Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 OHL Playoff Predictions: Round One

As is the annual practice, it's time for my playoff previews to begin. The OHL regular season wrapped up yesterday and the match-ups are set. Round one is set to kick off Thursday.

Last year I went 12-3. Maybe this is the year I go a perfect 15-0?

Here are my thoughts on the opening round:

Eastern Conference

1. Kingston Frontenacs vs. 8. Oshawa Generals
Season Series: 7-1, Kingston
Analysis: This is obviously a very interesting matchup because of the Michael Dal Colle situation. Dal Colle faces his former Oshawa teammates, following his exit at the trade deadline. The Frontenacs, as you may have expected, dominated the season series. In particular, Michael Dal Colle has an astonishing 6 goals and 5 assists in only 3 games against his former club. Spencer Watson has also dominated the Generals this year, averaging nearly 3 points per game (19 in total). Obviously, it's important not to undersell Oshawa. They're one of the hottest teams in the OHL heading into the playoffs, after wrestling away the final playoff spot from Hamilton. But Kingston has just been too good this year and they're depth and experience should be too tough for Oshawa to overcome. A telling stat is Oshawa's very poor record on the road this year (11-19-2-2). If they hope to win this series, they'll have to win a few road games (likely), which seems far fetched. One other thing to watch is who plays goal for Kingston. Lucas Peressini is the reigning OHL Goaltender of the Year and he's the veteran, but Jeremy Helvig has been better this year (IMO) and completed dominated Oshawa in his three starts versus them this year. I will say that I love what Oshawa did this year and the pieces they added for the future. But I just can't see them beating Kingston.
Prediction: Kingston in 5

2. Barrie Colts vs. 7. Mississauga Steelheads
Season Series: 5-1, Barrie
Analysis: This is definitely not the match-up Mississauga wanted, but it is the one they got after they failed to beat Niagara in the final game of the regular season. Barrie represents a match-up nightmare for the Steelheads because of their depth offensively. While the Steelheads secondary scoring has been infinitely better the last couple of months, they don't have nearly as many game changers, nor the experience at the forward position. In the 6 games against Barrie this year, the McLeod, Bastian, Nylander line has scored nearly 50% of the team's goals, with their 2nd/3rd lines getting largely dominated. Obviously they'll need more from them in order to win this series. This is especially true when you consider the lack of experience Mississauga's top line has compared to the top 2 lines of Barrie. Another key for Mississauga is staying out of the box. Barrie's powerplay has operated at nearly 30% against Barrie this year. For Barrie, Mackenzie Blackwood will need to be good, but he was during last year's postseason so no concern there. Another interesting stat. Barrie set a new OHL record for shorthanded goals this year with 28. Mississauga allowed the 3rd most shorthanded goals in the league this year (11). They'll need to be more careful with the man advantage, especially with the four forward setup they often run. Bottom line, Mississauga is a good young team and I think they'll make a serious run next year. But I don't see them beating a very experienced Barrie team this year. The biggest fans of this news? Hockey Canada, who could then bring on Michael McLeod, Nic Hague, and Sean Day, should they desire for the U18's (ditto for Team Sweden and Alex Nylander).
Prediction: Barrie in 5

3. North Bay Battalion vs. 6. Peterborough Petes
Season Series: 2-2, TIE
Analysis: Two very evenly matched teams go head to head here. Peterborough enters as the underdog (as the lower seed), but they're actually the more experienced/mature team. Whether that plays into the result, remains to be seen. As is the case with any close match-up, I think it's important to break things down head to head. In goal, I give a slight nod to North Bay thanks to the vast amount of playoff experience for Jake Smith. He's tried, tested, and true in the postseason. On defense, you have to give the nod to Peterborough. Masin, Spencer, Prophet, and Jenkins are four OHL veterans and represent way more experience than North Bay has to offer at the position. Even if I love Cam Dineen, we have to remember he's still a rookie and he's playing key minutes. At forward, I think it's a wash. I like Peterborough's depth more, but I also strongly believe in Mike Amadio and his ability to take over games. That brings us to special teams, where North Bay has the advantage on both the powerplay and the penalty kill. Peterborough had the 2nd worst powerplay and worst penalty killing unit in the league. If you believe in the wisdom of Scotty Bowman, that spells trouble in the playoffs. Bowman believed that a team could only win in the playoffs if their special teams units were both Top 10 in the league. And I do agree with that. I think that with Jake Smith's experience in net, a team defense approach, Mike Amadio as the difference maker, and a strong special teams unit, North Bay will be victorious.
Prediction: North Bay in 6

4. Niagara IceDogs vs. 5. Ottawa 67's
Season Series: 3-1, Niagara
Analysis: You have to give it up to the 67's. Quite frankly, after the Konecny/Studnicka deal, I expected this team to struggle. But they've arguably been better since the deal, somehow. Niagara made some massive splashes on the trade market in the opposite way this year. While those trades have had inconsistent results thus far, the true test will be the playoffs. I think the one concern for Niagara is the health of their players heading into this series, in particular their defense. Vince Dunn has sat out the entire month of March with a wrist injury, while Aaron Haydon was recently injured and was apparently spotted in a cast at Sunday's Mississauga tilt. Losing those two would significantly weaken Niagara's defensive advantage over Ottawa. But word is they'll play. While Niagara's offensive depth is quite strong, Ottawa has recently been rolling two very hot lines thanks to the emergence of Artur Tyanulin as a go to goal scoring machine. The one thing that I think tips this series in Niagara's favor is Alex Nedeljkovic. While he's only been so-so thus far in Niagara, he's a big game goaltender (see his performance at this year's WJC's). Another thing that is critical for Niagara's success, is capitalizing on the powerplay. This season they're a woeful 2 for 17 with the man advantage versus Ottawa. This will be a hard fought series, and Niagara definitely needs to be healthy, but I think their depth and goaltending carry them to the 2nd round.
Prediction: Niagara in 6

Western Conference 

1. Erie Otters vs. 8. Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: 2-2, TIE
Analysis: For whatever reason, the Saginaw Spirit have played the Erie Otters tougher than any other opponent this year and that's what makes this match-up interesting. On paper, it should be a blowout for the powerhouse Otters. In reality, who knows. In 4 games versus Saginaw this year, Dylan Strome, Alex Debrincat, Taylor Raddysh, and Travis Dermott have a combined 0 goals. One of reasons for that might be the play of goaltender Evan Cormier versus Erie this year, where he's been sensational. But obviously those big guns need to be better. And let's face it, they probably will be better. So how does Saginaw come up with the upset? They've got to limit Erie's powerplay chances (which they did in their 4 games against the Otters this year). They've got to continue to get strong goaltending from Cormier. They need to be better on the man advantage (0/13 versus Erie this year). And they need to continue to shut down Erie's top line. While I do think that this Erie team has the potential to be upset in this playoffs (based on their inconsistent play down the stretch), I ultimately don't think it will be Saginaw. Quite often, regular season match-up stats can be thrown out the window for the playoffs and I think that's the case here. I expected this Saginaw team to be better than they were this year, and I think they'll give Erie a scare, but that's it. Should make them a better team next year though.
Prediction: Erie in 6

