Story Courtesy of Russ Ullyot and the Bow Valley Crag and Canyon
Trey Phillips may have played his last game as a Canmore Eagle two months ago, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to make headlines across Canada.
On Wednesday May 7, the 20-year-old was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top defenceman; it is the lastest in a string of accolades for one of the most gifted players to have graced a Canmore junior A uniform.
“It’s pretty cool to win something like that taking in all the people in the country,” Phillips said Wednesday by phone from his family home in Okotoks.
It was also by phone Phillips received the news, presented to him by his head coach for the last four seasons, Andrew Milne.
“He is well deserving of it. You like to see him rewarded for his efforts. He had a hell of a year for us,” Milne said.
So, what about the awards banquet and the trophy, the glad-handing by people in suits and picture taking? Phillips is unsure if any of that comes with the award.
“I think it is more or less just the title. I am not sure if anything comes along with it,” said Phillips, who in his fourth and final season with the Eagles was named the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s most valuable player and top defenceman in February. At least he got to share those awards with his teammates at the annual year-end banquet.
Phillips’s final season in the AJHL was by far his best and one of the most impressive seen by any player in recent history. From his blue line position he led the Eagles in scoring and was seventh overall in the league with 25 goals and 40 assists for 65 points. He missed just two of the 60 regular-season games. He was the top offensive defenceman in the AJHL and also led the league in power play points with 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points.
In four seasons with Eagles (five if you count the one game he played in the 2009-10 season in which he picked up a minor penalty, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder got progressively better but it was his final two seasons where the real potential began to shine through for this smooth-skating playmaker.
“We added Jeremy (Reich) to our coaching staff to work with the defence, the last two years, and I think if you talk to Trey, he would be the first to say that has helped his game,” Milne said. “Also, it says in the organization we are doing the correct things to develop quality hockey players in Canmore.”
Phillips was quick to praise Reich.
“When Jeremy Reich came in last year he proved invaluable. I learned a lot from him, especially in my development as a defenceman and how to be a professional,” Phillips said. “I can’t thank him enough.”
Phillips finished his junior career having played in 200 regular-season games, scoring 38 goals and garnering 81 assists for 119 points while taking only 100 penalty minutes.
“Trey is four years in the making to become what he is today. That’s a lengthy process in the organization and there were some difficult times with Trey — and he would be the first to admit that,” Milne said. “What we saw in Trey was always there, even through the tough times.”
Phillips was also up for the CJHL most valuable player award, which former Eagle Mark Bomersback won in 2003. This year’s national award went to Andy Sturtz of the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canadian Junior Hockey League, who was also named the CJHL’s top forward for his 51-goal and 104-point season.
The top goaltender awards went to Tanner Jaillet of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. He appeared in 43 games, registered 30 wins including six by shutout, had a .933 save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against average.
Another AJHL player was among the national award winners, with forward Chris Gerrie of the Olds Grizzlys sharing rookie-of-the-year honours with another 17-year-old, defenceman Jake Walman of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
With his junior career now behind him, the next stop for Phillips on his hockey journey is Burlington, Vermont and the University of Vermont Cataracts, playing NCAA Div. 1 hockey.
Phillips has already begun delving into the books as he prepares for university life. He is correspondently taking a number of courses in preparation for moving to Burlington in July — which will also be his first look at the campus.
“I really didn’t need to see the school. I did a lot of research into the school and all of that,” Phillips said. “I could have gone to 15 different campuses and saw the same thing, so I totally didn’t need to go there. It’s got a good hockey program and they were one of the first schools to commit to me, and in hockey you go where you are wanted.”
The school’s reputation for spotting talent and taking them to the next level is impressive even to Phillips.
The alumni list includes current NHL’ers Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), Kevan Miller (Boston Bruins), Martin St. Louis (New York Rangers), Tim Thomas (Dallas Stars), Viktor Stålberg (Nashville Predators) and Torrey Mitchell (Buffalo Sabres).
“Them having NHL alumni is pretty cool to see,” Phillips said.
It just maybe, Phillips’s hockey journey has many more chapters still to be written.