ESPN presents the best player in the world of the week. If there’s a player you’d like to nominate, from your local team to a high school team to your beer league, email us here. Stats tell only part of the story, so tell us why he or she deserves this honor.
The Finnish teen scored five goals in three games, including a hat trick in a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers. Laine became the third player in league history to post four hat tricks prior to his 20th birthday, joining Jimmy Carson (five) and Dale Hawerchuk (five). He also became the ninth player in NHL history to score 40 goals in one season as a teenager. So it was quite a week, and that was before Laine watched Alex Ovechkin hit 600 goals on Monday. “I was there when he made history, so I can maybe watch that someday and show that I was there getting the minus on the ice,” Laine said.
Dmitry Sokolov, Barrie Colts (OHL)
The 19-year-old from Omsk, Russia, had nine points in three games, including five goals, pushing a personal points streak to 13 games and taking over the league lead in goals. Sokolov played two-and-a-half seasons with the Sudbury Wolves before joining Barrie in January. He has 48 goals on the season, including 28 goals in 26 games for the Colts. He was a seventh-round pick by the Minnesota Wild in 2016.
Madison Packer, Metropolitan Riveters (NWHL)
The National Women’s Hockey League veteran scored a hat trick against the Boston Pride last weekend in the regular-season finale to win the scoring race, with 10 goals. According to reader Matt Falkenbury, the play-by-play voice for the Rivs, she won it despite missing the first four games of the season because of hip surgery. That’s 25 percent of the NWHL season. “She is a tireless worker, a tough player to play against and, to me, what she accomplished this weekend is a testament to her talent and drive,” he said. We agree, and would add that she can be a delightfully nasty player when the situation calls for it.
Coaldale Copperheads, Alberta (Junior B Hockey League)
The Copperheads were traveling to the Heritage Junior Hockey League South Division semifinals when they learned the tragic news that forward Morgan Simpson had died in a car accident. She was 19. Simpson had played 28 games that season with Coaldale.
Shocking doesn’t do it justice, but that’s what the news was.
It would have been completely understandable had the team opted not to compete after losing a teammate to this kind of tragedy. But according to reader Ryan Tunall, they decided to play the game against the Okotoks Bisons in Simpson’s honor and won in overtime to force a deciding Game 5 in their series.
We’re here sorry for the delay. Sentimental tribute to our Morgan Simpson pre-game. One more time we play for you kid along with your family pic.twitter.com/yDxc9GNj0P
– Coaldale Copperheads (@CopperheadsHcky) March 4, 2018
They then won that game, and as of this writing are up 3-1 on the Bisons for the South Division championship. Remarkable.
Jayden Halbgewachs, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Halbgewachs had 12 (!) points in four games during the past week, including seven goals, as he and the Warriors continued to pursue their first WHL championship. That included a hat trick and a five-point night in a 6-2 win against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.Truly remarkable. The fact there’s a player named Jayden Halbgewachs, we mean.
And the best player in the world of the week is …
Bryant Christian, American International College (NCAA)
So who is Bryant Christian?
He’s a forward and senior captain for American International, a Division I NCAA men’s hockey team. He’s also a member of the fabled Christian family that produced Miracle on Ice player Dave Christian, Bryant’s uncle, and New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson, a cousin.
After 149 games in the NCAA, Bryant Christian was playing his final game for AIC on March 11, but was injured on his first shift of the game. It turned out to be a fractured tibia. He was done playing, but he remained with his teammates on the bench. He was their captain, and he had missed only one other game in his entire college career.
On the last shift of the game, down 3-0 and with his college career at its end, Christian (No. 11) went over the boards for one more shift on a broken leg.
@brychristian11 last shift as a Yellowjacket with a broken tibia. What an amazing leader and ambassador of AIC Hockey. He just wanted to wear the YJ jersey for one last shift. Thank you 11. #AICHOCKEYFAMILY pic.twitter.com/YhOIDNk8QC
– Eric Lang (@ericlang9) March 13, 2018
“To have our captain go out there because he wants to be on the ice for one last time … it made me a little emotional,” said coach Eric Lang.
Yeah, us too.
Congrats to Bryant Christian, of American International College, the best player in the world of the week.