In early April, Jackson Cates’ Waterloo Black Hawks teammates voted him the club’s Most Valuable Player; his contributions were noticed far beyond the locker room and the walls of Young Arena on Monday when the United States Hockey League announced that the veteran is the circuit’s 2018 Forward of the Year.

Jackson Cates: USHL Forward of the Year! 👏🏼💪🏼

A post shared by Official Waterloo Black Hawks (@waterlooblackhawks) on

Cates’ second season with the Black Hawks included a team-leading 33 goals in 2017/18. That figure tripled his mark from the 2016/17 campaign. His total points were also multiplied by three, from 21 to 63, as Cates became a scoring threat in all phases of the game.

Playing a point position on the Waterloo power play, Cates accumulated 25 special teams points on the advantage, tying for second in the league and coming in behind only teammate Jack Drury. Cates also struck for a pair of shorthanded goals. In clutch situations, he notched five game-winning scores.

General Managers from the USHL’s 17 teams formed the voting pool for the Forward of the Year award and other league honors. Waterloo General Manager and Head Coach P.K. O’Handley offered high praise for Cates when he was named Team MVP during the Hawks’ season celebration.

“I told him on the bench three weeks ago, ‘I’d like to have you on my team forever’…I didn’t say that to him because of just his hockey play,” O’Handley noted. “It’s just the fine young man that he is and what he represents, how he does things and the fact that he’s just a great, great kid.”

Cates’ year included a pair of hat tricks: one against the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders on January 27th and the other versus the Lincoln Stars on February 24th. The Stillwater, Minnesota, native had three other multigoal games. He ended his USHL regular season career with 84 points in 113 appearances.

Taylor Cammarata was the last Black Hawk to earn the league’s Forward of the Year title in 2013. Peter Ferraro (1992) and Jason Blake (1994) are the other prior winners from Waterloo.

Cates is committed to play college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The 2017/18 NCAA Division I National Champions had five players with Black Hawks ties on their roster this season, including Cates’ 2016/17 Waterloo teammates Mikey Anderson, Nick Swaney, and Dylan Samberg.