2. Sarnia Sting vs. 7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Season Series: 5-1, Sarnia
Analysis: This has the potential to be a very good series. Obviously Sarnia has to be considered the favourite, based on the way they've performed since loading up (Konecny, Studnicka, Graham) at the deadline. Experience is also heavily in Sarnia's favour, which can often make a huge difference in the postseason. But this Greyhounds team can not be underestimated. While young, they have a very balanced scoring attack. And they have a lot of high energy players (MacIntyre, Verbeek, Katchouk, etc) who could really make an impact in the playoffs. They also have experience in goal with Brandon Halverson, even if he has had a bit of an up and down season. As successful as Charlie Graham's career has been, he doesn't have much experience in the playoffs. He could be the real difference maker. Something else to weigh is the powerplay performances of these two teams in head to head match ups this year. The two teams have combined to go 3 for 37 on the powerplay against each other. Realistically, the team that gets their powerplay going could be victorious. While I'm a huge fan of what the Soo has done for building for next year and beyond, I think Sarnia takes this battle based on the impact that their high end talent makes (Konecny, Zacha, Mistele, etc), and based on their overall experience level. But it should be close.
Prediction: Sarnia in 7

3. London Knights vs. 6. Owen Sound Attack
Season Series: 4-2, London
Analysis: I wish I saw this series being closer, but I just don't. The Attack are a strong hockey club and they play hockey the right way. But this London team has been on an amazing roll the last few months, which allowed them to nearly steal the top seed from Erie. They've got three scoring lines rolling and this year (like most of the league), Owen Sound had a very difficult time shutting down the Marner/Dvorak/Tkachuk line (as they scored 10 goals in 5 games against the Attack this year). London also has the heavy advantage on special teams, especially in the head to head matchup. The only wild card I could see coming into play is in net. I'm a big fan of Michael McNiven and he has the potential to absolutely steal a series. But Tyler Parsons does have playoff experience from last year and he's been solid for London too. Again, love this Attack team and I have very high expectations of them for next year. But London is steamrolling right now and I can't see them being ousted in round one.
Prediction: London in 5

4. Kitchener Rangers vs. 5. Windsor Spitfires
Season Series: 3-1, Windsor
Analysis: By far the toughest series to predict in round one. Honestly, flip a coin. On paper, Kitchener's veteran laden line-up should have an advantage. But they've had trouble staying healthy all year and I feel like they never really gelled to the best of their capability because of that. Proof in the pudding lies with the fact that their best player of late has been sophomore Adam Mascherin. Meanwhile Windsor has been playing some great hockey of late as they've been getting more consistent performances from their younger stars like Logan Brown and Gabriel Vilardi. Goaltending is the big wild card of this series and could be the deciding factor. Windsor's Michael Dipietro has been one of the OHL's top 99's this year, but it's important to remember that he's still a 16 year old rookie. Windsor has done a great job of tempering his workload thus far, but it should definitely be a concern. Meanwhile Kitchener seems likely to start Luka Opilka, but he just hasn't looked the same since recovering from a mysterious illness. During the regular season matchup between these teams, Kitchener just didn't get the production they needed from their experienced guns (MacInnis, Bracco, Robinson, Franzen, Miller, Magyar). It's put up or shut up time for a Kitchener team which has been built for a major playoff run this year. So who do I predict to win? I think I have slightly more confidence in Windsor's ability to activate their defenders to push the pace of play. And I like Dipietro in the goaltending matchup. But it's damn close.
Prediction: Windsor in 7

Thursday, March 17, 2016

2016 Coaches Poll Results

Today, the OHL released the results of the 2016 Coaches Poll.

Here are the results

Of course, I made my own ballot (or predictions) last week. You can find those here (as a comparison).

For record keeping sake, here are the results of previous years' Coaches Polls.

2013 - East, 2013 - West
2012 - East, 2012 - West
2011 - East, 2011 - West

North Bay's Cam Dineen Excels in his First OHL Season

Last year, the North Bay Battalion had an incredibly successful season, advancing all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were ultimately eliminated by the eventual Memorial Cup Champion Oshawa Generals. It was an extremely veteran laden unit, and as such, the expectations for this year's Battalion squad were relatively low. The OHL can be very cyclical in that way, thanks to annual graduations.
Photo credit to Dave Dale/The Nugget

"Well to be honest, I think our goal was to be a competitive team, which we always try to be," said coach Stan Butler. "But given the loss of players that we had, we thought we would settle in as a team battling for the playoffs, in that 7/8th spot. But credit to our team, and my coaching staff, everyone's worked hard and we've thankfully found a way to be better than that."

A big reason for that surprise success has been the emergence of one particular rookie defenseman. North Bay's powerplay was one of the league's best last year, but they were losing their top offensive defender in Brenden Miller. And then North Bay decided to move Miles Liberati early in the year. Who would step up to fill the shoes left by those two players? Who would help Kyle Wood create offense from the back-end, something coach Stan Butler calls "critical to success in today's game?" Insert 11th round pick Cam Dineen.

"He's been huge for us," says Stan Butler. "We've tried to adapt to the game as much as anyone else. The game now is about puck moving defencemen and skill. And that's what Cameron [Dineen] is. I mean he's second in defenseman scoring behind a 19 year old [Rasmus Andersson], as a first year player in the league, on a team that's not the most offensively gifted."

Dineen, the son of a high school principal, wasn't always set on coming to North Bay. The New Jersey native had a commitment to Yale and played last year with the New Jersey Rockets of the EHL (Eastern Hockey League). Dineen ended up leading the league in defenseman scoring, was a first team all star and the league's rookie of the year. While many OHL fans aren't likely to be familiar with the Rockets or the EHL (which used to be the AJHL), they actually boast some pretty impressive alumni (especially when it comes to defenders), whose names OHL fans would recognize; John Carlson, Bobby Sanguinetti, and David Kolomatis.

