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Karlsson, Couture, Eklund, Cardwell Win Year-End Sharks Awards…How Did I Vote?

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The San Jose Sharks announced their year-end awards during their last home game this afternoon.

There are four categories – Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Media Good Guy, and Prospect of the Year – the first three media-voted.

Here are the winners and my vote.

Player of the Year

Winner: Erik Karlsson

My Vote: In order, Karlsson, Logan Couture, Nico Sturm

Erik Karlsson, at 98 points, has 32 points more than second-place on the San Jose Sharks, Couture. He has 74 more points than second-place defenseman Matt Benning.

That’s just one simple way of saying it was a slam dunk vote.

Couture, once again, could be relied upon for solid two-way play in another tough season. He is San Jose’s top penalty killer, a first-unit power play fixture, and right behind Tomas Hertl (19:17) for the lead in ATOI. All this, plus 27 goals and 39 assists without missing a game so far this season.

If you take Couture for what he is instead of expecting him to be something he’s not, you should be happy with his body of work.

Sturm is a debatable choice for third choice, especially with players with more responsibility like Hertl, Benning, and Mario Ferraro as possibilities.

But Hertl and Ferraro have been too inconsistent this season, and I’m going with Sturm’s reliable 200-foot game and motor. He’s a guy who always drags you into the fight, which I appreciate.

Rookie of the Year

Winner: William Eklund

My Vote: Eklund, Henry Thrun

By design, the San Jose Sharks haven’t used a lot of rookies this season, instead choosing to “marinate” their youngsters in the minors.

But in small sample sizes, I was most impressed by Eklund and Thrun. My guess, based on what I saw this season, both break camp with the Sharks next year.

Media Good Guy

Winner: Couture

My Vote: Couture, Hertl, James Reimer

Since I’ve known him, Couture has always been accessible and thoughtful with his media responsibilities but win or loss or ask him about fantasy football, he’s been particularly insightful this season.

Jumbo, Cheating, ‘Original’ Team Names: Inside Sharks’ Fantasy Football League

This is our first year back in the locker room after two years away, that might have something to do with it too. Players are generally more comfortable in the friendly confines of their own locker room as opposed to Zoom (2020-21) or a media scrum (2021-22). Last year, it was rare to have a one-on-one conversation with a San Jose Sharks player because of COVID concerns; we usually only talked to players in group settings.

You might say it’s his job, as captain, to talk, but that doesn’t always guarantee, based on other cities, that the captain will be anywhere as good as Couture is with media.

I don’t take it for granted.

Like Couture, Hertl is always a model player to talk to in any situation. Even after an excruciating early-season loss, where Hertl bore the blame for defeat:

Hertl Shoulders Blame, But Sharks Speak Up for Him

I’ve made my feelings clear about Reimer’s stance on the Pride Night jersey, but even after that controversy, he hasn’t shied away from local media, and continues being the very definition of the award.

Per the Sharks: “The award is presented annually to the player who handles his media responsibilities with cooperation, honesty and thoughtfulness, and answers the bell no matter the outcome or situation.”

More than a week after Pride Night, Reimer still took our questions about his stance, and didn’t seem closed off to talking more about it. His willingness to talk, like what he has to say or not, is a sharp contrast from other players who have chosen not to wear a Pride jersey.

I do respect that.

Prospect of the Year

Winner: Ethan Cardwell

This award is voted on by San Jose Sharks management and staff, “presented to the player who contributes the greatest amount of success to his club and is a part of the Sharks system, not having played an NHL game.”

Under these parameters, Cardwell’s Barrie Colts-leading 43 goals certainly qualifies. His 90 points is second on Barrie. The Colts enjoyed a 42-17-9 regular season and are in the midst of a playoff run.

Other likely candidates for Prospect of the Year were Hobey Baker nominee Alex Young, who led NCAA tournament-qualifying Colgate in scoring, and Jake Furlong, who topped all Halifax Mooseheads defensemen with 50 points. The 50-11-7 Mooseheads look set for a long playoff run.

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