It seemed like in the past two weeks, the Charlottetown Islanders social media channels were dominated by Matthew Welsh.
That’s because the 20-year-old goaltender once again racked up the awards in the 2020 installment of the Fan Choice Awards.
Under a different format than the past due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this year’s awards were handed out digitally across social media. Welsh was named the winner of six awards, including the coveted Most Valuable Player Award and the Fan Favourite Award, his fifth time winning the award.
“It’s a huge honour to be recognized for all the awards I have won this season,” said Welsh on the recognition. “Many of my teammates are also deserving of these awards; so many of them had great seasons on and off the ice, so to be recognized for these awards is a very special feeling.”
The awards kicked off with the Gahan House Offensive Player of the Year, awarded to Brett Budgell. The 18-year-old forward played in every game this season for the Islanders, bringing an element of consistency with him that led to career highs in goals (24), assists (25), and points (49).
It wouldn’t be the only award that Budgell would receive, as he’d also receive the award for the Discover Kia Play of the Year for his dazzling toe drag on Player’s Night against the Cape Breton Eagles. The play is currently in the running for Play of the Year in the CHL Showdown
Welsh’s first award was the UPEI Scholastic Player of the Year. This is his third year in a row winning the award en route to once again being named a QMJHL finalist for the Marcel-Robert Trophy. Welsh will finish his final year of junior hockey earning 23 credits toward his business degree, which he’ll earn starting next year at St. Mary’s University.
Following the Scholastic Player of the Year, the Island Oxygen Defensive Player of the Year was awarded to Noah Laaouan. The sturdy defender from Halifax led the team with a sterling plus-28, the top rating in the league for a player not on Moncton, Sherbrooke, Rimouski, Chicoutimi, or Cape Breton.
Welsh was next in the spotlight, earning his second straight Mayor’s Class Act Award. The netminder continued to shine in his community, serving as an ambassador for Hockey Gives Blood and helping to spearhead a large boost in donations to the local Canadian Blood Services branch.
Up next was the Ocean 100 Rookie of the Year. It was a tight race with a number of high-quality candidates in the running, with William Trudeau ultimately winning the award. The 17-year-old rearguard was a pleasant surprise after coming over as part of the Pierre-Olivier Joseph trade last season, finishing his freshman season with four goals and 15 points, good for sixth among all rookie defenders.
The Maritime Electric Volunteer of the Year was awarded to 13-year-old Ella Clow. The young volunteer joined the organization last season helping behind the scenes to make the Charlottetown Islander experience an enjoyable one for all!
Liam Peyton became the first two-time winner of the Bernadette’s Flowers Hardest Working Player. A fan favourite player, Peyton built on a stellar sophomore season with another career year, finishing with 12 goals and 21 points while taking on a big defensive presence for the team.
From then on, it was all Welsh. He’d go on to be named the Eastlink Fan Favourite winner and the recipient of the Red Shores Player’s Player Award. It’s an honour that Welsh says he is most proud of.
“Being voted as the MVP by my teammates sticks out the most to me. I consider those guys my family so the award is very humbling to win, along with the rest of them.” he added.
Welsh and Nikita Alexandrov finished tied for tops for the Moose Light Three Stars Award. The pair of team leaders both were named a game star an equal amount of times, proving to be valuable players to their team.
Finally, Welsh was named the Arsenault Bros. Construction Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year. The QMJHL’s all-time leader in minutes played by a goaltender finished his final year with 26 wins, a save percentage of .899, and a goals-against average of 2.92.
“I’d like to thank the fans who voted for me; it has been a pleasure playing in front of you for the past five seasons and I’m very grateful for all the support you have shown me.” Welsh added in a final message to the fans.
We want to take a few moments to thank all the fans for their input in this year’s Fan Choice Awards. Stay tuned as we roll out more engaging content across social media to entertain you all. We hope to see you soon!