Ultimately Dineen decided to break his commitment to Yale and signed with North Bay. "I broke my commitment to Yale for North Bay because I thought coming to the OHL and playing for Stan Butler would put me in the best position for my development in my draft year," says Dineen. "He was committed to Yale. His Dad's a high school principal. We just showed him our program here and how he could continue his schooling here and I think that really helped," added Butler.

The rest, you could say, is history. As such, it's been quite a whirlwind for Dineen this year. 2015 started with him playing at the Ivan Hlinka (U18's) with team U.S.A. (where he tallied two assists in 4 games). Then he started the OHL season pretty slowly, with 1 goal and 5 assists in his first 15 games. But right around the start of November, things really started to click for Dineen. As I write this today, Dineen sits 2nd in the league in defensemen scoring (2 points behind Barrie's Rasmus Andersson) and has emerged as one of the OHL's elite offensive blueliners. To put that in perspective, Anthony DeAngelo, Cody Ceci, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Ellis, and John Carlson are the only defenders in the last ten years to finish in the top 2 of defensemen scoring in the league during their draft year. All 5 were first round picks at their respective NHL Drafts.

So why isn't Dineen garnering that kind of attention, as it pertains to the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft? Coach Stan Butler certainly believes Dineen deserves to be a high draft pick. "I do [think he's being underrated]. But that seems to be a common theme for any team I coach. I think a lot of our guys are always undervalued. I think he fits in that category. I just don't see, with the game, where it's going, why you wouldn't value a guy like Dineen a lot more," says Butler. Dineen himself, admits to paying attention to the draft rankings. "I mean yeah, I pay attention to draft rankings, but I try not to really look in depth about it," says Dineen. "Every team has their own agenda and rankings, and that’s all that matters in the end. I think I have shown that I can play with the best this year, but it will just come down to what certain teams are looking for or see in me.  It would be a dream come true to be picked in the first round."

Photo credit to
When you examine the type of impact Dineen has had this year, why can't he be considered a potential NHL first round pick? He's got a chance to lead the league in defenseman scoring. He's become a top pairing defender for one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. And he's already shown steady improvement at the defensive end. That's something Dineen gives credit to Stan Butler for. "The biggest thing Stan has taught me is to use my hockey IQ to play defense.  He knows I’m not the biggest or the strongest, but he preaches to me to always have an active stick and to use my brain," says Dineen. "I think I have developed a ton since arriving."

Another guy Dineen gives credit to is his defensive partner, Colorado Avalanche 3rd rounder (and now Arizona Coyotes prospect) Kyle Wood. "Kyle always makes a good first pass which allows me to jump into the rush and create offense.  As everyone knows, he has a fantastic one timer and shot, therefore, he compliments my pass first mentality.  He makes me elevate my play every game," says Dineen, who suggests Wood has helped him off the ice too. "He has definitely helped me with the draft," admits Dineen. "I have asked him a lot of questions about his draft year and his experience.  He has told me his stories and memories, and always is willing to answer any questions I have about what to look out for in the process."

With great mentors on the ice, and a fantastic talent developer in Stan Butler guiding his progression, NHL teams would be crazy to not consider Dineen as a first round pick. A quick examination of the NHL's defenseman scoring leaders right now and three of the top five (Klingberg, Letang, and Subban) were not first round picks. These are guys who did not possess elite size upon being drafted, but who have excelled because of the way the game is changing. Look no further than the impact that Philadelphia Flyers rookie Shayne Gostisbehere has had this year (a player Dineen compares himself too). He was a 3rd round pick, in his 2nd year of eligibility (after getting passed over in his first year as a high school player).

When will the NHL, and NHL scouts learn that an emphasis needs to be placed on drafting skilled defenders who can contribute offensively? That's the way the game is played now. And that's why Cam Dineen deserves to be a first round pick come June.


Thanks to Cam Dineen, Stan Butler, and the North Bay Battalion for taking the time to answer my questions, making this article possible.

Below you can find the transcript of Cam Dineen's Q & A.


Brock Otten - It's your first year in the OHL and things have gone pretty well so far (I'd say). What's been the biggest adjustment for you, coming from the Eastern Hockey League?

Cam Dineen - I think the biggest adjustment coming to the OHL is just the fact that every team is good, and every game will be a battle.  Almost every game is the same fast pace.  Also, the skill of teams as a whole is obviously much higher here in the OHL.

Otten - Why break your commitment with Yale and join North Bay?

Dineen - I broke my commitment to Yale for North Bay because I thought coming to the OHL and playing for Stan Butler would put me in the best position for my development in my draft year.

Otten - You had a chance to play at the Ivan Hlinka this summer for the U.S. What was that experience like?

Dineen - It was an honor to play for the U.S. at the Ivan Hlinka.  We came up a little short of our team goals, but it was a blast and I made many memories and friends.

Otten - What's been the biggest takeaway from playing for Stan Butler? What's the one thing you would say is the most important thing that he's taught you?

Dineen - I’d say the biggest thing Stan has taught me is to use my hockey IQ to play defense.  He knows I’m not the biggest or the strongest, but he preaches to me to always have an active stick and to use my brain.

Otten - Every player should play with confidence, but be honest, If I had told you in September, that towards the end of the season you'd be leading the OHL in defenseman scoring, what would you have said?

Dineen - If you told me I would be anywhere close to leading the OHL for D-man scoring, I definitely wouldn’t believe you.  I thought I came in strong and played with confidence, but I think I have developed a ton since arriving.

Otten - What do you attribute your success to this year?

Dineen - I think my success just has come from hard work this past summer, and a very helpful and motivating coaching staff here in North Bay.

Otten - Obviously it's your draft year and you're really starting to gain some steam on several rankings (starting to inch closer to the first round). Is that something you pay a lot of attention to?

Dineen - I mean yeah, I pay attention to draft rankings, but I try not to really look in depth about it.  Every team has their own agenda and rankings, and that’s all that matters in the end.

Otten - Do you think, with the skill set you bring to the table and the success you've had this season, that you deserve to be an NHL first rounder come June?

Dineen - I think I have shown that I can play with the best this year, but it will just come down to what certain teams are looking for or see in me.  It would be a dream come true to be picked in the first round.

Otten - If I were to ask an NHL scout, what your greatest strengths are as a player, what would they say?

Dineen -  I’d say that a NHL scout would say that I have a high hockey IQ, which allows me to defend effectively, I have good vision and poise with the puck, and that I can quarterback a powerplay.

Otten - Conversely, what would they say you need to improve on the most?

Dineen - They would say I just need to keep getting stronger, in order to be better in the D zone, and to keep working on having stick on the puck at all times.

Otten - Want to talk briefly about your defence partner Kyle Wood. What's it like playing with him?

