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NHL Notebook: Seattle Kraken prospect Jagger Firkus wins CHL player of the year

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Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Aleena Aksenchuk
18 days ago
Seattle Kraken prospect Jagger Firkus cleaned up nicely, taking home a few respectable pieces of hardware at the 2024 Canadian Hockey League Awards on Saturday
The CHL announced the 2023-24 award winners in Saginaw, Michigan, and Firkus was presented with the David Branch Player of the Year award.
The Moose Jaw Warriors star has been one of the most influential players in junior hockey this season and became the first player in franchise history to earn the honour, rightfully named after the OHL Commissioner David Branch. 
Firkus led the CHL with 61 goals and 126 points throughout 63 regular season games, earning himself the Top Scorer award. The 20-year-old was the only player to hit the 60-goal and 60-assist (65) mark this season. His achievement makes him the second player in Warriors history to lead the CHL in points, following Jayden Halbgewachs, who led the league in 2018-18 with 129 points.
His many personal achievements this season helped the franchise win its first Ed Chynoweth Cup as the Western Hockey League champions. 
During the event, the CHL honoured eight other players with awards to celebrate the accomplishments of players across the CHL. Here’s a look at the rest of the winners at this year’s CHL Awards:
CHL Defenceman of the Year – Zayne Parekh (Saginaw, OHL)
CHL Rookie of the Year – Gavin McKenna (Medicine Hat, WHL)
Top Draft Prospect Award – Cayden Lindstrom (Medicine Hat, WHL)
Goaltender of the Year – William Rousseau (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL)
Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award – Jean-Francois Gregoire (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
Sportsman of the Year – Brayden Yager (Moose Jaw, WHL)
Scholastic Player of the Year – Noah Chadwick (Lethbridge, WHL)
Humanitarian of the Year Award – Mascon Vaccari (Kingston, OHL)

Blue Jackets could clean the slate by considering a new head coach

On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets hired former Carolina Hurricanes and Atlanta Thrashers executive Don Waddell as their new president and general manager; now, he may have some decisions to make about his coaching staff. 
Current Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent had a rocky start to his first season behind the bench, but he ended up with a 27-43-12 record in his first year as an NHL bench boss. 
Although he may not have been the first choice, Mike Babcock’s resignation a day before training camp after an off-ice scandal led the organization to appoint Vincent as head coach. 
On Friday’s edition of Daily Faceoff Live, Frank Seravalli and Jonny Lazarus discussed the situation and Waddell’s possible decisions regarding Vincent’s future in Columbus. 
Lazarus: Don Waddell gets hired, president and GM, you come into that situation and now, all of a sudden, you’ve got to make a decision. A lot of the candidates have gone off the board, there are veteran candidates out there, does he look at someone he just worked with in Carolina, we really don’t know. What can you tell us about the latest on Pascal Vincent’s future with the hiring of Don Waddell?
Seravalli: Well, I think that’s top priority, a No. 1 question for Don Waddell to answer today. Pascal Vincent had a very rocky year. Some things not his fault, such as learning that you’re gonna be the head coach of the team a couple days before training camp because Mike Babcock decided to scroll through players’ phones. Part of it is his fault, including the deployment of young players, playing them out of position, playing them not in a position to develop them, trying to “win” for a team that was out of the mix by early November. There were some seriously perplexing decisions that Pascal Vincent made last year. I think, personally, they need a fresh start for everyone. Clean slate. That obviously includes management because John Davidson is stepping aside. I think you need to get a coach in there that you know and trust from a management perspective.

Henrik Lundqvist speaks on his athlete mentality and coping with heart condition

With tears in his eyes, Henrik Lundqvist announced in a press conference in the summer of 2021 his retirement from professional hockey due to a heart condition, saying goodbye to his time between the pipes.
After nearly 900 NHL games with the New York Rangers, a heart problem that led to major surgery during the pandemic stopped him from stepping on the ice with the Washington Capitals for the 2020-21 season.
In the newly released Netflix documentary Open Heart, Lundqvist expresses his vulnerability to the world, chronicling his journey through the surgery and the inevitable decision to end his career. 
However, his story dates back to 2005, when he first discovered that he had a heart issue after moving to New York. 
“I didn’t know much then,” he said.” It was more about getting it checked annually, but it was stable until everything started to escalate quite quickly in the fall of 2020.”
Although shocked by the news that he would require surgery, his mentality as an accomplished NHL goaltender turned out to be his most significant advantage. 
“What helped me a lot was living in the moment,” he remembers.” Especially in the rehabilitation and focusing on myself and my health. As an athlete, I almost took it like a game, partly how to prepare and find calm before such a journey. Not looking too far ahead.”
His dedication and hard work went far beyond his physical abilities, helping him to work with himself mentally. 
“I was in a good place and worked a lot on myself. I found strength quite quickly, but I had started that work even before the heart problems began. I felt it helped me a lot, and I had the right tools to work with. Of course, regardless of what you go through in life, it’s good to have people to talk to. To share thoughts and find the right feeling.”
Lundqvist lives an active and healthy lifestyle today, but his journey has been challenging. Lundqvist worked for three years to eliminate the inflammation in his heart. 
“The journey is not over,” he said. “I will need to undergo more surgeries, so of course, I am keen that research continues to go in the right direction. We have a lot of knowledge in Sweden, but support is still needed.”
Lundqvist takes the importance of health care seriously. He and his Henrik Lundqvist Foundation teamed up with the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation to raise funds for the new initiative “Heart of the Year.” Through his organization, Lundqvist will match and double the effort up to 250,000 SEK ($24,000). 

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