On June 5, 2012, the OHL will host its annual awards ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. All of these young men worked hard all throughout the season to achieve their accolades; each one is deserving of the honour he has received. This year’s awards ceremony will have one of the deepest talent pools in league history which speaks volumes to both the OHL as a developmental league and to the players who are developing in it. A lot of these players have had considerable success in the league for years now while some are just getting their feet wet in the OHL. The future is just going to get brighter and it just shows how the OHL produces some of the best prospects in hockey, as well as some incredible members of society.
Red Tilson Trophy (OHL Most Outstanding Player)
OHL Goaltender of the Year
Michael Houser won both the Red Tilson Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding player during the OHL regular season, and the league’s goaltender of the year award. Houser appeared in more games during the 2011-12 campaign than any other goalie, registering 62 starts throughout the year. The pressure did not have any bearing on his statistics whatsoever, finishing with personal best numbers by the end of the campaign. Houser finished the season with a record of 46-15-1, a 2.47 goals-against average, a .925% save percentage and six shutouts. He played a remarkable 3698 minutes and he faced an unbelievable 2014 shots. Houser had a nine-game winning streak from December 30, 2011, and January 22, 2012, winning two of those games by shutout. He was also instrumental in helping the Knights win their second regular-season title and their second OHL championship; now he is hoping to help them win a second Memorial Cup championship. He has yet to be drafted to the NHL but there is every reason to believe that he will finally hear his name called at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which is held in his home state of Pennsylvania. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm. For now, Houser is concentrating more on the Memorial Cup.
Eddie Powers Memorial Award (OHL Leading Point Scorer)
Michael Sgarbossa won the Eddie Powers Memorial Award, which is given to the OHL’s leading scorer during the regular season. A Colorado Avalanche prospect, Sgarbossa finished the season with 102 points (47 goals, 55 assists) in 66 games, two ahead of his closest competition. He was held pointless in only 13 games during the 2011-12 campaign. Sgarbossa’s success can be attributed to consistent point production throughout the months of the season. His monthly point production broke down as follows: three points in three games in September, 11 points in 11 games in October, 18 points in ten games in November, nine points in seven games in December, 18 points in 13 games in January, 25 points in 13 games in February, and 18 points in nine games in March. He enjoyed an unprecedented 19-game point-scoring streak between January 27 and March 6, 2012; his incredible February, which saw him record at least one point in each game that month, garnered him OHL player of the month honours. Sgarbossa recorded nine three-point games, four four-point games, three hat tricks and one five-point game. He also led the OHL with 18 powerplay goals. Sgarbossa clinched the award after scoring four points (three goals, one assist) in the Wolves’ last regular-season game against Kingston.
Max Kaminsky Trophy (OHL Defenceman of the Year)
Dougie Hamilton won the Max Kaminsky Trophy for the OHL’s top defenceman after he scored 72 points (17 goals, 55 assists) in 50 games, leading all OHL blueliners in scoring. Hamilton was one of the most consistent scorers among OHL defencemen, being named the defenceman of the month three times. One of his best months was October 2011 in which he recorded 20 points in 12 games. The Boston Bruins draft pick did miss some time during the season representing Canada at the World Juniors and with a lengthy suspension after a head check in a January contest against Sudbury. Hamilton scored three points in September, 20 points in October, 15 points in November, seven points in December, five points in January, 13 points in February and nine points in March. Additionally, it should be noted that nine of Hamilton’s 17 goals were powerplay goals. Hamilton had eight three-point games throughout the 2011-12 season and two four-point games. He was also one of Niagara’s best players during the OHL playoffs, recording 23 points in 20 games. Unfortunately, the IceDogs could not solve the London Knights and they were beaten in five games.