Dineen - Kyle Wood is a great player who possesses good puck skills.  He always makes a good first pass which allows me to jump into the rush and create offense.  As everyone knows, he has a fantastic one timer and shot, therefor, he compliments my pass first mentality.  He makes me elevate my play every game.

Otten - Having gone through the draft process himself, and being an OHL veteran now, has he helped you with things off the ice too?

Dineen - Yeah, definitely.  I have asked him a lot of questions about his draft year and his experience.  He has told me his stories and memories, and always is willing to answer any questions I have about what to look out for in the process.

Otten - As a New Jersey native, safe to say you grew up a New Jersey Devils fan?

Dineen -  I am actually a Boston Bruins fan because my dad’s side of the family was from the Boston area, before moving to NJ.

Otten - Is there a guy in the NHL that you would say, that's a guy I want to develop into? Or that's a guy I try to pattern my game after?

Dineen - Recently, I have really liked Shayne Gostisbehere.  I watched him a few times when he played for Union College on TV and since then, I have been waiting for him to make his presence felt in the NHL.  He has a high hockey IQ and is great at moving the puck.

Otten - Last question. Who's the toughest forward in the OHL to stop one on one?

Dineen - Josh Ho-Sang

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Q & A with North Bay Battalion Coach Stan Butler

Today, it was my absolute pleasure to chat with North Bay Battalion coach/director of hockey operations Stan Butler. Butler, of course, is a legendary figure in OHL hockey, holding a place inside the top 5 of career victories and games played. His upstart Battalion currently sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference, and we chatted about this year, last year, hockey in Brampton, Hockey Canada, and many of the players he's coached (past and present). Below you can find snippets of the transcript of our conversation.


Brock Otten - While I definitely want to ask you a ton of questions about the past, it's only fair that we start with this year. Going into the season, did you truly believe that your Battalion would be up near the top of the Eastern Conference after all the graduations from the previous year?

Stan Butler - Well to be honest, I think our goal was to be a competitive team, which we always try to be. Given the loss of players that we had, and then early on losing Bratina and Calvin Gomes, we decided to move Liberati to recoup some draft picks [from the Moutrey deal]. We thought we would settle in as a team battling for the playoffs, in that 7/8th spot. But credit to our team, and my coaching staff, everyone's worked hard and we've thankfully found a way to be better than that.

Otten - Safe to say that you guys believe now that you could contend for the Eastern Conference title?

Butler - I think the best way to put it is, we believe that we'll be a really hard out for anybody in the playoffs. We've got experienced goaltending with Jake Smith, and enough experienced players. Although we do have a very young team too, something not enough people give us credit for. I believe 2nd or 3rd youngest team on paper in the league. But with experienced guys like Amadio and Santos, we'll be able to battle against anyone we play.

Otten - And I think that's a credit to you and your coaching staff. Every year people say, "man I don't want to play the Battalion in the first round." It's obviously a goal for you to make your teams that tough out no matter where you're ranked.

Butler - Well yeah, that's something we try to do. We want to be competitive every year. That's our goal. And it's tough. I mean we never get to draft high. You look at some of the teams that are at the top of the standings this year and they were built with high selections. We don't have that luxury so we've got to develop the Nick Paul's, the Mike Amadio's. That's where we're at. The reality is, we don't want to have down years in North Bay. We want to be a competitive team every year. Our goal here is not to win a Championship then be a last place team for the years after that. If you're competitive every year, you'll eventually have a chance to win. Look at us last year, I don't think anyone expected us to be where we were. And end of the year, I think you could have flipped a coin between us and Oshawa.

Otten - Absolutely. And I mean, that Oshawa team was incredible too. I think no matter who won that series, either of you would have gone on to defeat Erie for the Championship.

Butler - I think they proved that. They had a tougher series against us. That's not to take anything away from Erie. They had a terrific team too. But that second game finished 1-0. We win that game, we go up 2-0 and anything could have happened.

Otten - Was there ever a point this year where you explored or considered the idea of moving Amadio or Wood?

Butler - Yeah, I mean we certainly thought about it. We listened to other teams, but we never got really close to doing anything. After that Liberati deal, we wanted to make a 'hockey trade', with players, not draft picks. And none of the offers out there gave us the chance to make that kind of deal. We felt that our team was young enough and our team was developing. And a guy like Amadio, he wanted to stay. He did not want to leave. At the end of the day we had kids that wanted to be here and that's something we're proud of. We have so many young players and we'll be returning so many players next year too. We sat down and looked at everything and we decided we were in really good shape going forward. We felt like we didn't have to make a move and we were in a great position to help our young players develop.

Otten - Mike Amadio. In your opinion, is he the best two-way player in the OHL right now?

Butler - Well I've certainly thought so all year. I thought he deserved an invite to the Canadian World Junior camp, but the powers that be thought otherwise. Which is fine, of course. They see all 3 leagues, I see 1. But yeah, he's the poster child for development in the Ontario Hockey League, as far as I'm concerned. If I'm Adam Dennis or Joe Birch, and I'm sitting down with a family discussing development in the OHL, I don't think there's a better example than Mike Amadio. I mean here's a kid who stayed in the Soo and played home town hockey. Was a 2nd rounder. Scored 6 goals his first year, 12 his next, then 24, and now 48 and counting this year. There can't be a better poster boy for the OHL, at least from a development stand point. He's the type of player we need to consistently get in North Bay. We've got to find those 2nd, 3rd, 4th round guys that come in and turn into really good players.

Otten - Yeah, and not just in North Bay, for any franchise. Your ability to draft outside of the first round, and your ability to find free agents is key to maintaining success, to creating a Championship team.

Butler - I agree with you completely. You look at our team. Matt Santos was a walk on. Mike Amadio was a 2nd round pick. Jake Smith was a late round pick. When you're a smaller market team, you've got to be a draft oriented team. We don't trade a lot of players. We try to develop our own players. If we make trades, it's to supplement what we've developed. That's the model that an organization like us needs to use.

Otten - Speaking of later picks, Cam Dineen. How critical has he been for your organization this year?

Butler - He's been huge. Any time you can get an elite player after the 2nd round, it really enhances your chances to win. He's a prime example of that. He was committed to Yale. His Dad's a high school principal. We just showed him our program here and how he could continue his schooling here and I think that really helps to bring in future talent.

Otten - I mean, to give up on Yale for your program in North Bay, school must be really important to a kid like that?

