VOTE: Who should be N.J.'s Sportsperson of the Year for 2017?

December 15, 2017 - The Star Ledger - View Full Article

Is it a high school track star? A NASCAR champion? A Yankees leader? Give us your feedback.

This was a wild year in sports, and as usual, athletes with ties to New Jersey were involved in the madness. But who deserves to be the 2017 New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year?

We want to hear from you before announcing the winner of the second-annual award, which went to Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez last year. Here are the ground rules: 

1. The person must either be a New Jersey native or have a central role (coach, player, executive) on a New Jersey-based team. That means, unless he grew up on this side of the Hudson River, you won't find your favorite player on the Yankees in the running.

2. The person must not only have had an impact on the New Jersey or national sports scene during the calendar year, but carried his or herself with class in representing the state well. 

With that in mind, here are the candidates (in alphabetical order). Click on the photo below of the person you think is most deserving. Note: Fan vote will not determine the winner, which will be revealed next week.

Todd Frazier: The Toms River native joined the Yankees during the summer and made an immediate impact, not just with his bat and his glove but his leadership. He turned the image of a disgruntled Mets fan -- Thumbs Down Guy -- into a rallying cry for a young team that fell one game short of the World Series.

Nico Hischier: The No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft is just 30 games into his professional career, but the 18-year-old star from Switzerland has helped transform the Devils from a last-place team to one with real playoff hopes that scores goals in bunches. 

Kyrie Irving: The West Orange native has had quite an eventful 2017. He lost in the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, then was at the center of a stunning trade that landed him on the rival Boston Celtics. Now, as the NBA season approaches its midway point, Boston leads his old team in the standings. 

Devin McCourty: The safety was the most prominent of four Rutgers players in Super Bowl LI, helping the New England Patriots overcome a 28-3 deficit to stun the Atlanta Falcons. McCourty, along with twin brother Jason, has been active in raise money to find a cure for Sickle Cell disease.

The most influential people in N.J. sports

Sydney McLaughlin: The greatest New Jersey high school athlete in a half century (or more) wrapped up her scholastic career in typical fashion -- with dominance. The Union Catholic standout finished with 11 career gold medals, tying the all-time record; seven individual state records; and six national titles. 

Jonathan Taylor: The Salem High graduate was arguably the best freshman in college football, rushing for 1847 yards for a Wisconsin team that went 12-1 and will play Miami in the Orange Bowl. That was good enough for a sixth-place finish in Heisman Trophy voting.

Mike Trout: Injuries limited the Millville native to 114 games but he still finished fourth in the American League MVP race, batting .306 with 33 home runs and 72 RBIs. He's no doubt one reason that Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani wanted to play for the Angels.

Martin Truex Jr.: The 2017 NASCAR champion is from New Jersey. Truex won eight races and led 2,253 laps during his remarkable breakthrough season, then shared the spotlight with his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who is battling ovarian cancer.

Steve Politi may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @StevePoliti. Find on Facebook. 

Devils trade Ryan Kujawinski to Coyotes for AHL forward

December 14, 2017 - The Star Ledger - View Full Article

The Devils traded AHL forward Ryan Kujawinski to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday for forward Michael Latta.

The Devils traded AHL forward Ryan Kujawinski to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday for forward Michael Latta.

The 26-year-old Latta was taken in the third round and 72nd overall in the 2009 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators. Latta has 113 games of NHL experience, all coming with the Washington Capitals from 2013-2016. He has four goals and 13 assists in those NHL games.

Latta hasn't played in the NHL since the 2015-16 season, and he spent all of 2017-18 with the Coyotes' AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. He had two goals and six assists in 20 games this season.

Devils fall to Habs in OT

In exchange for Latta, the Devils sent Kujawinski to Arizona. Kujawinski was the 73rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Devils. He turned pro in the 2015-16 season, but he never made his NHL debut with the Devils.

In 96 career AHL games between Albany and Binghamton with the Devils, Kujawinski went for 13 goals and 22 assists.  

Chris Ryan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find Devils on Facebook.