Emms Family Award (OHL Top Rookie)
Aaron Ekblad won the Emms Family Award for the OHL’s top rookie after he showed why he was worthy of being granted “exceptional player” status to be drafted a year early. Blessed with great size and offensive ability, Ekblad led the Colts blueline in scoring with 29 points (ten goals, 19 assists) in 63 games. He played on a rather veteran corps that included Ryan O’Connor, Alex Lepkowski, Chris Buonomo and Reid McNeill; that being said, however, Ekblad proved not only that he belonged with them but he can play just as well, despite being up to five years younger. Ekblad was the only defenceman in Barrie to achieve double-digit goal totals in 2011-12 and he was seventh in team scoring. Dale Hawerchuk used the 1996-born rookie in all situations, especially on the powerplay, and it relayed in seven of his ten goals being scored on the man advantage. Ekblad was also given the opportunity to play for Ontario at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, winning the gold medal for his home province. There were many other sensational rookies in the OHL in 2011-12 but the fact that Ekblad had the incredible year he had, especially as an underage defenceman, made him a rather fitting choice for the award.
William Hanley Trophy (OHL Most Sportsmanlike Player)
Brandon Saad had a rather impressive season upon his return to the OHL from the Chicago Blackhawks. He had 18 points in eight games in October, highlighted by a five-point game (four goals, one assist) in only his third game back with the Saginaw Spirit. Saad had one of the OHL’s best point-scoring streaks during the season, a 16-game streak between January 15 and February 24, 2012, in which he scored 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists). Saad enjoyed seven two-goal games, four four-point games, and eight three-point games. After Ryan O’Connor was dealt to the Barrie Colts at the OHL trade deadline, Saad assumed the captaincy of the Spirit and the points continued to accumulate. Additionally, Saad played in all situations for Saginaw. He had an incredible plus/minus of +35, one of the best in the OHL considering that he only played in 44 games between his tenure with the Blackhawks and also playing at the World Juniors for the United States. He finished the season with 76 points (34 goals, 42 assists) which was highlighted by nine powerplay goals and six shorthanded goals. He had only 38 penalty minutes in that stretch.
Dave Pinkney Trophy (Lowest Team Goals-Against Average)
Mark Visentin has been one of the OHL’s best goaltenders since he entered the league. He was named the OHL’s top goaltender in 2010-11, despite missing time representing Canada at the 2011 World Juniors, but he did not repeat the accomplishment in 2011-12, losing the goaltender of the year award to London Knights netminder Michael Houser, who also bested him in the 2011 OHL Championship. That being said, however, he did have a fantastic season. He led all OHL goaltenders with a 1.99 goals-against average, .926% save percentage and ten shutouts, the latter being a new OHL record. Missing time due to injury and World Junior duty, Visentin did manage to put together a solid 30-9-2 record in 42 games in 2011-12.
Thankfully, for Visentin, he also had a reliable backup goaltender. Chris Festarini was traded to the Niagara IceDogs from the Erie Otters shortly after the Otters had Ramis Sadikov return; as well, the IceDogs had traded Jaroslav Pavelka to the Windsor Spitfires. Festarini, a 1993-born goaltender who had only five OHL career wins going into his tenure with Niagara, completely relished the role of backup. Additionally, he had solid numbers in his own right. In 22 games with the IceDogs, he had a record of 15-6, a 2.27 goals-against average, a .918% save percentage and two shutouts. Festarini recorded his first OHL career shutout on December 15, 2011, against his former team. He also recorded a shutout on March 18, 2012, against the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. Between Visentin and Festarini, the IceDogs had a goals-against average of 2.42, the lowest in the entire OHL. With Visentin now graduating to the Phoenix Coyotes organization, Festarini is expected to be the #1 man between the pipes for the IceDogs in 2012-13.
F.W. “Dinty” Moore Trophy (Best Rookie Goals-Against Average)
Daniel Altshuller had a solid rookie season in the OHL in 2011-12 after he was traded to the Oshawa Generals from the Belleville Bulls. The Nepean native had an impressive track record coming into his first OHL season, including a gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for Ontario (he led the tournament with a 1.39 goals-against average and a .946% save percentage) and another gold medal with Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He also had a 3.22 goals-against average and a .906% save percentage in 43 games with the Central Tier 1 Hockey League’s Nepean Raiders in 2010-11. Altshuller initially began the 2011-12 OHL season as the backup to veteran netminder Kevin Bailie but, as the season progressed, they began to share the goaltending duties in Oshawa. Altshuller recorded a win in his first OHL career start on September 23, 2011, against Kingston, making 37 saves. He had ten games in which he faced over 40 shots, the most coming on November 19, 2011, against the Frontenacs; he faced 55 shots in a 7-6 overtime loss at the General Motors Centre. He did manage to also have a five-game winning streak between December 28, 2011, and January 6, 2012. He also secured the #1 job for the month of February after Bailie was felled by an injury. He finished the season with an 11-16-3 record in 30 games (he rendered a decision in every start), with a 3.55 goals-against average and an even .900% save percentage. Due to new rules that govern age restriction on rookie awards in the OHL, Altshuller was given the F.W. “Dinty” Moore Trophy for the best goals-against average for a rookie goaltender. (He was actually one of only a few rookie goaltenders in the OHL in 2012-13; many of the other first-year goaltenders were too old to be considered “rookies.”)
Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy (OHL Top Scoring Right Winger)
Tyler Toffoli is one of the best scorers in recent OHL history, scoring 333 points in 252 career games. In 2010-11, Toffoli led the OHL in scoring with 108 points; it was also the first time that he was named the winner of the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the top-scoring right winger in the OHL. 2011-12 was no different for the Ottawa 67′s sniper. The Los Angeles Kings draft pick scored 100 points (52 goals, 48 assists), losing the scoring title by two to Sudbury forward Michael Sgarbossa. After recording an assist in his only game of September, missing time while still at Kings camp, he completely made a splash in the scoring department. He recorded 24 points in 11 games in October, 22 points in 12 games in November, eight points in nine games in December (albeit missing time to attend Canada’s World Junior camp), 21 points in 12 games in January, 14 points in 11 games in February, and ten points in nine games in March. Toffoli had seven three-point games, two four-point games, two five-point games and two hat tricks. Also as remarkable was his dependability in all situations, scoring eight powerplay goals and seven shorthanded goals. Unlike in 2010-11, when he had to share both the Eddie Powers Memorial Award and the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy with Kitchener Rangers forward Jason Akeson (himself also a right winger), Toffoli got to have the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy all to himself this year as Sgarbossa plays centre.
Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy (OHL Overager of the Year)
Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy
Andrew Agozzino had an incredible overage campaign in the OHL in 2011-12. He had a personal best 88 points (40 goals, 48 assists) in 67 games, leading all 1991-born players in scoring. He had 16 points in 12 games in October, 12 points in 11 games in November, 17 points in 11 games in December, 16 points in 11 games in January, 17 points in 11 games in February, and ten points in eight games in March. He thrived on special teams, scoring 13 powerplay goals and seven shorthanded goals. He helped the Niagara IceDogs win their first conference championship in franchise history, something extra special for Agozzino since he was the first draft pick in their history after relocating to St. Catharines. Additionally, the OHL found Agozzino to be a worthy recipient of the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy, especially since he was captain of the IceDogs for three seasons between 2008 and 2012, assuming the ‘C’ during the 2008-09 OHL season, the campaign after the namesake of the award passed away. (Mickey Renaud died on February 18, 2008; at the time he was the captain of the Windsor Spitfires. His parents helped create an award in his honour after his death which is presented to the OHL captain who best personifies the qualities he possessed on the ice.)
Wayne Gretzky 99 Award (OHL Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player)
Austin Watson has played for the Windsor Spitfires and the Peterborough Petes in the past but it is now with the London Knights where he is starting to enjoy incredible success. The Nashville Predators 2010 first-rounder joined the Knights in a trade at the deadline and he has completely thrived with his new club. He scored 35 points in 29 games after arriving in London, which included two goals in his second game with the Knights. Watson also had an incredible 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in February 2012. It was during the playoffs, though, where he really started to show what he was made of. Watson already had Memorial Cup pedigree, winning in 2009 with the Windsor Spitfires as a rookie and he used that experience to his advantage with his new team. In April alone, he had 12 points (seven goals, five assists). Watson finished the playoffs with 17 points (ten goals, seven assists) in 19 games. He scored the all-important first goal in the fifth and deciding game in the OHL championship final against the Niagara IceDogs en route to winning a second league title.
