JANESVILLE, WI – In partnership with Best Events, the Janesville Jets held their annual Player Awards Banquet on Tuesday night at the historic Armory in downtown Janesville. Max Giese, a Janesville native and current amateur scout for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, served as the evening’s keynote speaker. More than 120 season ticket members, sponsors, billets, and fans attended the event.
To close the festivities, the Jets named the winners of seven individual player awards, all voted on by the players. First-year head coach and general manager Gary Shuchuk announced the recipients.
Community Service Award – Sean Driscoll, Carter Ekberg, Logan Ommen, & Erik Palmqvist
2017: Cole Paskus (UMass Lowell)
For the first time in franchise history, four players finish tied for an award. Billet brothers Sean Driscoll, Carter Ekberg, Logan Ommen, and Erik Palmqvist stay with Steve and Michelle Hecimovich in Milton, so commuting together to community service events is easy.
All four players this season embodied the spirit of the Jets’ dedication to community service and improvement, whether it was skating with fans and signing autographs during Skate with the Jets Nights, helping lead drills at Janesville Youth Hockey practices, helping bus tables to raise money for local veterans affairs, or tagging along with their billet mom, Michelle, at Wilson Elementary to read to students. The billet brothers combined spent nearly 900 hours of community service this season. Ommen, Palmqvist, and Driscoll are also the first three rookies to win the Community Service Award in Janesville Jets history.
Unsung Hero Award – Kip Hoffmann
2017: Kip Hoffmann (Minnesota)
The captain may seem an odd choice for an award titled “Unsung Hero,” but the argument can easily be made that for as much recognition as he gets with the captain’s letter and in the stat columns, Hoffmann deserves even more with the work ethic and leadership he has shown this season. The Huntley, IL, native nearly doubled his point production from the previous season (60 this year versus 32 last season) and played 58 of the team’s 60 games — a career high for the Robert Morris commit. Hoffmann has truly blossomed this season into a complete two-way winger, with his highlight reel skill and strength on the puck translating to a point-per-game pace, and his doggedness and determination off the puck creating matchup nightmares for opposing coaches.
Most Improved Player – TJ Polglaze
2017: Joey Abate (USHL Omaha) & Colin Felix (USHL Madison)
The Jets have seen Most Improved Player winners from each definition of the term: improvement from the previous season, and improvement within the season. Two Jets rookies won this award last year, showcasing their development in-season, but Polglaze’s win this year takes on a little of each interpretation. The Beloit native served more of an energy role last year, dressing for 35 games and playing mostly 3rd or 4th line minutes. This season, he more than tripled his point total (12 to 43), nearly quadrupled his goals (4 to 15), and was the only player to skate all 60 games of the regular season. The Michigan Tech recruit was held to just one goal in his first 22 games of the season, but as an alternate captain, showed his maturity and work ethic. Partly a change in luck, partly a heightened drive to improve, Polglaze finished the final 38 games of the season with 14 goals, including a three-in-three stretch at home versus the Coulee Region Chill and the Springfield Jr. Blues.
Offensive Player of the Year – Jakov Novak
2017: Michael Maloney (USHL Omaha)
Perhaps the easiest choice for this award in franchise history, Novak this season won the Jets’ first ever league scoring title with 32 goals and 41 assists on 73 points, a full six points clear of second place (Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin Bruins). Novak’s 73 points are the most by any NAHL player since the 2015-16 season. The big scoring forward shifted to the center position this season and used his skating, strength, shot, and vision to consistently create and convert his scoring chances.
Defensive Player of the Year – Carter Ekberg
2017: Lordanthony Grissom (Aurora)
Like Hoffmann and Polglaze, the veteran rearguard earned his Division I commitment midseason in his age-out year, proving to younger players on this team and league-wide that often development and advancement is a distance game, not a sprint. Ekberg led Jets defensemen in scoring this season with 30 points — 13 more than fellow veteran Alec Semandel’s 17 — and evolved into the team’s puck-carrying, minute-munching linchpin on the back end. Ekberg finishes his last year of junior hockey with 105 games of regular season experience, and has evolved into the all-situation, right-handed defenseman every team at the college and pro levels crave.
Rookie of the Year – Sam Renlund
2017: Jake Barczewski (USHL Tri-City)
The Verona kid came to Janesville in the fall from the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, where he skated his first six games of junior hockey experience after tallying a dizzying 62 points in 22 games for the NAPHL’s Omaha Lancers in 16U play the season before. The confidence never wavered, and Renlund became a steady scoring presence in the Jets’ locker room. Five of Renlund’s 12 goals were game-winners, illustrating the kind of clutch instincts and offensive skill the ’00 forward possesses. Also a contender for the Most Improved Player award, Renlund found great chemistry with Novak on the top scoring line, and each enjoyed solid outings for the NAHL Selects at February’s Top Prospects Tournament.
Most Valuable Player – Jakov Novak
2017: Lordanthony Grissom (Aurora)
By unanimous vote, Novak won the Jets’ 2018 MVP title. The forward excelled in every aspect of his game this season. He was voted an alternate captain by his peers in August, showed tremendous leadership as he battled through a family loss in October, and won the league scoring title. It is genuinely difficult to overstate the value Novak holds to this organization, and every player on this roster agreed, naming the future Bentley Falcon the 9th team MVP in Jets history.