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Flint, Mich. – The Flint Firebirds wrapped up their inaugural season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Firebirds first end of the year awards banquet on Sunday, Mar. 20.
Along with all of the 23 players in attendance were the coaches, families, team and league representatives and host families Sunday afternoon. Of the nine awards, Flint’s Will Bitten, Cullen Mercer and Vili Saarijarvi garnered two each.
Second year forward Will Bitten earned both the leading scorer and most valuable player (MVP) awards. The Gloucester, Ont. native more than doubled his point production from 31 points a season ago to 65 this season. Bitten recorded 30 goals and 35 assists in 67 games and finished the season tied for 33rd most points among all OHL skaters. Bitten is considered a top-prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft in Buffalo, NY in June.
Nicholas Caamano was tabbed as the most improved player for the Firebirds in their inaugural season. Also draft eligible this summer, Caamano scored three goals and tallied six assists for a total of 9 points in 64 games last season. In the same amount of games this season, he scored 20 goals and recorded 17 assists, totaling 37 points.
Typically described as the hardest working player on the team, the blue-collar player of the year award was granted to Cullen Mercer. The assistant captain earned 22 points in 66 games this season and was also selected as the college/university player of the year after posting back-to-back 4.0 grade point averages (GPA) in the first two semesters of his freshman year.
With a cumulative 3.9 GPA, rookie netminder Kyle Keyser was awarded the high school player of the year. Keyser is currently a junior at Grand Blanc High School.
After completing his first season in the OHL, Detroit Red Wings draft pick Vili Saarijarvi was voted as both rookie of the year and best defenseman of the year. Saarijarvi finished ninth among all OHL defenseman with 43 points playing in 59 of the 68 possible games this season.
Flint Firebirds captain Alex Peters was chosen for the humanitarian award. Peters, a draft pick of the Dallas Stars was named the first captain in franchise history before the 2015-16 inaugural campaign and represented the Firebirds’ organization in a first-class manner throughout the season.
Six Firebirds were also named academic players of the month: Kyle Keyser (October), Nick Caamano (November), Hakon Nilsen (December), Cullen Mercer (January), Francesco Vilardi (February) and Zack Pittman (March).
Next up for the Firebirds, The annual Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection will be held Saturday, Apr. 9 via the internet. The Firebirds will be selecting the third and fifth overall picks in the first round. Follow Flint’s selections on www.flintfirebirds.com.
Photo Credit: James Nelson/Flint Firebirds
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Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club