Hayes and Protas share Raiders most valuable player award

Daily Herald File Photo Aliaksei Protas swipes the puck away from Calgary Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic at the Art Hauser Centre last season.

Two members of the Prince Albert Raiders leadership group are the co-recipients of the club’s most valuable player accolades.

Defenceman Zack Hayes and forward Aliaksei Protas were announced as the winners of the Orland Kurtenbach Award on Monday as the Western Hockey League team concluded their 2019-20 award announcements.

This marks the first time the Raiders’ MVP honours have been shared since Reid Gardiner and Rylan Parenteau accomplished that feat in 2016.

Protas, who is a signed prospect of the Washington Capitals, led the Raiders in scoring during his sophomore campaign with 80 points.

He also has seven points in five games for Belarus at the Division I World Juniors in December.

“I want to say thank you to all of the fans,” Protas said in a video that was posted on the Raiders’ website. “We play for you and we really enjoy every chance to play in front of the best fans in the league.

“I also want to say thank you to our 20-year-old guys and wish them the best of luck. Jeremy (Masella), Brayden (Watts) and Zack were a big part of the Raiders family. We’ll miss you and hopefully we’ll see you soon.

Daily Herald File Photo
Prince Albert Raiders captain Zack Hayes fistbumps his teammates after scoring a goal against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Hayes, who has signed an American Hockey League contract to play for the Vegas Golden Knights’ new affiliate franchise in Henderson, Nev., found the back of the net seven times this season and dished out 16 helpers.

He also served as the Raiders’ captain this year as he took over the role from Golden Knights prospect Brayden Pachal.

“I’d like to thank my teammates as this wouldn’t be possible without you guys,” Hayes said. “We’re always pushing each other to be better on the ice, in the gym and away from the rink.”

The Calgary product also received the Players Choice Award, which is voted on by the team and goes to the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Prince Albert Raider.

The next major event for the club is the WHL Bantam Draft, which gets underway at 10 a.m. Wednesday.