Butler - Yeah, you know it is. With my background in education, being a teacher in Scarborough, while coaching Junior A, that's something I've brought with me to the OHL; the emphasis on school. Right when I started in Oshawa, we were always a team that was a huge proponent of school. Look around the CIS, we've got a lot of players playing there. Spencer Abraham, Marcus McIvor. That's something I always tell people. We're a development league on and off the ice. We've got to develop players with the ultimate goal of the NHL. But it's really, really important that if they don't go to the NHL, we do everything that we can as an organization to make sure that they have options for schooling as well.

Otten - Agree completely with that philosophy. Going back to Dineen. Do you feel that scouting organizations are underrating/undervaluing him right now?

Butler - I do. But that seems to be a common theme for any team I coach. I think a lot of our guys are always undervalued. I think he fits in that category. I mean he's second in defenseman scoring behind a 19 year old [Rasmus Andersson], as a first year player in the league, on a team that's not the most offensively gifted. I just don't see, with the game, where it's going, why you wouldn't value a guy like Dineen a lot more.

Otten - Again, I agree completely. I still can't wrap my head around why he's not consistently up near the back half of the first/early 2nd. I mean, sure there's the size argument, but with the way the game is going, defenders like Dineen can excel. 

Butler - Yeah, you know what Brock, it's a puck moving game. If you've followed my teams over the years, no one loves big defencemen like me. But we've tried to adapt to the game as much as anyone else. The game now is about puck moving defencemen and skill. And that's what Cameron [Dineen] is. Yeah he's got a bit of work to do defensively, but he's only 17. I'm sure when Mike Amadio was drafted at 17 with 12 goals, a lot of guys probably looked at Mike Futa [of the LA Kings] like he was crazy. But if they re-did the draft today, I don't think there's any doubt that Mike Amadio is a first round pick and Mike Futa looks pretty good.

Otten - In regards to the draft, we're you surprised that Brett McKenzie wasn't drafted last year?

Butler - Yeah, disappointed more than surprised. I mean, he was at times inconsistent. But he does bring a lot to the game. What do I know, I'm just a junior hockey coach.

Otten - With the improvements he's shown this year, you think he gets his name called this time around?

Butler - I hope so. He's another kid that's improved every year. When you look at his stats, they've improved every year. When you look at his numbers 5 on 5, they're impressive. I mean, he's got 25 goals this year and only one powerplay goal. He's got more shorthanded goals than he has powerplay goals. To me, when you're moving up every year [point wise], it's a good thing.

Otten - I think scouts need to start taking into account the way that you guys develop forwards. Look at some past guys. Amadio is a perfect example. Or Nick Paul, Or...

Butler - Barclay Goodrow, Sam Carrick, Guys that aren't high NHL picks that turn into potential NHL players.

Otten - Wanted to shift focus to Hockey Canada. With you success at this year's Hlinka, would you ever consider taking on the U20 team again?

Butler - I would absolutely love the opportunity, but I don't know if it's in the cards. I did this team [the Hlinka] because people like DJ and Sheldon left and they wanted an experienced guy. I went in there and it was good for me, to allow me to see if I could still do it after all those years away. And I did it. Do I think I could coach the World Junior team again? 100 percent. But I do think that it might be a job for the new era coaches. And that's fine. I had my chances.

Otten - That's fair.

Butler - Don't get me wrong though. I think I've done a good job of adapting to the newer age. I even took a big risk in joining twitter! Some guys, like Ryan Pyette [of the LFP] even asked me to confirm it was actually me on there. I think that's something myself, and my coaching staff do a really good job of; connecting with the players of today. If you watch our games, I think we've adapted well on the ice. We definitely do preach strong defensive play, but we don't get the defenders scoring the way they do now without activating our 'D.' And I think we're pretty in tune with the kids today too. If you're going to motivate them, and teach them how to play, you've got to understand how they work.

Otten - Why do you think that the OHL didn't work out in Brampton in the long run?

Butler - I just think that you're in Toronto. It's one of those things where there's so much going on. And for most, the only thing that matters is the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's a professional sports town.

Otten - Yup, and I mean, even when you go into the suburbs. Mississauga is only doing OK, although they have improved attendance wise.

Butler - Yeah, and I mean, but our owner Scott Abbott really, really didn't want to move the team. He really, really tried [to make it work]. The one thing that him and I have said since we've moved to North Bay. If we would have been in North Bay the last 15 years, I have no doubt that we would have won a Championship. As much as we loved Brampton, and the loyal fans we had were amazing, we never ever had home ice. In the playoffs, that's a huge thing. I never had a real appreciation for it until I moved here. It had been so many years since I had been in Prince George, where we had a terrific fan base. I think that's the challenge for Mississauga. I remember that year of the Mississauga/Owen Sound final. Game 7 in Mississauga, there were more Owen Sound fans there and it felt like one of their home games. We went through that too in the playoffs in Brampton, against Windsor and Barrie. 

Otten - I think you hit the nail on the head with Mississauga too. I remember going to the Memorial Cup games that year and even when Mississauga was playing, there weren't many team specific fans. Mississauga draws more fans of hockey, in general. It's different than going to a game in Owen Sound, or Kitchener, where you've got loyal supporters. 

Butler - You're absolutely right Brock. But I mean, I really hope it works out in Mississauga for James Boyd and their fans. He's a good man.

Otten - All your years in Brampton, you coached some pretty amazing players. Could you give me your three best?

Butler - You know what Brock, people do this to me all the time.

Otten - [Laughs], Sorry!

Butler - I just can't. I mean, it was a great experience coaching Jason Spezza as a 15 year old and him getting 70 points on a glorified midget team. That was certainly impressive. Raffi Torres was an interesting guy to coach because when he hit people you never knew what was going to happen. Rusty Klesla was that, probably years ahead as that defender who could activate himself. We didn't have them very long, but having Matt Duchene and Cody Hodgson on the same team was exciting. Always got a kick out of when we went to shootouts that year. Don't think we ever got to a 3rd shooter.

Otten - You mentioned Torres. I was a big fan so it was disappointing to see how his NHL career has kind of fallen apart the last few years. 

Butler - You know what, what most people don't realize is that Raffi in the Ontario Hockey League had 91 points one year. Raffi was drafted 5th overall because he was a physical player, but more so because he was a...

Otten - Yeah he was a goal scorer. He had a fantastic shot. Hard, great release.

Butler - Yeah. Great sot. Great physical gifts. He played both ends for me. He was an absolute warrior. People don't realize that he was a 6th round OHL pick. It's too bad. I loved coaching Raffi. He was a great kid. But he knew how to play hockey one way and you know what, he wasn't going to change. It's too bad. He's taken a lot of wrath, but when he was playing junior, he was a pretty hard nosed player, but I never thought he was a dirty player. To this date, I've never seen a guy that size, hurt people the way he did with his hits.

