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Firkus becomes first-ever Warrior to win CHL player of the year, earns top scorer

Jagger Firkus Moose Jaw Warriors Jagger Firkus - The Canadian Press

FRANKENMUTH, Mich. — The accolades and recognition meant the world to Jagger Firkus.

Firkus was named the David Branch Player of the Year Award winner at the Canadian Hockey League awards Saturday. He became the first player in Warriors history to win the award.

He paced the CHL with 126 points (61 goals, 65 assists) to also earn the top scorer award.

"It means the world to me," Firkus said. "The organization of Moose Jaw, they've had a lot of really good players that came over there, but to be the first to get this award, it means a lot to me.

"The organization of Moose Jaw has done so much for me, so I'm happy to give back to them."

"It's special to me, it's special to my family and hopefully I can keep moving forward," he added.

Easton Cowan of the London Knights and Mathieu Cataford of the Halifax Mooseheads were the other two finalists for CHL player of the year.

Firkus was presented the award by outgoing Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch, for whom the award is named.

Firkus, drafted by the NHL's Seattle Kraken in the second round (35th overall) in 2022, was held off the scoresheet just four times in 63 regular-season games.

He also carried a 26-game point streak of 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) between Nov. 25 and Feb. 17.

He led the Warriors to third place in the Western Hockey League's Eastern Conference regular-season standings.

Then came the franchise's first-ever Ed Chynoweth Cup after advancing to their first WHL final in 18 years.

The Warriors made it to their first-ever Memorial Cup. Moose Jaw fell to host Saginaw in Friday's tournament semifinal.

"It was special, it really was," Firkus said of the his season. "It was the (most fun) year of hockey I've ever had. It was the best group of guys I've ever been a part of.

"Looking back on it, I wish it could never end but that's not hockey. You eventually come to an end. Just super-proud of the guys, super-proud to be a part of the Moose Jaw Warriors."

As for his potential future in the NHL, the player nicknamed Firkus Circus says he'd be grateful for a chance.

"Whatever the future holds, I just want to be proud of myself," he said. "The Firkus Circus, if it does eventually get there, I'll just be honoured to be there and get the opportunity to play in the NHL."

Firkus was one of two players to be nominated for two awards.

Saginaw's Zayne Parekh earned defenceman of the year and was a finalist for top draft prospect. Parekh is the first Spirit player to ever win CHL defenceman of the year.

He led the Spirit to a historic campaign, as they crossed the 100-point mark for the first time in team history with 102 in the regular season, behind only London in the Ontario Hockey League.

Parekh paced all CHL blue liners with 96 points (33 goals, 66 assists).

He was looking ahead to Sunday's Memorial Cup final against London, and a chance to bring Saginaw its first Memorial Cup in the team's tournament debut.

"I don't feel much. It hasn't sunk in yet," Parekh said of becoming the first Spirit player to win the award. "I'm trying to be the first person to bring a Memorial Cup to Saginaw, so that's the goal."

Moose Jaw's Denton Mateychuk and Vsevolod Komarov of the Drummondville Voltigeurs were also finalists for defenceman award.

Medicine Hat Tigers centre Cayden Lindstrom was named top draft prospect. He's ranked third among North American skaters in the NHL's Central Scouting rankings, with Parekh slotted fifth.

Chicoutimi Saguenéens right-winger Maxim Massé, who is 30th on those rankings, was the other draft-prospect finalist.

"It's definitely an exciting moment coming up," Lindstrom said of NHL draft June 28-29. "It's a lot to take in. There's still a lot of work to be done, though."

Goaltender of the year went to William Rousseau of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, while Medicine Hat's Gavin McKenna took rookie honours. Jean-François Grégoire of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar earned coach of the year.

Moose Jaw's Brayden Yager earned the sportsmanship award. Noah Chadwick of the Lethbridge Hurricanes took home scholastic player of the year and Mason Vaccari of the Kingston Frontenacs was given the humanitarian award.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2024.