 34-13-3-0 record in 55 games for the Whalers this season. Hackett continued his fine work through the playoffs, posting a 3.01 goals against average and .930 save percentage in 11 playoff appearances.  Hackett is rated by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau as top prospect among all North American goaltenders for this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
UNSUNG HERO of the YEAR: Center Matt Caria, who came to the Whalers in December in a trade with Sault Ste. Marie and scored 34 goals with 58 assists for 92 points and was +14 in 67 games this season.  Currently a free-agent, Caria is playing for a professional contract next season.

LABATT BLUE COLLAR PLAYER of the YEAR: Veteran center Joe Gaynor, who enjoyed career highs with 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points and was +7 in 68 games this season.  Gaynor is one of the best defensive forwards in the OHL and could return to the Whalers next season as an overage player.

 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER IN THE PLAYOFFS:  Hackett, who posted a 3.01 goals against average and .930 save percentage in 11 playoff appearances.

LEADING SCORER IN THE PLAYOFFS (tie): Terry, who scored seven goals with nine assists for 16 points; and Seguin, who tallied five goals with 11 assists for 16 points.

WHALER BOOSTER CLUB AWARDS: Barb Mohrlock Award as Fan Favorite – Chris Terry; Player of the Month of April, Matt Caria; Academic Player of the Month, Tyler J. Brown; Grinder of the Year, Joe Gaynor.

WHALER OFF-ICE OFFICIALS: Alice Iafrate Award as Overage of the Year – Brett Bellemore.  Certificates and Cash Awards to Matt Caria and Scott Fletcher.

Next up for the Whalers?  The annual Ontario Hockey League Draft, held on Saturday, May 2.  Check Back for Updates!

Reader Responses:

Frank Z.
I get to a few Whalers games each year. They were a totally different team when I saw them early in the season than the way they played at the end, and i think they did as well as they could in the playoffs. I think it is great that we have an OHL team. It's good hockey, with a chance to see a lot of future stars.

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