Otten - It's almost as if he were born 10 years earlier, or had played in the Scott Stevens era, we'd be talking about him as a former perennial all star. 

Butler - That's the thing with Raffi. People point the figure at him, but at the end of the day people still want him on their team. That attitude of, I don't like the way he plays, but if he's ever available, we need to get him.

Otten - One thing people don't realize about you is that you coached that one year in Prince George, as you alluded to earlier. So naturally I have to ask you about a behemoth defender that played for you named Zdeno Chara. Did you truly believe he'd be as good as he is/was?

Butler - You know what, I'll be honest with you. I never knew that he'd be the player that he would be. He broke his wrist about half way through the year and had a good rest. When he returned for our magical playoff run, he was unbelievable. The one thing I knew right then was nobody in the world had a work ethic like this guy. He was a machine in the weight room and a sponge on the ice. And I think that's the reason he's had the career he's had.

Otten - That makes total sense.

Butler - You know what's funny about that team, Brock? You talk about development. We had an overage goalie who asked for a trade, but we refused. A kid by the name of Chris Mason and he ended up having a pretty good career. And I had a 16 year old defenseman named Eric Brewer. We had Blair Betts who signed with us as a walk on. We had about 7 or 8 guys off that team that ended up playing in the NHL.

Otten - Looking back on that team, they had a ton of talent.

Butler - When I arrived in Prince George, they hadn't made the playoffs for a while. But I set them up for a couple of good years after I left. Two 40 win seasons with all my guys. But that's kind of been me, right? In Oshawa, my first year there, we had 10 players drafted in the NHL and they told me that it was a three year plan. And I developed all these young guys, but after year two they decided to go in a different direction. Then Bill Stewart came in and won a Championship with my guys. Then I went to Prince George, cleaned that up, but then I left to come home because my kids were young at the time and it was too tough. But I did set that team up for success. Then I went to Brampton, basically took on a midget team and got pounded 60 times, or however many times we lost. But that 2nd year we made the playoffs. And since then we've been pretty competitive.

Otten - Oh absolutely. And I think that's a credit to the great things that you, and your coaching staff do. 

Butler - We try. We try to do things the right way. One thing we've always said here is that we develop players on and off the ice. We want to make sure that our guys understand, you have to play a 200 foot game to be successful. We try to play a pro style game here. Nick Paul, said to Chris Cuthbert recently, I never understood why Stan made me do some of the things he did, but now that I'm in the NHL, I get it and I'm glad he did.

Otten - That leads into the last question that I wanted to ask you. Around the World Juniors, many analysts were saying that they felt pro style systems in the CHL were killing skill development. How do you counter that kind of argument?

Butler - Firstly, I've always been accused of trapping and we never do. I just laugh at that. Nobody plays a harder game on the puck than we do. Secondly, we still work on skills here. We teach kids to play in their own end. And then, I think quite frankly, good coaches stand back and let their players work in the offensive end. I've had a few incredibly talented players. I've had Marc Savard win a scoring title in Oshawa. Wojtech Wolski had huge numbers for us. Matt Duchene is obviously a pretty creative player. What people need to understand is that it's easy for people like that to look at some of the coaches in our league and a lot of these guys are coaching for survival. When that's the case, isn't the biggest emphasis going to be on winning?

Otten - For sure. I would agree. And like you said, you're not going to win much if you don't get defensive commitment from your forwards and every player on the ice. 

Butler - And my argument for some of those guys, quite frankly, would be. A guy like Mike Amadio has certainly developed his skills. He's a heck of a lot better at 19 than he was at 16. A guy like Michael Nylander has brought his son [Alex] over, and I don't think his skills have suffered playing in the league. Look at the top scorers in the NHL. Patrick Kane, what league did he play in? Tyler Seguin, what league did he play in? Sidney Crosby. I could go on and on. Look at the scoring leaders in the NHL, how many played in the CHL?

Otten - I certainly don't have the list in front of me, but I would hazard a guess that it's a large majority.

Butler - I mean, outside of Jonathan Toews, seems like most North American superstars come from our league. What's funny is that Toews might be the most complete player in the league and he played in the NCAA. But I don't know. I think that argument is unfair at times.

Otten - Yeah and I mean, to some degree, I think it's Canadians trying to make excuses for the rest of the world catching up to us. Like we don't want it to happen so we feel the need to constantly reform.

Butler - See my answer to that is, I don't necessarily think that they've caught up. At the end of the day, they've always been there and we've never given them the credit that they deserve. In the 90's we won a lot of gold medals, but I also think back to 99 when I was the coach and we had Roberto Luongo in net. We don't make the finals without him. When you look at the World Juniors, it's been competitive since the mid 90's. We've won some gold medals we didn't deserve to win. Just like we've lost some gold medals that we should have won. But when you look at the World Juniors for me, it's all about one position [goaltender]. It's not about skill development, it's about that. And that's the one area that we as a country really need to work on. We won't win many gold medals unless we improve there.

Otten - Couldn't agree more. Anyway, thanks so much for all your time. It's funny, I knew you were a teacher before and it's easy to see where you get your philosophies. I'm a phys ed teacher myself, actually.

Butler - Oh that's great. Good on you. I did that [phys ed teaching] and then my last three years with the board I was a phys ed consultant. I was the guy that drove around handing out the trophies. Kidding, obviously, I did a lot more than that. But I do miss that job. I tried to take my experiences in that job with me into this job.

Otten - Again, makes perfect sense given the way you operate your team.

Butler - Anyway have a good March Break and take it easy.

Otten - Thanks again and best of luck the rest of the way.


Just wanted to say thanks again to Stan Butler and the North Bay Battalion organization. Nothing but class, I'm incredibly grateful that they took the time to make this Q & A happen.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Top 10 - Most Impressive 1999 Born Players

One of the many annual traditions I have on this blog is to rank the new batch of OHL rookies in order of the impression they left on me. Only the "true" OHL rookies have been included, thus why it's labeled the "Most Impressive 1999 born players." 

I always like to note that this isn't an early ranking for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. This ranking isn't the order in which I believe these players should be ranked for the draft, but an order of which players impressed me most. It's not a draft prognostication, it's an acknowledgment of the significant impact these players have had on their teams this season.

As mentioned, this is a tradition, so here are the previous year's lists. 1998199719961995's1994's1993's1992's.

