CHL Best of the Best
By Lee Scheide
Every year, the Central Hockey League sends out ballots to players, coaches and broadcasters looking for the best of the best, on and off the ice.
CLICK HERE to see complete results of this year's poll
And each year, the league receives the votes that spotlight what everyone in the league already knows -- the teams that hang around the top of the standings have the top players.
Yet, while the results again feature recognition in at least one category for every team in the league, the ballots clearly confirmed an opinion already formed throughout the league:
If you needed to pick one player to start a team, Riley Nelson of Colorado would be at the top of the list.
For the second straight year, Nelson's peers have tabbed him as the Best Overall Player in the CHL, one of five individual honors headed his way.
"He's a player that going to make everyone around him better," said Laredo coach Terry Ruskowski, who is very familiar with Nelson's abilities. "Good stickhandler, very smart with the puck and on the penalty kill, great on the forecheck and if there's a turnover, he's gone and you're not going to catch him.
"I would love to have him on my team, just like every other coach would."
Nelson, third in the league in scoring with 85 points heading into the penultimate week of the regular season, also was honored as the Smartest Player, Best Penalty Killer, Best Leader and Most Gentlemanly Player.
Eagles' teammates Ed McGrane (best stickhandler), Aaron Schneekloth (best offensive defenseman) and Fraser Filipic (best fighter, pound for pound) earned on-ice honors. Colorado, which won a league-high 15 of the 46 categories, also had the top training staff, the toughest building to win in (Budweiser Events Center), the best ice surface, the best PA announcer in Reed Saunders, the best press box, best on-ice promotions and dance team.
"Colorado's been the model for franchises for several years now," Odessa Jackalopes co-owner Rick Gasser said. "They have a great building, great fans and they put a great team on the ice every year."
The Jackalopes took home six on-ice honors -- Sebastien Thinel for best playmaker and best on the power play, Collin Circelli as the most underrated player, Joel Martin as the best netminder, Kory Karlander (best on faceoffs) and Dave Van Drunen (best defensive defenseman). The Permian Basin-based team also earned the off-ice distinction of having the best concessions in the league at Ector County Coliseum.
The Rapid City Rush pulled in three honors with Colt King earning the best bodychecking award, along with the best power forward nod. Coach Joe Ferras was tabbed as best behind the bench.
Ryan Garbutt of Corpus Christi was toted as the best rookie in 2009-2010, with teammate Chad Woollard having the hardest shot. IceRays broadcaster Josh Bogorad was honored as the league's best.
Brett Smith of Bossier-Shreveport was selected as the top defensive forward, with Brent Clouthier of Rio Grande Valley earning the belt as the best fighter.
Karl Sellan of Missouri, he's the most annoying according to the ballots, while his former team, the Arizona Sundogs, was voted as having the best website in the CHL.
Other off-ice awards went to Rapid City for the best fans and the best arena music, Wichita for the most annoying fans, as well as the best arena (the new INTRUST Bank Arena), which also had the best locker rooms.
The Allen Americans earned the highest marks for their team logo, overall uniform, as the best city in the league and the best host hotel.
Rio Grande Valley has the best mascot in Sir-Sting-A-Lot, along with the best notes in the press box, while Bossier-Shreveport was tabbed as the hardest working team on the ice, along with having the best booster club.