2023 Kelowna Rockets Awards Presented by Orchard Ford Winners Announced
The Kelowna Rockets announced today the recipients of the organization’s annual awards presented by Orchard Ford following the conclusion of the 2022-23 regular season earlier today at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
It was the first time that the team hosted the event publicly with fans in attendance. The 2019-20 ceremony was cancelled due to Covid-19, no awards were handed out during the 2021 Hub Season and the 2021-22 awards last season took place with only media.
If you were unable to attend or missed the live stream, we now have an archived version for you to watch by clicking here.
2023 Award Winners:
Best Plus/Minus: Andrew Cristall
Forward Andrew Cristall led the Rockets with a +18 plus/minus rating, matching the +18 he posted last season as a 16-year-old rookie.
Scholastic Player of the Year: Trae Johnson
Forward Trae Johnson has been awarded the Rockets Scholastic Player of the Year award, the 17-year-old achieved significant academic results in his educational programs while balancing WHL commitments.
Acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings at the trade deadline in January, the Martensville, Sask. product appeared in 30 games for the Rockets posting four points (2G, 4A) and 21 penalty minutes.
Most Improved: Jari Kykkanen
The most improved award is given to the player who has shown the most progress during the regular season. Jari Kykkanen was 14-12-3-0 with a 3.85 goals-against average, .896 save percentage and one shutout in 33 games for Kelowna this season.
Top Scorer: Andrew Cristall
Andrew Cristall led the Rockets in scoring during the 2022-23 season with 95 points (39G, 56A) over 54 games.
The 2023 NHL Draft prospect also led the team in goals (39), assists (56), power play assists (24) and game-winning goals (6).
Unsung Hero: Carson Golder
Carson Golder was converted from a defenceman to a forward late last season by the Edmonton Oil Kings, he quickly found a scoring touch as he led the Oil Kings in scoring in the 2023 WHL Championship series with six points (1G, 5A) in six games.
Golder didn’t slow down this season, he led the Oil Kings in points with 15 points (8G, 7A) through 24 games prior to being dealt to the Rockets on November 28th. The 20-year-old ramped up his production to a point per game in a Rockets uniform, notching 40 points (23G, 17) through 40 games with Kelowna.
Hollis Pearce Award, Top Defensive Forward: Gabriel Szturc
Rockets captain Gabriel Szturc captured the Hollis Pearce Award, Top Defensive Forward after putting together a solid campaign as a dependable two-way forward.
The Czechia product, in his second season with the Rockets, moved from the wing to centre this year. Szturc led the Rockets in faceoff percentage (56.9) and ranked second on the team in faceoff wins (523) and draws taken (919).
Depended on defensively and offensively, the Rockets captain had a breakout season. Szturc nearly doubled his point production from his rookie season, improving from 41 points (16G, 25A) through 67 games last season to 79 points (24A, 55A) over 56 games this year. He was named the Rockets 28th captain on January 28, 2023, also becoming the first European-born player to wear the ‘C’ for the team.
Top Defenceman: Caden Price
With defenceman Jake Lee and Tyson Feist ageing out after last season, Caden Price helped bridge the gap by taking a massive leap this year. The Saskatoon, Sask. product led the Rockets defence core in assists and points.
Price nearly doubled his point production from last season, posting 40 points (5G, 35A) through 65 games this year.
His busy season included an invite to the 2023 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, where he helped team white capture a 4-2 victory on January 29th. Price is ranked 30th among North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting Bureau on its mid-season rankings for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft.
Most Sportsmanlike: Adam Kydd
In 50 games this season, 20-year-old forward Adam Kydd recorded 37 penalty minutes while playing a key role in all situations for the Rockets. His 37 penalty minutes ranked 15th among all active/inactive Rockets skaters from this season.
Acquired from the Calgary Hitmen last season, Kydd established himself as a leader on the Rockets as he was named an assistant captain this season.
The Saskatoon, Sask. product missed nearly six weeks with a fractured foot earlier this season. In his final season in the WHL, Kydd recorded 53 points (20G, 33A) through 50 games.
Rookie of the Year: Ismail Abougouche
Lac La Biche, Alta. product Ismail Abougouche defeated all the odds this season, becoming the only Kelowna Rocket that’s ever been drafted in the 12th round of the WHL Prospects Draft to make the team. Even more incredible is that at just 16, his first year of eligibility to play in the WHL full-time, the defenceman cracked the roster.
Abougouche became a regular in the lineup, appearing in 50 games while posting five assists and 73 penalty minutes.
Humanitarian: John Babcock
John Babcock, in his third season with the Rockets, has become a leader in attending the Rockets school visits in the central Okanagan region. In addition to being very involved in the many school visits, Babcock has become a Hockey Gives Blood Player Ambassador this season.
The Humanitarian award recognizes the work a Rockets player does to help and enhance the community.
Most Valuable Player: Andrew Cristall
After winning the Rookie of the Year award last season, Andrew Cristall established himself as the Rockets offensive juggernaut this year.
He posted 95 points (39G, 56A) over 54 games, appearing on the scoresheet in 44 games this season and producing 28 multi-point performances.
Selected eighth overall by Kelowna in the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft, Cristall led the Rockets in a variety of offensive categories, including goals (39), assists (56), power play assists (24), plus/minus (+18) and game-winning goals (6).
In early January, Cristall was second in league scoring behind only Connor Bedard, before missing 14 games with a lower-body injury. In his return to the lineup on February 15th, after missing almost six weeks of action, Cristall recorded his first WHL career hat trick and added a fourth goal.
The Rockets will face the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round of the 2023 WHL Playoffs, with Seattle hosting games one and two this Friday and Saturday. The series will shift to Kelowna for game three on Tuesday, April 4 and game four on Wednesday, April 5 at Prospera Place.
Single-game tickets for both home games are on sale at Select Your Tickets. Tickets can be purchased online through www.selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office, or by phone at 250-762-5050.