1. Michael Dipietro - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
This is the 8th edition of this list, and Dipietro is only the 3rd goalie to make an appearance (Alex Nedeljkovic & J.P. Anderson). Dipietro is also the first goalie to be ranked in the top three, let alone first. Bottom line, it's hard for 16/17 year old goalies to stand out and earn ice time in this league. Dipietro has been so good for Windsor this year. His consistently strong presence in net has been one of the main reasons why the Spitfires have been in the hunt for the division title all season long. He's super athletic, but his positioning and rebound control are way better than the average rookie netminder. Colour me impressed. If the Spits lose in round one of the OHL playoffs, I really hope that Hockey Canada brings in the underage Dipietro for a goaltending spot on the U18 team.

2. Owen Tippett - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
What a shot this kid possesses. Has insane goal scoring potential because of the way he can shoot the puck. He uses his speed to drive wide and not only gets great velocity on his shot, but he's got a very quick release too. Like his compete level without the puck too, as he'll battle in the corners and get his nose dirty on the forecheck. Unfortunately, it looks like he'll miss the rest of the year with a high ankle sprain (UPDATE - he has returned this weekend). He was just hitting his stride in terms of confidence too (IMO). But he'll come back strong next year and should be a candidate for the 30 goal mark.

3. Nick Suzuki - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Suzuki is a really smart player who has actually gotten better as the season has gone on (not usually the norm for 16/17 year olds). Reminds me a lot of how Jordan Kyrou looked in Sarnia last year. Suzuki does a nice job being a factor away from the puck, despite not possessing elite size or strength. He's a really good playmaker who exhibits patience and poise in the offensive end. Owen Sound has been relying on him heavily lately and he's delivered for them. Definitely a future cornerstone for the organization. Really excited to see where his game gets to once he adds size/strength.

4. Gabriel Vilardi - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Like any true OHL rookie, Vilardi has had his ups and downs. Stretches of strong play, stretches where he just isn't much of a factor. To be fair, his offensive production has decreased in the second half of the season because he's found himself further down the Windsor line-up (with the additions of Chatham and Eller). The powerplay time he was seeing at the beginning of the season just hasn't been there lately. However, he's high on my list because he's been one of the only guys (IMO) who has shown an ability to take over a game. The skill level is very high, and he seems to have that innate ability to slow the game down in the offensive end . At 6'2 (and growing), Vilardi has the potential to be a franchise center and that's why NHL teams are likely to be lined up for his services in 2017. While Vilardi is not number one on my list of the most impressive 99's, I do believe that he's currently the top option from the OHL for next year's draft.

5. Jason Robertson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Robertson is a big winger with decent speed and good skill, who really excels in driving the net and playing up tempo. Has really slowed down in the second half (partially due to decreased ice time and an injury), but for most of this season, he's been a key contributor on a first place team. Not bad for a 4th rounder! If he continues to add strength this offseason, he could easily be a top 20 selection at next year's entry draft. Wingers with his size, creativity, hands, and overall skill level do not grow on trees.

6. Matthew Strome - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Like Suzuki (and opposite of Robertson), Strome is another guy who has gotten better and better as the season has gone on. Like all his brothers (early in their careers), Strome's skating isn't great. But, you can't argue with the results. Matthew has scored the most of any of his three brothers in their 16/17 year old years. He's actually quite a different player. He plays a power game, driving the net, working the corners, and laying the body. I'm really interested to see how his game develops next year. He definitely has power forward tendencies and could develop into a very complete player if he puts the work in.

7. Evan Bouchard - Defence - London Knights
Absolutely fantastic young offensive defenceman who has forced himself into pretty consistent playing time in London. Skating and puck handling ability are top notch. Goes through some growing pains with his decision making, but what young offensive blueliner doesn't? When he was drafted, his defensive game was supposed to be a major work in progress, but it's actually been way better than I thought it would be based on everything I had read. With a late birthday, Bouchard isn't eligible for the NHL draft until 2018, which gives him tons of time to develop.

8. Vanya Lodnia - Forward - Erie Otters
Erie's done very well with undersized offensive forwards in recent years and Lodnia is cut from the same cloth. His compete level without the puck is top notch. Just a buzzsaw who creates scoring chances off the rush very well. As I write this, Lodnia is the second highest top scoring '99 in the OHL, which obviously needs to be applauded. I'm sure others might argue he should be higher, but he hasn't made quite as much of an impact on me as the others above him have.

9. Jacob Paquette - Defence - Kingston Frontenacs
The Kingston Frontenacs' recent priority selection performance has to definitely be considered one of the main reasons that the team has emerged as the cream of the crop in the East. Grabbing Robertson in the 4th, Paquette in the 2nd, and using 1st rounder Robbie Burt to acquire Michael Dal Colle exemplifies this. Paquette has been a key member of Kingston's blueline all season long and has formed a great duo with Stephen Desrocher on the team's second pairing since his arrival. He's incredibly intelligent and already plays the game like a 2 or 3 year veteran. Right up there with Nic Hague as the top defender available from the OHL for next year's draft.

10. Jack Studnicka - Forward - Oshawa Generals
The younger brother of Sarnia's Sam, Jack Studnicka has the potential to be a very solid player in this league. Even though he clearly needs to add strength, I was impressed with his intelligence away from the puck and ability to make plays in traffic. Definitely has a good head for the game and excels as a playmaker. When you look at the way Sam's game has flourished over the course of his OHL career, and how complete of a player he's become, you have to get excited about Jack. He has those same tendencies already but seems to be a more naturally gifted offensive player.

Honorable Mentions:

Sasha Chmelevski - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Like Owen Tippett, Chmelevski's OHL season is done following a broken collarbone, but that shouldn't take away from the impact he had made previous to that. The center piece of the Travis Konecny trade, Chmelevski is a very slick offensive player who flashed great speed and hockey sense this year. Really seems to find scoring lanes well and should be a really good offensive player in this league. 
David Levin - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Pretty rare that you don't have the reigning Jack Ferguson award winner on this list. Levin definitely flashed a high skill level at times. Great hands on him. But I just don't think he was one of the most impressive 99's in the league this year. Needs to learn to make the safer play with the puck and strength was a big issue. He was one of the younger 99's in the league this year though and he certainly doesn't have the experience of some other players. He'll be fine in the long run.

Austen Keating - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Very skilled offensive player who also shows good hockey sense, making him a very valuable secondary scoring option for Ottawa this year. Missed a good chunk of time after a dirty hit from Steven Lorentz, but has definitely cemented himself as a cornerstone for the 67's. 

