The 2015/16 season kicks off tomorrow. This award segment concludes my season preview. Let the games begin!
Red Tilson Trophy (MVP) - Mitch Marner
Really intrigued to see who takes this one home in 2015/16. Lots of terrific candidates (as there always are). For me, the front runner is Marner. One of the best offensive players in the league on what looks to be the best team in the league. Narrowly missed on winning the scoring title last year and has even more firepower to play with this year. There's no doubt that he'll miss time at the WJC's, but I see Marner right around where he was last year (~130 points) and I think that gets the job done. IMO his biggest competitor is Michael Dal Colle. As I mentioned in my East article, I see him really carrying the Generals to a surprisingly good season. Jared McCann is another good under the radar nominee, as he should crack the 100 point barrier for the first time in his OHL career and be the go to guy on a division winning club (like Dal Colle). Let's not forget about Andrew Mangiapane, Travis Konecny, and the reigning Eddie Powers winner Dylan Strome. Or, Marner's teammate Christian Dvorak, who might be the best two-way player in the league. Needless to say, the league is not devoid of talent.
OHL Goaltender of the Year - Mackenzie Blackwood
This award is Blackwood's to lose this year IMO. I expect the Colts to be one of the best teams in the OHL and Blackwood will be right at the forefront of that. The huge, athletic net minder is set to establish himself as one of the NHL's top goaltending prospects. I'd love to see Alex Nedeljkovic in the running, and I do expect him to be dealt at some point during the season, but his stat line probably won't be impressive enough to take home the award. A real wild card is Spencer Martin should he return. If he does, he is a definite contender. A dark horse could be Niagara's Brent Moran as the Dogs' defence is set to be so strong and he'll be looking to redeem himself after an up and down year last season. In reality, the biggest competitor to Blackwood is probably Brandon Halverson in the Soo. That said, I do think that newcomer Luke Opilka could also be right there in contention.
Max Kaminski Trophy (Top Defender) - Vince Dunn
A very wide open race this year. Really like the group of defenders gunning for this award. Niagara's Vince Dunn is my pick at this time. He's got such a strong supporting cast, which makes a big difference. He'll be able to have a lot of freedom offensively and his production in the second half last year was off the charts good (nearly a goal every other game). 2nd and 3rd choice for me would be Jakob Chychrun and Travis Dermott. Huge fan of both of these players, and both of these players will be so heavily relied upon by their OHL clubs (think 30+ minutes a night). Barrie's Rasmus Andersson, London's Victor Mete, and Kingston's Roland McKeown are also serious contenders. A dark horse would be Sean Day, as he looks to establish himself as a 1st round pick come June and prove the naysayers wrong. He certainly has the offensive support for it in Mississauga this year.
Emms Family Award (Rookie of the Year) - Max Jones
I think this award is ultimately going to go to a '98 born player and not a newly drafted '99 from the recent priority selection. Too many great young 98's entering the league this year (Jones, Sokolov, Juolevi, Sergachev, Hague). Having seen Jones play in the OHL now and having seen him play internationally, I can tell you that he's the real deal. While he was a bit quiet in the preseason, with the talent surrounding him, he's going to get more scoring chances than he can handle and it should result in him having a pretty sensational draft year (think 30/40). All that said, some of the OHL's top priority selections (99's) are entering the league in great offensive situations (especially Vilardi, McLeod, Tippett, Gallant, Gilmour, etc). In particular, Brady Gilmour did lead the league in preseason scoring. So who knows. A couple of dark horses would be Cam Dineen in North Bay (could be the team's power play QB), and Oshawa's Jack Studnicka (looks like he'll be given scoring line minutes off the bat and could be playing with Michael Dal Colle).
Leo Lalande Trophy (Overager of the Year) - Kevin Labanc
Had to change my prediction for this one after initially picking Trevor Murphy (but he's signed in Nashville). So now I'm going with returning Barrie Colt Kevin Labanc. Was terrific last year and should be better or at least equivalent this year. A dark horse could be Nathan Todd in Ottawa. He has great chemistry with Travis Konecny and I think he ends up being an 80 point player this year because of it. If we're talking other forwards, we've got to mention the likes of Stephen Harper, Jordan Maletta, Jake Marchment, Brandon Robinson, Nick Betz, Gabe Guertler, etc. In reality though, Todd's stiffest competition could come from a goaltender. Some really good OA goalies in the league this year (Peressini, Smith, Nichols, Williams, Flinn, etc). Of course I do expect some of those guys to change teams this year. If Spencer Martin and Ken Appleby return, they instantly become frontrunners too.
Matt Leyden Trophy (Coach of the Year) - Dale Hawerchuk
Currently outside the preseason CHL Top 10, I think the Colts are being criminally underrated right now. This is a very good team and I do think that they finish at the top of the Eastern Conference. Thus, Hawerchuk is my pick. With how strong London should be, Dale Hunter is an obvious preseason candidate too. And how good of a story would it be for Marty Williamson to win the award in Niagara, after everything he's been through in the last six months. If we're talking about other candidates, it starts with Greg Gilbert in Saginaw for me. He's won the award before and I mentioned in my West preview that I expect the Spirit to surprise a lot of people this year. First year coaches Mike Van Ryn, Bob Jones, Rocky Thompson, and Drew Bannister should also be considered candidates.
Eddie Powers Trophy (Scoring Champ) - Andrew Mangiapane
As much as I want to say that Mitch Marner, Dylan Strome, Michael Dal Colle and Christian Dvorak win this award, they will all miss a good chunk of time at the WJC's this year. That leaves the door open for a guy like Mangiapane to take the title. He's got lots of talent to work with in Barrie and he's coming off a 104 point season. If he can elevate his play 5 on 5, he should be a 130 point guy. Niagara's Josh Ho-Sang and Ottawa's Travis Konecny are somewhat underdogs here and should see great increases in production over last season.
Goal Scoring Leader - Michael Dal Colle
I expect him to have a real monster season in 2015/16. Hitting the 50 goal mark should be reachable for him, even with time spent at the WJC's. His release and scoring instincts are that good. Niagara's Brendan Perlini is also a serious candidate, as is Barrie's Brendan Lemieux. Two great goal scorers playing with some terrific playmakers. Of course, you can't count out the likes of Strome, Marner, and Alex Debrincat. London probably has another half dozen players who could be mentioned here too. A dark horse is Dylan Sadowy in Saginaw. A 40 goal scorer last year and I think the Spirit are a better team this year.
1st All Star Team
C: Mitch Marner
LW: Michael Dal Colle
RW: Alex Debrincat
D: Vince Dunn
D: Travis Dermott
G: Mackenzie Blackwood
Coach: Dale Hawerchuk
2nd All Star Team
C: Andrew Mangiapane
LW: Christian Dvorak
RW: Travis Konecny
D: Jakob Chychrun
D: Rasmus Andersson
G: Luke Opilka
Coach: Marty Williamson
3rd All Star Team
C: Dylan Strome
LW: Brendan Perlini
RW: Kevin Labanc
D: Roland McKeown
D: Victor Mete
G: Brandon Halverson
Coach: Greg Gilbert
All Rookie Team
C: Brady Gilmour
LW: Max Jones
RW: Owen Tippett
D: Olli Juolevi
D: Mikhail Sergachev
G: Michael Dipietro
As always, would love to hear your predictions in the comments section!