Graduating with honours

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

A year ago, Dion Phaneuf spent the day answering questions about whether he would return to junior hockey.

Now there's no debate the Calgary Flames prospect has outgrown the WHL after he won his second straight defenceman of the year award yesterday.

Still, the soft-spoken rearguard wasn't about to say the season was a write-off.

After all, he did take care of some unfinished business, leading Team Canada to world junior gold, in addition to dominating on a nightly basis in the WHL.

"I came into the year wanting to get better and I felt I did that," Phaneuf said.

"It was probably my last year in Red Deer, so to finish it this way, it's definitely something I'm proud of."

Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter said the extra year of junior seasoning won't hinder Phaneuf's progress.

"That's where he needed to be," Sutter said. "For young players, it's all about making teams in training camp. It's not based on how you did in your last junior year. It's really important that he continues to develop."

Phaneuf could have joined the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters once the Red Deer Rebels bowed out of the playoffs but decided his body needed a break.

"There isn't another junior kid in the world who has played as much hockey as he has in the last four years," Sutter said.

Phaneuf beat out fellow world junior blueliners Shea Weber, Braydon Coburn and Brent Seabrook for the award.

Another world junior gold medallist was on the podium yesterday. Cochrane product Jeff Glass beat out Lethbridge's Aaron Sorochan to win the Del Wilson Award as the circuit's top goaltender.

In addition to backstopping Canada's world junior entry, Glass took the Kootenay Ice to top spot in the WHL, posting a 1.76 GAA and .932 save percentage along the way.

"I couldn't have drawn it up any better if I wanted to," Glass said of his storybook season. "I was very fortunate. I got a lot of breaks this year but I'm a firm believer that you work hard for your breaks."

MORE HARDWARE: Brandon's Eric Fehr picked up the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the league's player of the year in addition to the Bob Clarke Trophy as the top scorer. Teammate Tyler Plante was named rookie of the year while Medicine Hat's Kris Russell was selected most sportsmanlike player. Kootenay GM Jeff Chynoweth picked up executive of the year and his bench boss Cory Clouston was named top coach. Other winners included Vancouver's Gilbert Brule (scholastic player) and Roger Lemire (marketing), the Vancouver Giants (scholastic team), Red Deer's Colin Fraser (humanitarian) and Rob Matsuoka (officiating).


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