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Windsor Spitfires' Ryan Ellis headlines CHL 2010-11 awards as Player of the Year

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Ryan Ellis was the big winner at the 2010-11 Canadian Hockey League Awards on Saturday.

The Windsor Spitfires defenceman walked away with Player of the Year and Defenceman of the Year honours, adding to an already large collection of hardware for the 20-year-old.

"It's just the icing on the cake," said Ellis, a 2009 first-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators. "We had a great season this year and went a lot further than a lot of people expected.

"After four years with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL, these two awards are something on the top. I'm very honoured to get them."

Ellis has won two Memorial Cups with Windsor. He also has one gold and two silver medals from the World Junior Championships, along with gold medals at the World Under-17 and Under-18 tournaments.

In his final year of junior, Ellis put up some impressive numbers, posting 101 points in just 58 games. He's the first OHL defenceman in 17 years to break the 100-point barrier and the first to win Player of the Year since Brian Campbell in 1998-99.

With the departures of Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler from the Spitfires' roster, Ellis credits his development to having taken on a greater responsibility with the club.

"This year, every game was a battle," he said. "To win any game you had to be fully involved. That allowed me to elevate my game. I was relied on so much more than in previous years, and I relished the role."

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels won Top Prospect of the Year. He tied for third in Western Hockey League scoring with 106 points, including 75 assists this season.

The 18-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native is ranked No. 1 on the NHL's Central Scouting final rankings among domestic skaters and is looking to go first overall at this year's NHL Draft.

"It would be a big honour," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Going to a team like Edmonton would be awesome for me because I could help join the rebuilding stage for them."

Nugent-Hopkins credits his rise up the rankings this year to the Rebels organization.

"Going there was great for me," he said. "We have a great coaching staff. They really take care of us. It's a very first-class organization, and I couldn't be happier where I am."

"We had a great year and this is a great way to cap it."

Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant took home his second consecutive Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year award after leading the Sea Dogs to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship with a 119-point season.

"I've been pretty fortunate to come up with a good organization and a good bunch of kids," Gallant said. "We have an outstanding team and our record shows that. When your team is good, people get individual awards."

"I don't coach for awards; I coach for team success. It's always about the team and the players."

Other award winners included Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting taking home Rookie of the Year, Darcy Kuemper of the Rebels getting Goaltender of the Year and Linden Vey of the Medicine Hat Tigers taking Top Scorer of the Year.

Also, Philip-Michael Devos of the Gatineau Olympiques won Sportsman of the Year, Spencer Edwards of the Moose Jaw Warriors was named Humanitarian Player of the Year and Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs was Scholastic Player of the Year.

The biggest CHL trophy, however, won't be handed out until Sunday, when Gallant's Sea Dogs take on the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors for the Memorial Cup.

Despite playing in plenty big games as former NHL player with the Detroit Red Wings, Gallant said he's more nervous as a coach waiting for Sunday's final.

"The nervous time is now until tomorrow," he said. "I'm just nervous the day before. That's the worst of it. Tomorrow, once we get by the morning skate, we can focus on what our job is in order to get it done. Then whatever happens, happens."