Ryan McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Plays a similar game to his brother, bringing speed, tenacity, and skill to the ice. His ice time has certainly been inconsistent, which definitely is reflected in his production. I don't think he's been one of the top 10 most impressive 99's, BUT, I do think that he's one of the best pro prospects of this group. With a late birthday though, we'll have to wait until 2018 for that. Gives him tons of time to develop.

Morgan Frost - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A 4th rounder, Frost was a surprise to make the Hounds out of camp, but he's been a mainstay in the lineup and continues to get better. Not blessed with great size or speed, Frost processes the game at a high level and has proven to be a very good playmaker. 

Robbie Burt - Forward - Oshawa Generals
The offensive production hasn't necessarily been there, in Kingston or Oshawa, but Burt has been noticeable as a physical specimen. He's already established himself as one of the better body checkers in the league. And I've been impressed with his overall play without the puck (hustle, forechecking, backchecking, etc). Just how good can he become offensively though?

Macauley Carson - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Like Burt, Carson has already established himself as a strong two-way player who can play the power game. The skating isn't great, but it's early. While the ice time has been inconsistent, his play has not been. You could certainly make a case that Carson has been one of Sudbury's most consistent players this year as an OHL rookie.

Elijah Roberts - Defence - Kitchener Rangers
Really like the confidence level Roberts has displayed offensively already. Not afraid to go end to end and he uses his strong skating ability to push the pace of play. Still has a lot to learn about picking his spots and defending his own end, but Roberts has stood out in a way that most 16/17 year blueliners do not.

Mackenzie Entwistle - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Entwistle has been extremely noticeable the last few months and as such, he deserves to be on this list based on the progression he's shown. High energy guy who's really shown confidence in his offensive game, in particular his shot, of late. 8 points in his last 14 games for the 2015 2nd rounder. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

OHL Coaches Poll - My Ballot (2016)

The 2016 OHL Coaches Poll should be released sometime next week, or the week after. Each year, I've made it a habit of creating my own ballot to try and predict what the results would look like. Whenever I put this list together, I'm always reminded of how much talent this league has to offer. Some of these categories (like best playmaker, or smartest player) are so tough to decide on. Also this year, predicting the top faceoff man is a little less fun because the OHL has finally decided to keep that stat.

Of course, I feel like I need to repeat that this is my own subjective list and NOT the official results for the poll. 

Without further ado, here's my 2016 ballot.

Most Underrated Player

1. Juho Lammikko
2. Matthew Mancina
3. Justin Scott & Mathew Santos (TIE)

1. Aaron Luchuk
2. Kyle Maksimovich
3. Michael McNiven & Gustaf Franzen (TIE)

Most Improved Player

1. Spencer Watson
2. Nathan Bastian
3. Mathew Santos & Jeremy Helvig (TIE)

1. Aaron Luchuk
2. Devin Williams
3. Artem Artemov & James McEwan (TIE)

Smartest Player

1. Michael Dal Colle
2. Mike Amadio
3. Kevin Labanc, Andrew Mangiapane, & Roland McKeown (TIE)

1. Christian Dvorak
2. Mitchell Marner
3. Dylan Strome, Travis Konecny, & Matthew Tkachuk (TIE)

Hardest Worker

1. Lawson Crouse
2. Michael McLeod
3. Mathew Santos

1. Travis Konecny
2. Alex Debrincat
3. Sam Studnicka

Best Playmaker

1. Josh Ho-Sang
2. Kevin Labanc
3. Spencer Watson & Cam Dineen

1. Mitch Marner
2. Matthew Tkachuk
3. Dylan Strome

Most Dangerous in the Goal Area

1. Michael Dal Colle
2. Andrew Mangiapane
3. Mike Amadio & Spencer Watson (TIE)

1. Alex Debrincat
2. Brendan Lemeiux
3. Zach Senyshyn & Christian Dvorak (TIE)

Best Skater

1. Michael McLeod
2. Roland McKeown
3. Vince Dunn & Sean Day (TIE)

1. Travis Konecny
2. Jakob Chychrun
3. Zach Senyshyn

Best Shot

1. Michael Dal Colle
2. Mike Amadio
3. Alex Nylander

1. Alex Debrincat
2. Dylan Strome
3. Christian Dvorak & Mikhail Sergachev (TIE)

Hardest Shot

1. Stepan Falkovsky
2. Stephen Desrocher
3. Nicolas Hague

1. Mikhail Sergachev
2. Jakob Chychrun
3. Dylan Strome

Best Stickhandler

1. Josh Ho-Sang
2. Alex Nylander
3. Kevin Labanc

1. Mitch Marner
2. Dylan Strome
3. Travis Konecny

Best on Faceoffs

1. Michael McLeod
2. Jordan Maletta
3. Mike Amadio

1. Sam Studnicka
2. Christian Dvorak
3. Jake Marchment

Best Body Checker

1. Lawson Crouse
2. Cameron Lizotte
3. Riley Stillman

1. Max Jones
2. Jacob Friend
3. Givani Smith & Brandon Crawley

Best Shot Blocker

1. Roland McKeown
2. Jacob Middleton
3. Matt Spencer

1. Jacob Graves
2. Sam Studnicka
3. Travis Dermott

Best Defensive Forward

1. Juho Lammikko
2. Mike Amadio
3. Michael McLeod

1. Christian Dvorak
2. Sam Studnicka
3. Jake Marchment

Best Penalty Killer

1. Mike Amadio
2. Roland McKeown
3. Dylan Sadowy, Kevin Labanc & Mathew Santos (TIE)

1. Christian Dvorak
2. Jake Marchment
3. Pavel Zacha

Best Offensive Defenceman

1. Rasmus Andersson
2. Vince Dunn
3. Cam Dineen

1. Mikhail Sergachev
2. Vili Saarijarvi
3. Jakob Chychrun & Miles Liberati (TIE)

Best Defensive Defenceman

1. Roland McKeown
2. Jacob Middleton
3. Matt Spencer & Dominik Masin (TIE)

1. Travis Dermott
2. Jakob Chychrun
3. Dylan Di Perna & Jacob Graves (TIE)

Best Puck Handling Goalie

1. Jake Smith
2. Lucas Peressini
3. Alex Nedeljkovic

1. Michael McNiven
2. Tyler Parsons
3. Brandon Halverson

Best Shootout Shooter

1. Andrew Mangiapane
2. Alex Nylander
3. Michael Dal Colle

1. Dylan Strome
2. Petrus Palmu
3. Blake Speers

Best Shootout Goalie

1. Jack Flinn
2. Alex Nedeljkovic
3. Jeremy Helvig

1. Devin Williams
2. Michael Giugovaz
3. Charlie Graham