Welcome to part three of my season preview. Come aboard while I make terrible predictions for the season ending awards!
In all seriousness, this is the toughest part of the preview. Last year I managed to nail only one award, the Windsor Spitfires as the league's champion. Although I was VERY close on several others (and completely off on several others). The all star teams were particularly laughable. Josh Brittain for the 3rd all star team? Scott Stajcer for the 2nd all star team? What the heck was I thinking?
This year, I'm hopeful that a few more shots in the dark hit their mark.
Red Tilson Trophy (Most Outstanding Player) - Taylor Beck
If I was confident Jeff Skinner would be back with Kitchener, I'd have him in this spot. But I'm not. I figure he'll probably get the 10 game look from the Hurricanes, at the very minimum, and in combination with that and an inevitable performance at the WJC's (if he's not in Carolina), I don't see him putting up the type of numbers to take home this award. So I'm giving it to Taylor Beck, likely to be the highest scoring returnee from last year. Not so much because he has a chance at being the highest scoring player in the league, but because he's developed into a real heart and soul player. If the Storm are going to go far this year, it will have to be on the strength of their offense and Beck should lead that. Outside of that, I think there are several great candidates. Matt Puempel or Ryan Spooner in Peterborough could be good candidates if the Petes have the type of season many are expecting them too. Joey Hishon could bounce back with Owen Sound and get them back in the playoffs. In Ottawa, Tyler Toffoli or Cody Lindsay could be options. And lastly, while no goalie has won the award since 2000 (Andre Raycroft), if Jack Campbell can lead the Spits anywhere close to a threepeat, he'll get some votes.
OHL Goaltender of the Year - Brandon Maxwell
I was really tempted to have J.P. Anderson down for the second year in a row, but his minor implosion last year prevented me from having the confidence to select him. I'm going with Maxwell because I think Kitchener has a chance to have one of the best defensive teams in the league. Maxwell was inconsistent last year (his first in the league), but he should really come out strong this year and help the Rangers become the dominant team many are expecting. If not Maxwell, what about the aforementioned Jack Campbell if the Spits end up having a good season on his shoulders? London's Igor Bobkov could be a good option too, although it's to be pointed out that no import goaltender has ever won this award. Which could end up being broken this year, since two other imports, Petr Mrazek and Phil Grubauer, could also see themselves on this trophy come the end of the year.
Max Kaminsky Trophy (Defenseman of the Year) - Taylor Doherty
After last season's coming out party in the second half, I expect big things from Doherty this season (no pun intended). He's got a chance to lead the league in goals by a defenseman, and if the Fronts really take off this season and have one of the league's premier defensive teams, Doherty might be the most glamorous option. Obviously his teammate Erik Gudbranson could get some votes too (if he doesn't make Florida), but I'm not as confident he'll put up the gaudy offensive numbers often accompanied by this award. If Windsor's duo of Ryan Ellis and Cam Fowler return, both would also be front runners for the award, especially Ellis who's already won it once. Sophomore Ryan Murphy could be option because he has a chance to lead the league in defensive scoring, but if he doesn't mature enough in his own end, he might not get enough votes. A couple of darkhorses to keep an eye on would be Guelph's Sam Lofquist and Belleville's Stephen Silas. Both should be poised for big years and could be a part of winning teams of which they'll be the defensive leaders of.
Emms Family Award (Rookie of the Year) - Lucas Lessio
With the new rules, the OHL ROTY can no longer go to older players (particularly imports) jumping into the league for the first time at 19. Peterborough's Matt Puempel was the first recipient of the award under these conditions. However, the new rookie mandate does allow draft eligible 17 year olds to be eligible (in this case, 1993 born players). With SO many quality 1993's entering the league this season, I have a hard time believing one of them won't win the award. I'm going with Oshawa's Lucas Lessio on this one because I think he's going to have a great season playing with some talented players. But other 1993 born rookies to keep an eye on would be Windsor's Alex Khohklachev, Sarnia's Nail Yakupov, Oshawa's Nicklas Jensen, and Kitchener's Tobias Reider. But if the award does go to a true 16 year old (1994), my best guess would be one of these three; Owen Sound's Jarrod Maidens, Oshawa's Scott Laughton, or Windsor's Nick Ebert.
