On Wednesday November 23rd the OHL reached the one third mark of its season as the London Knights battled the Owen Sound Attack in game number 227. What better time to take a look at some of the best performers through the first third of the season.
Who would your picks be for each Award?
Most Outstanding Player
- Alex Debrincat – Erie Otters
I don't know if there is a player in the OHL whose accomplishments are more under appreciated. DeBrincat is coming off of back to back 51 goal seasons in his 17 and 18 year old seasons and now has 23 goals in 22 games so far this year. Sure he has had great linemates from McDavid to Strome to Raddysh but Alex is an elite goal scorer who can score in multiple ways.
What impresses me most about DeBrincat this season is that he has been absolutely deadly at even strength. In his rookie season 21 of his 51 goals were on the power play. Last year 13 of his 51 came on the man advantage. This season only 2 of his 23 goals have come on the power play with one short handed marker tossed in there.
He is averaging more shots per game this year (4.91 vs 4.48) and scoring at a higher shooting percentage (21.2% vs 18.9%). He really slowed down in after getting injured at the world juniors last year and it seems like that is the only thing that can slow him down this year as after 3 seasons OHL defenses sure havn't.
- Jeremy Bracco – Kitchener Rangers
Honestly you could flip a coin between Debrincat, Bracco and Taylor Raddysh and make an argument for all in the top spot.
After coming over in the middle of the season last year from the NCAA Bracco picked up 64 points in 49 games. This year after a few graduations on the Rangers roster Bracco has made them his team. With 16 goals and 29 assists in 22 games Bracco has shown the elite finishing and play making skills that made him a Maple Leafs draft pick and what allowed him to break Patrick Kane's single season and career USNTDP assist records.
So far this year Bracco has 9 3+ point games (40% of his games), has gotten a point in every single one of his games and has been named OHL player of the week twice.
- Anthony Cirelli – Oshawa Generals
May be an off the board pick to some but I dont know if there is a player who has meant more to his team then Cirelli.
I know Oshawa plays in what some refer to as the “Leastern Conference” but still I dont think many expected them to be in 1st place at this point in the season and with a sizable 5 point lead at that.
What makes Cirelli special is that he affects the game for the Generals in so many different ways. He leads the team in scoring with 13 goals and 17 assists. His 30 points may have him in 14th in league scoring but he doesn't have the weapons around him that those above him do. On top of that he has been dynamite in the face off circle winning 61% of his draws and taking countless face offs in the D zone on the penalty kill and the O zone on the power play giving the Generals possession at critical times. Finally he is a perfect 3 for 3 in the shootout, this is something that cant be understated as the Gens don't have the scoring depth of other top teams so having their star player step up his critical.
Taylor Raddysh – Erie Otters
League leader in points. Right up there with Bracco and DeBrincat although only 1 player from each team can get nominated for this award.
Cliff Pu – London Knights
Has taken huge strides this year and has helped fill the scoring void left by Marner, Dvorak and Tkachuk.
Michael McNiven – Owen Sound Attack
Best goalie in the league and has the Attack competitive in the West as they work their way up the junior hockey competitive cycle.
Overage Player of the Year
- Bobby Macintyre – Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
Just a reminder to my readers who are Steelheads fans that the Greyhounds picked up MacIntyre for a 12th round draft pick before last season.
After coming over from Mississauga before the season MacIntyre went out and doubled his previous career high by picking up 48 points in 62 games for the Hounds. He then came out in the playoffs and helped the Hounds upset the Sting and push the Otters by picking up 11 points in 11 games.
This season MacIntyre has been on fire as he already has 41 points from 14 goals and 27 assists in 26 games. This value of this production for the Hounds can not be understated as Blake Speers has only played 1 game this season (NHL + Broken Wrist) and Zach Senyshyn is still getting up to speed after offseason bouts with Mono and Appendicitis.
Sometimes it takes a while for a young player to realize his potential. In MacIntyres case getting older and coming to the Greyhounds at the right time has allowed him to reach the potential that made him a 2nd round draft pick by the Steelheads in 2012.
