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Firkus, Cowan, and Cataford Named Finalists for the 2023-24 CHL's David Branch Player of the Year

May 21, 2024 - Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)
Halifax Mooseheads News Release

Jagger Firkus of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Easton Cowan of the London Knights, and Mathieu Cataford of the Halifax Mooseheads have been named nominees for the CHL's David Branch Player of the Year Award, which is presented to the player judged to be the most outstanding in the Canadian Hockey League.

Specifically, this award is selected from the winners of the Red Tilson Trophy the Red Tilson Trophy (OHL's Most Outstanding Player), Michel Brière Memorial Trophy (QMJHL MVP), and the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy (WHL Player of the Year). The trophy was renamed in 2019-20 in honour of David Branch who has held his position as OHL Commissioner since 1979 and served as CHL President from 1996-2019.

The recipient of the CHL's David Branch Player of the Year Award will be announced and given his trophy at a ceremony for the 2024 CHL Awards on Saturday, June 1, in Saginaw, Michigan. The latter is an event taking place as part of the 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow in Saginaw, which is scheduled to run from May 23 - June 2.

Over the years, the David Branch Player of the Year Award has been won by many great players including Dale Hawerchuk (Cornwall Royals), Mario Lemieux (Laval Voisins), Joe Sakic (Swift Current Broncos), Eric Lindros (Oshawa Generals), Sidney Crosby (Rimouski Océanic), Connor McDavid (Erie Otters), Mitch Marner (London Knights), and most recently Connor Bedard (Regina Pats).

WHL Nominee - Jagger Firkus (Moose Jaw Warriors)

61G-65A, 126 PTS, +31 in 63 GP during the 2023-24 season

No skater in the CHL registered more points during the 2023-24 season than Seattle Kraken prospect Jagger Firkus of the Moose Jaw Warriors, who tallied 126 points in 63 games during the 2023-24 campaign. Ultimately, Firkus became just the second player in Moose Jaw franchise history to lead the CHL in points (Jayden Halbgewachs in 2017-18), and the fourth Warriors skater to ever lead the WHL in scoring (Halbgewachs in 2017-18; Troy Brouwer in 2005-06; Theoren Fleury in 1987-88).

During the 2023-24 season, Firkus impressively registered more games where he scored a hat trick (six) than games where he was held off the scoresheet (four). The 20-year-old from Irma, Alta., went on an incredible run that saw him record 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 26 straight games from Nov. 25 to Feb. 17, which stood as the WHL's longest point streak of this season. It was also the second-longest streak in the CHL this season behind London's Easton Cowan who tallied a point in 36 straight regular-season games.

Having won the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL Player of the Year, Firkus is only the second player in Moose Jaw Warriors' franchise history to have achieved the feat, following Calgary Flames forward Dryden Hunt who won the award following the 2015-16 season. Drafted in the second round (35th overall) of the 2022 NHL Draft, Firkus signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Seattle Kraken in April 2023.

OHL Nominee - Easton Cowan (London Knights)

34G-62A, 96 PTS, +38 in 54 GP during the 2023-24 season

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan of the London Knights finished his second complete season in the OHL by registering 34 goals, 62 assists, and 96 points in 54 games, recording the OHL's second-highest production rate of 1.78 points per game. During the 2023-24 campaign, the 19-year-old from Mount Brydges, Ont., registered at least a point in 49 of 54 games, tallying 33 multi-point performances throughout the season.

The Knights forward also put together a 36-game point streak that ran from Nov. 25 through the final game of the regular season on Mar. 24, which eventually reached 42 games during the OHL Playoffs before coming to a close. Cowan's 36-game point streak during the regular season established a new London Knights franchise record and was the longest point streak the OHL has seen since 1995. It is also the third-longest point streak by a CHL skater since 2000 behind QMJHL alumni Alexander Radulov (50-game point streak with the Québec Remparts in 2005-06) and Sidney Crosby (37-game point streak with the Rimouski Océanic in 2004-05).

In addition to his historic streak, Cowan led the CHL with 14 shorthanded points this season. He also tallied seven shorthanded goals, which rank tied for first in the CHL alongside London Knights teammate Denver Barkey and Spokane Chiefs forward Berkly Catton. Cowan was the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round (28th overall) pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and he signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Leafs on Aug. 10, 2023.

After winning the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's Most Outstanding Player, Cowan became the seventh London Knights to win the award, joining a group that includes Mitch Marner (2015-16), Michael Houser (2011-12), Corey Perry (2004-05), Jason Allison (1993-94), Dave Simpson (1981-82) and Dennis Maruk (1974-75).

QMJHL Nominee - Mathieu Cataford (Halifax Mooseheads)

40G-50A, 90 PTS, +43 in 65 GP during the 2023-24 season

Vegas Golden Knights prospect Mathieu Cataford of the Halifax Mooseheads had an outstanding 2023-24 campaign, tallying career-highs in goals (40), assists (50), and points (90) to lead the Halifax Mooseheads in scoring all while finishing third in the QMJHL scoring race. Along with Baie-Comeau's Justin Gill, Cataford was one of only two players in the QMJHL this season to register 40-plus goals and 50-plus assists.

Having collected 12 power-play goals and 23 power-play points during the 2023-24 season, the 19-year-old from Saint-Constant, Que., recorded a total of 238 shots on goal (7th in the QMJHL) and he won 58.1% of his faceoffs. Cataford has spent his whole QMJHL career with the Mooseheads, scoring 211 points in 195 games over three seasons. His point total places him ninth all-time in franchise history while he is 10th in team history in both goals (88) and assists (123).

By winning the Michel Brière Memorial Trophy as the QMJHL's Most Valuable Player, a year after teammate Jordan Dumais achieved the feat, Cataford marked the second year in a row that a Halifax Mooseheads skater won this trophy. Cataford is also just the third player in Halifax franchise history to win the award following in the footsteps of Dumais (2022-23) and Jonathan Drouin (2012-13). Cataford was a third-round draft pick (77th overall) of the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2023 NHL Draft, and he was signed to a three-year entry-level contract with the Golden Knights on December 31, 2023.

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