The American Hockey League is announcing the 2014-15 year-end awards. As the media representatives for the Texas Stars, Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey and Sean Shapiro of the Austin American-Statesman submitted a ballot for each award. As winners are announced, we’ll break down the choices. Today’s ballot: the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award.
Keep the rule and guideline in mind from the first post: we can’t vote for Texas, and we tend to vote for Western Conference players.
Matt Murray, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Jacob Markstrom, Utica Comets
Mike McKenna, Portland Pirates
Stephen: Even if you saw Murray play in person this season, you’re probably thinking this is a little bit ridiculous. As a rookie goalie, Murray has picked up All-Rookie and All-AHL honors along with the Rookie of the Year and now the Goalie of the Year awards. Is anyone honestly not expecting to see Murray’s name on the MVP trophy tomorrow? We could link you to any one of the three posts we’ve already written about him, but for everyone’s sanity, we won’t say it all again here.
Quite frankly, it’s entirely possible we’re all watching one of those seasons for Murray that will make us all say “Remember when…?” in a few decades when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame. Then again, he could also be the AHL equivalent of Jim Carey. Only time will tell.
Sean: Jacob Markstrom was second on our ballot, and when he’s not sparring with the Binghamton Senators’ Peter Mannino he’s pretty good at stopping the puck.
We saw quite a bit of Markstrom when he was a member of the San Antonio Rampage, but he really took a step forward this season with the Utica Comets. In 30 games with Utica Markstrom posted a 20-7-2 record, a .933 save percentage, and 1.88 goals against average — all-world numbers, but Matt Murray also resides from planet earth.
Markstom also provided NHL support for the Vancouver Canucks (and former Texas coach Willie Desjardins) when Ryan Miller was out due to injury. He likely would have played more AHL games if he didn’t spend time backing up Eddie Lack.
Stephen: Our last ballot spot goes to Mike McKenna, who looks to be heading to the AHL playoffs as Portland is primed to snatch the eighth seed out East. McKenna took the lionshare of the work in net for the Pirates, 50 games so far this year, and had really solid numbers while doing so (26-17-6, 2.24 GAA, .926 SV%).
The veteran has hundreds of AHL games under his belt but is headed to the AHL playoffs for just the third time in his career. His goals against, save percentage and wins were all career bests. It’s safe to say the Pirates wouldn’t make the playoffs without him.
McKenna is also a bit of an emotional pick. He’s a veteran in the league who is proud to note on his Twitter account, where he is very active, that he’s played in every single current AHL building in the league (and a lot of inactive ones, too). He’s great with fans and media. He represents the players with the PHPA as well. He’s an all-around good guy, and someone we’ll be keeping an eye on in the AHL postseason.