Leo Lalande Trophy (Overager of the Year) - Cody Lindsay
The Lalande trophy is always very wide open due to the amount of overage talent usually playing in this league. Next season will be no different. I'm going with Lindsay not only because he was already top 15 in scoring last year, but because the 67's will have a lethal offense and he'll be a very big part of it. Along with Tyler Toffoli (whom Lindsay has great chemistry with), I'd expect the two of them to challenge for the scoring title. A couple runner ups to keep a close eye on would be Guelph's Sam Lofquist (of the aforementioned potential defenseman of the year), Kitchener's Jason Akeson, and Saginaw's Mavric Parks. In particular, if the Spirit end up having a really good season, Parks will be a big part of it. It's been a while since a goalie won the award, but it's not impossible.
Matt Leyden Trophy (Coach of the Year) - Steve Spott
The Rangers are going to be good, and that means Spott is inevitably going to get consideration for this award. I liked what he did with the Rangers last season and this year should see a continued progression. Not outside the realm of possibility would be Dale Hunter winning the award for the second year in a row (and 4th time in his career). The Knights will be better than people are anticipating. Also, what about Dave Cameron in Mississauga if the Majors are as good as everyone thinks they'll be. Lastly, in sort of a darkhorse category, what about Kingston's Doug Gilmour if the Fronts can sneak the East Division away?
Eddie Powers Trophy (Scoring Leader) - Taylor Beck
Again, I'm going with Beck because I see Guelph putting up good offensive numbers this season and he's the highest returning forward in terms of scoring. His teammate Peter Holland could be up there too. As could Ottawa's Cody Lindsay and Tyler Toffoli, Owen Sound's Joey Hishon, Erie's Greg McKegg, and obviously Kitchener's Jeff Skinner if he's returned.
Goal Scoring Leader - Christian Thomas
The Generals offense is going to be dynamic and I think Thomas scores over 50 goals with all the help he'll be getting. Again, if Kitchener's Jeff Skinner returns, he's the odds on favourite for the award. Others whom I think have a real shot include Ottawa's Tyler Toffoli, Mississauga's Justin Shugg, Sault Ste. Marie's Brett Thompson, Peterborough's Matt Puempel, Niagara's Andrew Agozzino, and Guelph's Taylor Beck.
All Star Teams
1st All Star Team
Center - Greg McKegg
Left Wing - Matt Puempel
Right Wing - Taylor Beck
Defense - Taylor Doherty
Defense - Ryan Murphy
Goaltender - Brandon Maxwell
Coach - Steve Spott
2nd All Star Team
Center - Cody Lindsay
Left Wing - Andrew Agozzino
Right Wing - Christian Thomas
Defense - Ryan Ellis (I think he'll be back)
Defense - Sam Lofquist
Goaltender - Igor Bobkov
Coach - Dave Cameron
3rd All Star Team
Center - Ryan Spooner
Left Wing - Lucas Lessio
Right Wing - Jared Knight
Defense - Stephen Silas
Defense - Calvin de Haan
Goaltender - Jack Campbell
Coach - Dale Hunter
Wayne Gretzky Trophy (Western Conference Champions) - Kitchener Rangers
Even if Skinner and Morin don't come back, I like the Rangers to win the West. I think they've got a deep enough roster and would probably make a trade to improve should Skinner make Carolina.
Bobby Orr Trophy (Eastern Conference Champions) - Mississauga Majors
Kind of cliche to have my two number one teams win the Championships, but I think the Majors will be incredibly determined to win it all this year. They'll do whatever it takes and add whatever needs to be added to get it done.
J. Ross Robertson Cup (OHL Champion) - Mississauga Majors
While the Rangers might be the best on paper right now, I think when the season ends and the playoffs unfold, the Majors will be the team to beat!
Please stay tuned for the finale of this season preview. As I said, I've got something special planned!
Also, I'd love to hear your predictions on some of these awards.