A trio of centres in Justin Almeida of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Nick Suzuki of the Guelph Storm, and Peter Abbandonato of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are the 2019 finalists for the Bumper to Bumper Sportsman of the Year Award.
Almeida, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, is this year’s winner of the Brad Hornung Trophy, presented to the Western Hockey League’s most sportsmanlike player. Through 64 contests this season, the Warriors forward collected 33 goals and 78 assists to finish second in team scoring with 111 points while ranking third league-wide and just three points shy of top spot. Through it all, Almeida was whistled for just 14 minutes in penalties.
This year marked Almeida’s fourth season in the junior ranks, as the native of Kitimat, B.C., became a full-time skater in the league during the 2015-16 campaign as part of the Prince George Cougars, who originally selected him with the fifth-overall pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. Across four full seasons in the WHL, Almeida has tallied 89 goals and 154 assists for 243 points in 256 career games. This season, Almeida was a two-time recipient of WHL ‘On the Run’ Player of the Week honours, counting back-to-back weeks in mid-January when he put up seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in seven appearances.
The Penguins chose Almeida in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft.
For the third year running, Suzuki takes home the William Hanley Trophy, awarded in recognition of the Ontario Hockey League’s most sportsmanlike player. The Storm forward split the 2018-19 campaign between the Owen Sound Attack and Guelph Storm, guiding his new club to its second J. Ross Robertson Cup championship in six years to advance to the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.
This season, the Montreal Canadiens prospect recorded 34 goals and 60 assists for 94 points in 59 contests, all while spending just 12 minutes in the penalty box. In all, Suzuki finished 11th in league-wide scoring before adding another 42 points in the postseason to set a Storm franchise record for points in a single playoff run. In all, it was a banner year for the London, Ont., native, who closed out the 2019 league playoffs as the OHL ‘On the Run’ Player of the Week after recording two goals and eight assists for 10 points in four games. Originally selected 14th overall by the Attack in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, Suzuki’s career spanned four seasons, counting 141 goals and 187 assists for 328 points in only 251 appearances.
Drafted 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, Suzuki was dealt to the Canadiens the following year.
Chalk up another accolade for Abbandonato, the 2019 winner of the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the QMJHL’s most sportsmanlike player. It’s the latest award for Abbandonato, who also took home the Jean Beliveau Trophy after leading the league in scoring with 111 points, counting 29 goals and 82 assists.
The 21-year-old centre had a breakout campaign for the Huskies, finishing with a career high in points while recording only 14 minutes in penalties. He then added another 27 points in the postseason to help the Huskies hoist their second President’s Cup in the past four seasons and punch the club’s ticket to the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia. Originally selected 32nd overall in the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft, Abbandonato has skated with the Huskies for four seasons, amassing 82 goals and 185 assists for 267 points in 264 career games.
A native of Laval, Que., the 2018-19 campaign saw Abbandonato recognized four times as the Ultramar Player of the Week, while in mid-November he was also named the recipient of CHL Player of the Week honours.