The award is presented annually to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the ECHL as determined in a vote of ECHL coaches, broadcasters, media relations directors and media members. The trophy was named in honor of John A. Daley in 1997. Daley, who passed away in 1996, was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL, serving as general manger and minority owner of the Johnstown Chiefs from the inception of the team in 1988 until 1994.
The ECHL will announce the winner of the Coach of the Year and recipient of the John Brophy Award on Tuesday.
Willows, who was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team last week, led ECHL rookies in scoring with 66 points (23g-43a) in 71 games this season, which was also sixth overall in the league. He also led first-year players with 43 assists while he was tied for first among rookies with 12 power-play assists, finished fourth with 17 power-play points and was second with 236 shots on goal.
The 24-year-old spent the previous four seasons at the University of New Hampshire where he recorded 90 points (45g-45a) in 130 career games. Willows made his pro debut at the end of last season tallying five points (3g-2a) in 11 games with Worcester of the American Hockey League.
ECHL Rookie of the Year Winners
2015-16 Matt Willows, Florida Everblades
2014-15 Tyler Barnes, Toledo Walleye
2013-14 William Rapuzzi, Idaho Steelheads
2012-13 Ryan Zapolski, South Carolina Stingrays
2011-12 Dustin Gazley, Elmira Jackals
2010-11 Ben Street, Wheeling Nailers
2009-10 Justin Donati, Elmira Jackals
2008-09 Bryan Ewing, Wheeling Nailers
2007-08 David Desharnais, Cincinnati Cyclones
2006-07 Colton Fretter, Gwinnett Gladiators
2005-06 Alex Leavitt, Alaska Aces
2004-05 Joe Tenute, South Carolina Stingrays
2003-04 Kevin Doell, Gwinnett Gladiators
2002-03 Jason Jaffray, Roanoke Express
2001-02 Frederic Cloutier, Louisiana IceGators
2000-01 Scott Stirling, Trenton Titans
1999-00 Jan Lasak, Hampton Roads Admirals
1998-99 Maxime Gingras, Richmond Renegades
1997-98 Sean Venedam, Toledo Storm
1996-97 Dany Bousquet, Birmingham Bulls
1995-96 Keli Corpse, Wheeling Thunderbirds
1994-95 Kevin McKinnon, Erie Panthers
1993-94 Dan Gravelle, Greensboro Monarchs
1992-93 Joe Flanagan, Birmingham Bulls
1991-92 Darren Colbourne, Dayton Bombers
1990-91 Dan Gauthier, Knoxville Cherokees
1989-90 Bill McDougall, Erie Panthers
1988-89 Tom Sasso, Johnstown Chiefs