Logan Johnston and Troy Stecher left the Penticton Vees coaching staff with no choice when deciding who the clubs playoff MVP would be.
With both having such strong performances during the post season, especially against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, the fearsome forward and slick defenceman will share the honour. Johnston, an alternate captain for two seasons, led the Vees with six goals in nine games, while Stecher looked extremely confident handling the puck and finished with two goals and five points in nine games.
“Both guys were just amazing in their own right, ” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson during the last segment of Coach’s Corner on March 17.
Johnston’s physical style is perfect for the playoff grind. After scoring eight points in 16 playoff games last season, the Penticton minor hockey product averaged a point per game this year.
During exit meetings, Harbinson said he and Johnston had a serious discussion for next season for Johnston to carry his strong play from day 1.
“He’s well aware and he’s excited and he’s going to be a guy that helps lead this team to the next phase,” said Harbinson.
“It’s an honour,” said Johnston of the recognition given by the coaching staff. “I wasn’t completely taken back by it. It’s nice to get it. I played well in the playoffs.”
Johnston, who will get serious consideration to be the Vees next captain, will focus his off-season training to become quicker.
“I want to come in and play the same the whole way,” said Johnston, whose focused on being consistent. “There’s no reason I can’t.”
Following the first quarter of the regular season, Johnston trailed Laleggia in scoring with five goals and 12 points in 15 games, then collected seven points in the next 15, three and 10 to finish with 11 goals and 32 points in 56 games. He also had 87 penalty minutes.
Stecher, 16, was something to marvel at according to Harbinson. He feels fans should embrace the smooth skating blueliner, who he believes people “are probably going to watch on Saturday nights for years to come.”
“It’s been a long time since I have seen a 16-year-old have a season and obviously a playoff with the type of minutes that he plays, the situations that he plays and he elevated his game to another level that excites us during the playoffs,” said Harbinson.
After collecting five goals and 20 points in 54 games, the Richmond native who has a scholarship to the University of Nebraska-Omaha outshone regular season scoring leader Joey Laleggia in the series against Salmon Arm. Harbinson said playing defence at a young age is more difficult than playing the forward position and stated that every mistake is magnified. And despite his frame, the five-foot-10, 165-pound defenceman didn’t get outmuscled in the corner during battles too often.
During the recruiting process, Harbinson recalled what went through his mind as he saw Stecher getting out of his vehicle and hoped it was his brother.
“The kid looked like he was eight-years-old,” said Harbinson. “I remember thinking, oh lord, what am I getting myself into. Then I watched him the next day and I knew we could not let this kid go. He went way over my expectations.”
Along with Johnston and Stecher, the Vees have forwards Joey Benik, Myles McCauley, Curtis Loik, Michael Betz, Steve Iacobellis, Carter Rigby, defencemen Kyle Beaulieu, Chad Bannor and goalie Billy Faust.
The returning list also includes affiliate players in forwards Cody DePourcq, Taylor House, Grant Nicholson, goalie Kyle Laslo and defenceman Shane Hanna.
The Vees will be holding their spring camp on May 19 to 22.