The Panthers are up!
Vincent Trocheck - Plymouth Whalers
Ladies and gentleman, your 2013 Red Tilson winner (OHL most outstanding player); and he definitely deserved it. It was quite the year for Trocheck, with his individual achievements and his strong performance at the Under 20's where he helped the U.S. win a gold medal. He flat out dominated a lot of the games he played in this year. In his time with the Whalers (after the trade from Saginaw) he averaged over two points per game. Nearly everything took a step forward for him this year. He looked quicker, which helped him play his brand of high energy, puck possession hockey. He looked stronger, which helped him win battles in the corners and protect the puck in the offensive zone. And he was more confident, which allowed him to take more chances to keep plays alive. At the OHL level, he's truly the complete package. The question is, at his size, is he able to translate all of these abilities at the next level. I think it's a damn good question. He's a very flexible player which will endear him to his coach in San Antonio. Even though he has to be thought of as a top 6 player down the line, I could see him ease into the line-up in more of a checking role. Going after loose pucks, playing the penalty kill, etc. Don't expect him to lead the AHL in scoring next year, but I could see him having a decent year, hovering around the 45 point mark.
Josh Brown - Oshawa Generals
I had heard a lot of rumblings about him drumming up interest from NHL clubs this year, so it came as no surprise to me when he was drafted. Do I necessarily agree with it? No, but I did expect it. Brown is a big behemoth who has grown a lot (maturity wise) during his two years in the OHL. His physical game and ability to push around forwards in the defensive end is gaining confidence and shows great potential. He could be a terrific crease clearer. The rest of his game is still a big work in progress for me. In the times I saw Oshawa this year, he was often exposed off the rush by quicker forwards. His lateral and backwards mobility needs some work. He also had some difficulty with the opposition's forecheck and could be forced to turn the puck over. Next year he'll get a chance to play a much larger role for the Generals. He's got a chance to play on the team's first pairing as the team is losing it's two most important defenseman, Matt Petgrave and Geoffrey Schemitsch. Whether that includes some consistent powerplay time remains to be seen. It will be interesting to track his development next year.