- Ryan Mantha – Niagara Icedogs
Back in the spring of 2009 the Pittsburgh Penguins had a question to answer. Sign 2007 5th rounder Jake Muzzin or not to. The Penguins chose the latter and Muzzin returned to Sault Ste. Marie for his overage season and went on to win the Max Kaminsky award for top defencemen and finished runner up to Bryan Cameron for OA fo the year.
This past spring the Rangers chose not to sign Ryan Mantha whom they selected in the 4th round in 2014. Mantha has been a different player in Niagara this season as an OA as he has already tied his career high in points with 25 while anchoring a young blueline on the rebuilding Icedogs. Much like Muzzin in 09-10 Mantha's steller play on the backend is a big reason why the Icedogs are vastly exceeding expectations this season.
His 8 goals are tied for 1st among OHL Defencemen, he is 2nd in points and tied for 3rd in power play assists. In the shot department he has a 22 shot lead over the 2nd best defenceman and a 37 shot lead over number 3.
- Darren Raddysh – Erie Otters
The older brother of OHL scoring leader Taylor Raddysh, Darren his having a career year. His point per game average is highest in the league among Dmen at 1.32 which is more than double last season when he finished with 40 points.
The step up in play this season by Raddysh has given the Otters young blue line time to develop as they get over the lose of stud reargaurd Travis Dermott who has graduated on the AHL.
As an NHL free agent Raddysh has been garnering attention from scouts for his play this season.
Mathieu Henderson – Flint Firebirds
OHL defencemen of the month for October is having his best season of his career
Kevin Spinozzi – Sarnia Sting
Has helped the Sting stay competitive with Zacha, Konecny and Chychrun staying in the NHL.
Niki Petti – Hamilton Bulldogs
Bulldogs are a different team with him in the line up. Arguably the most underrated OA in the league.
Defenceman of the Year
- Victor Mete – London Knights
I don't know if there is a better defencemen in the OHL in transition then Victor Mete. Watching him patiently exit the zone whether it be carrying the puck or with a slick first pass is poetry in motion. Currently 5th in scoring among defence with 22 points in 25 games he is tied for the lead with 8 goals, 3 of which have been game winners.
The most impressive stat tidbit from Mete this season is that he has only taken 2 minor penalty while playing top pair minutes for the Knights.
- Ryan Mantha – Niagara Icedogs
Not much to add after what I posted under the OA of the year.
3. Darren Raddysh – Erie Otters
Not much to add after what I posted under OA of the year.
Mathieu Henderson – Flint Firebirds
OHL defenceman of the month for October
Mitchell Vande Sompel – Oshawa Generals
Anchor on the East leading Generals blue line. Should garner WJC interest.
Conor Timmins – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
After playing protected minutes last season Timmins has thrived in a higher leverage role this year and is climbing up draft boards.
Rookie of the Year
- Greg Meireles – Kitchener Rangers
The Rangers 2015 1st rounder who played last season on a “B” card while spending most of his time in the CCHL.
Meireles has cooled abit after a hot start with the Rangers this year but still leads all rookies in assists with 16 and points with 23. He also has 7 multi point games to his name this year as he has been an important cog in the Rangers lineup as they battle for home ice in the West.
- Ryan Merkley – Guelph Storm
In my opinion this is a two horse race between Merkley and Meireles and you could argue what Merkley has done is more impressive given his position, his age and the talent around him.
The OHLs 1st overall pick this past year has helped the Storm move from 10th in the West all the way up to 9th. More impressively he leads all rookie defencemen in points with 15. The next closes is 17 year old Barrie import Tim Hedberg with 11. On top of that he is only a -6 on a 9th place team that has been outscored by 20 goals this season.
- Matthew Villalta – Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
Rookie goaltender the Greyhounds plucked as a free agent out of the Kingston midget program currently sits 15th in the OHL in wins with 7. While he hasn't played enough games to qualify he has a .911 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average in 10 games this season.
