Portland, ME- Three days after the 2013-14 season came to an end, the Portland Pirates announced this season’s team award winners, presented by Creative Awards, and Andy Miele, who was the team’s best player all season, led the way.
Most Valuable Player, Most Popular Player: Andy Miele
Miele, a third year 26 year-old pro from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan had a breakout season, notching career highs in goals (27), assists (45), and points (72) in 70 games this season. Miele was also recalled twice by the Phoenix Coyotes this season, playing in seven games, while scoring 0-2-2, his first ever NHL points. He ended the season tied with former Portland Pirates defenseman and current Toronto Marlies player T.J. Brennan for third in overall league scoring. They trailed only league MVP Travis Morin of the Texas Stars (32-56-88) and Charlotte Checkers forward Zach Boychuk (36-38-74). Miele was selected as a Second Team AHL All-Star, becoming the fifth playing in Pirates history selected as a Second Team AHL All-Star.
Miele ended the season by jumping into the top 15 in most all-time Portland Pirates franchise lists, including the top ten in three of them. He ranks ninth all-time in assists (117), ninth in points (179), tied for tenth in game-winning goals (9), tied for 12th in power plays goals (17), 13th in goals (62), and 14th in regular season games played (209).
This is the second time Miele has won each award. He was originally voted as the team’s most valuable player during his rookie year in 2011-12. He joins Mark Mancari (2009-10, 2010-11) as the only two-time winner of the team MVP. This is the second consecutive year that Miele has been voted the team’s Most Popular Player by the fans. Jason Christie (1994-95, 1995-96) is the only other two-time winner of the Pirates Most Popular Player award.
Miele is an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any NHL team this offseason. He will play for Team USA at the upcoming IIHF World Championship tournament, to be played May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus. It will be the second time Miele will suit up for Team USA in the tournament. He played in two games and scored 0-2-2 during the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.
Unsung Hero: Jordan Martinook
Pirates second year forward Jordan Martinook was voted by fans as the 2013-14 Unsung Hero. Martinook, a 21 year-old second year forward from Leduc, Alberta scored career highs this season in goals (14), assists (16), and points (30). In his rookie season last year, Martinook scored 9-10-19. Martinook saw his role evolve as the season went on. He began the year as a defensive centerman, usually lining up as the third or fourth line center trying to shut down the other team’s top offensive players. But, as the season went on, he sometimes would center a scoring line. He also was moved to play left wing on the team’s top line with Andy Miele and Tobias Rieder for parts of the season’s final month, a role in which he excelled.
Martinook, a 2012 Phoenix Coyotes second round draft pick, will be on the final year of his entry level contract and will be eligible to return to Portland next season, if he does not make the Coyotes roster.
Tom Ebright Award: Jordan Szwarz
Pirates Captain Jordan Szwarz was selected as the winner of the Tom Ebright Award for the second straight season. The award, named for the founding owner of the Portland Pirates, is given to the player who fills Ebright’s vision for what it means to be a Portland Pirate and is selected by members of the Pirates Front Office. Szwarz was called up to the NHL for the first time in his career on October 27. He split the season between Phoenix and Portland, playing in 26 games with the Coyotes, scoring 3-0-3. He played in 27 games with Portland, notching 8-6-14. Szwarz is the second player in Pirates history to win the Ebright Award twice, joining former Pirates captain Trent Whitfield, who won the award in 1999-2000 and 2003-04.
Always a tough, hard-working player, Szwarz was drafted by Phoenix in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The 22 year-old forward from Burlington, Ontario is in his third professional season is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Phoenix must tender Szwarz a qualifying offer by July 1, the opening of NHL Free Agency this offseason, in order to retain exclusive negotiating rights with Szwarz.
Jack Button Memorial Award: Connor Murphy
The winner of the 2013-14 Jack Button Memorial Award, given to the top NHL Prospect on the team each season, is rookie defenseman Connor Murphy. Murphy was impressive in his first season of professional hockey, splitting the season between Portland and Phoenix. He played 36 games with the Pirates, scoring 0-13-13. He also played 30 games with the Coyotes, notching 1-7-8.
The 21 year-old Dublin, Ohio native has two years remaining on his entry level contract and is considered a major threat to make the Phoenix Coyotes roster full-time next season. He was the Coyotes’ first round draft pick in 2011. Murphy will join Miele on Team USA at the upcoming IIHF World Championship. He was a member of the gold medal winning Team USA at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Players’ Player: Brett Hextall
For the second consecutive year, Brett Hextall was voted by his teammates as the Players’ Player, given to the player who best represents the team’s values and character. Hextall had a career year in his third pro season, scoring 11-12-23, all career highs, in 59 games this season, which is the fewest he’s played during any regular season. The 26 year-old Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native is sixth two-time winner of the Players’ Player Award in franchise history. He joins Jeff Nelson (1993-94, 2000-01), Kent Hulst (1995-96, 1999-2000), Trent Whitfield (1999-2000, 2004-05), Mel Angelstad (2001-02, 2002-03), and Tyler Bouck (2007-08, 2008-09) as the two-time winners.
Hextall is an unrestricted free agent is eligible to sign with any NHL team this offseason.