The United States Hockey League today announced that Paul LaDue of the Lincoln Stars has been named the 2012-13 USHL Defenseman of the Year as determined by a vote of USHL coaches and general managers. He becomes the first-ever Stars player to win the award.
The 20-year-old played all but two of the 64 regular season games for the Stars and led all USHL defensemen in scoring with 49 points (12g, 37a). His 37 assists were the most among League blueliners and most by a Lincoln defenseman since Matt Bartkowski dished out 37 during the 2007-08 season. LaDue opened the season by recording at least one assist in eight of his first nine games, all victories for the Stars. He twice equaled a USHL career high this season with three assists in a game – January 27th in a 5-0 win over Des Moines and March 16th in a 6-2 victory against Green Bay. He also led League defensemen with 198 shots on goal.
LaDue scored the most points by any defenseman in Stars history, finishing his career with 83 points (21g, 62a) in 118 regular season games. He moved into first place by recording his 70th career point on Valentine’s Day during a 6-5 shootout victory against Tri-City. He dished out an assist in the contest to surpass the 69 career points (23g, 46a) by Eli Vlaisavljevich (2004-06). LaDue collected his 59th career assist on March 23rd in a 3-2 win vs. rival Omaha to surpass Chad Langlais (2005-07) for the most assists by a Stars defenseman, and he then scored his 21st career goal on April 6th vs. Omaha, tying him for second all-time with Jake Newton for the most goals by a Lincoln blueliner.
LaDue anchored a Lincoln defense unit that allowed the fifth fewest goals in the USHL this season (191). He posted a plus-27 rating, the sixth best mark by a League defenseman and tying for 16th overall. He set a USHL career high with a plus-five rating in the 5-0 shutout against Cedar Rapids on November 9th. LaDue led the Stars to 39 wins this season, the most by the team since the 2001-02 campaign (43), and helped them earn a Clark Cup Playoff berth.
The defenseman was at his best in big moments, including scoring the overtime-winner in the 2-1 victory against Tri-City on December 28th. He also converted three of his four attempts in the shootout this season. A dominant presence on the blueline that was counted on in all situations, he was also disciplined as he recorded just 20 penalty minutes throughout the season.
LaDue was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round (181st overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft following his rookie USHL season. He will return to his hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota next season to begin his collegiate career at the University of North Dakota.
"Paul Ladue was the heart and soul of a great Lincoln Stars team this past season," said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. "His work in the offensive zone was League-leading – but there weren't too many goals scored against the Stars when he was on the ice, either. He'll be a great addition to the University of North Dakota next season, and the Los Angeles Kings made an excellent choice in drafting him last year. Congratulations and thanks to him for his stellar USHL career – and best wishes on his next steps."
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)