The emergence of Villalta has given the Hounds piece of mind behind starter Joseph Raaymakers and is a key factor in the Hounds 13-2 record on the road this season as it has allowed them to keep both goalies fresh after long bus rides.
Was recently listed as a “C” prospect by NHL Central scouting and is a name you should watch if you are an NHL draft fan.
Allan McShane – Erie Otters
Tied with Merkley and Hinz for the scoring lead among '00 born rookies
Linus Nyman – Kingston Frontnacs
The Finnish import leads all rookies with 14 goals this year.
Brady Hinz – Sarnia Sting
The Stings 3rd round pick finds himself in a 3 way tie for the scoring lead among '00 born rookies
Coach of the Year
- Ryan Oulahen – Flint Firebirds
Currently 8th in the Western Conference with a 7 point lead over 9th place Guelph and I dont think anyone predicted that. I dont know if a coach of the year has ever coached a team that finished so low but you would be hard pressed to find someone who has extracted as much out of his team as Oulahen has.
The first year coach came to Flint after years as Stan Butlers lead assistant in North Bay and seems to have learned a thing or to about getting every drop of production from his lineup and maximizing every minute.
He may not win at the end of the year but I dont know if there is a coaching job that will have impressed me as much as his this year. If this young team continues to develop and they can maximize the plethora of assets they hold this team could be very dangerous very soon.
- Bob Jones – Oshawa Generals
The head man on the bench of the current Eastern Conference leaders Jones has the Generals getting better almost every game and has them in position to not only be a contender this year but next as well.
Led by Anthony Cirelli up front, Mitchell Vande Sompel on the back end and Jeremy Brodour between the pipes The Gens have a 5 point lead on division rival Hamilton and a 6 point lead on North Bay. They are also one of only 2 teams in the Eastern Conference with a positive goal differential.
- Kris Knoblauch – Erie Otters
No Devin Williams, No Travis Dermott and No Dylan Strome (well save for the last 2 games) yet here are the Erie Otters with the 2nd best point percentage in the OHL at .760
Every summer there is speculation that he will jump to the AHL or NHL yet he is back every September and all the Otters seem to do is win games. I dont know if another 50 win season isin the cards for them but given the constant turnover this start is the most impressive in my eyes of the last 4.
Goalie of the Year
- Michael McNiven – Owen Sound Attack
Back in his 16 year old season McNiven played for Georgetown in the OJHL. I voted on the year end awards that season and promptly put McNiven #2 to Milton Goalie Ben Blacker for Rookie of the Year, Goalie of the Year as well as the all prospect and all star teams.
3 years later I final get to put McNiven #1 in something although this means absolutely nothing. McNiven has been stellar for the Attack this season and has them in 6th position in the West while leading the league in GAA and save percentage.
- Stephen Dhillon – Niagara Icedogs
813 shots against this season for Dhillon, that is 100 more then the next closest OHL goalie. The man has faced more rubber than.... you know what I better not.
His play this season has been criminally underrated and is a major reason why the Icedogs are exceeding expectations a year after going all in during the Eastern Conference championship run. His .919 save percentage is 2nd in the league and he has stolen multiple points for the Icedogs this season. Makes you wonder what he has to do to get some recognition from NHL Central Scouting.
- Michael DiPietro – Windsor Spitfires
You could have one of any 5 goalies in this position but I went with DiPietro as he has been solid for the Spits as they continue to build their roster and gel as a team as they strive for a memorial cup title. He currently sits 4th in the OHL with a 2.55 GAA while playing in the Western Conference where half the teams have scored 100+ goals this year (0 teams in the East have done this).
Jeremy Broduer – Oshawa Generals
Has blossomed in his OA season and is a major reason why the Generals have such a sizeable lead in the East.
Dylan Wells – Peterborough Petes
Finally with the crease all to himself Wells is tapping into the potential that made him such a high OHL draft pick.
Tyler Parsons – London Knights
Has come back strong after battling injury issues in the first bit of the season.