Ivan Tennant Memorial Award (OHL Top High School Athlete)
Roger Neilson Memorial Award (OHL Top University/College Athlete)
Bobby Smith Trophy (OHL Student-Athlete of the Year)
Adam Pelech was one of the best student-athletes in the OHL in 2011-12. Attending McDowell Senior High School in Erie, Pennsylvania, Pelech, a second-year defenceman, excelled in the classroom, finishing with a 95% average in six courses: Algebra, Computer Applications, English Introduction to Business, Physical Education, and Sports & Entertainment Studies. Pelech’s aptitude in the classroom, as well as on the ice, garnered him the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award, which is presented to the OHL’s top high school athlete of the year. His oldest brother Matt won the inaugural Ivan Tennant Memorial Award in 2005 while playing for the Sarnia Sting.
Kyle Pereira, who plays for Erie’s Midwest Division rival Guelph Storm, was given the Roger Neilson Memorial Award for the OHL’s top university/college athlete of the year. Pereira, an overage defenceman, had great marks in a full six-course schedule: Computer Science, Crime & Criminal Justice, Dynamics of Behaviour, Microeconomics, Nutrition & Society, and Sociology. With Pereira’s OHL tenure now over, it begs the question of how well he will do in his future studies and his hockey career, as well.
If the first award was not nice enough of an accolade, Pelech was further recognized with the Bobby Smith Trophy, which is given to the OHL student-athlete of the year. While it is not unusual for a player to win the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award or the Roger Neilson Memorial Award in consecutive seasons, this was a league first. It was the first time in OHL history where a player who has won a subsidiary league academic award has won the top award in the same year. That was an accomplishment his brother could not even accomplish.
Dan Snyder Memorial Award (OHL Humanitarian of the Year)
Andrew D’Agostini can thank Anthony Romanelli for one of the many reasons why he has won the Dan Snyder Memorial Award. The six-year-old has had cystic fibrosis for the last three years and, ever since meeting Anthony in December 2011, D’Agostini has become the spokesman for the 2012 Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk. He also has captained a team called “Shutout for Anthony,” which has raised over $5000 to date. In addition to this, as if doing that as well as playing as the #1 goaltender for the Peterborough Petes and keeping up with his studies, D’Agostini became almost like a goodwill ambassador in the Liftlock City. Over the last three seasons, he has helped with the Petes’ “Partners in Education” program (D’Agostini himself was the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award winner in 2011), as well as helping out at the pediatric ward at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre and playing floor hockey with a group of Special Olympian athletes. D’Agostini also has visited a young fan who was in the hospital after getting into a car accident leaving a Petes game and is now recuperating at home. Five Petes have won the OHL humanitarian award over the years and this was the first year that Petes have won in back-to-back seasons; Jack Walchessen won the award in 2010-11, his overage season in which he served as the team’s captain.
Jack Ferguson Award (First Overall Pick in the OHL Priority Selection)
Connor McDavid is about to prove that good things come in threes. He is the third player since 2005 to be granted “exceptional player” status, joining the likes of John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad to be given the opportunity to be drafted a year earlier than he was supposed to. The 1997-born forward, who was chosen first overall by the Erie Otters, surely demonstrated in 2011-12 why he was worthy of Hockey Canada’s allowance of him to be given the permission. Serving as an alternate captain on the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midgets, McDavid was named the GTHL’s player of the year after scoring 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) in only 33 games. In addition, McDavid recorded 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in only 14 playoff games, helping the Marlboros win the GTHL championship. He scored the championship-winning goal with only 21.6 seconds left in regulation in the fifth and deciding game. McDavid also shone at the OHL Cup, recording 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in only seven games at the tournament; he was named the most valuable player of the OHL Cup tournament for his efforts, despite the Marlboros losing in the final to the Mississauga Rebels for the second straight year. McDavid will be joining a rebuilding Otters team, one that is excited at the potential of the likes of Stephen Harper, Devin Williams, Connor Brown and Dane Fox all helping to return the Otters to the respectability they have had in previous seasons. McDavid will also have several former minor midget teammates in the OHL in 2012-13; Roland McKeown and Samuel Bennett will play for Kingston, Joshua Ho-Sang will play for Windsor, Jeremiah Addison will play for Saginaw, Daniel De Sousa and Michael Cramarossa will play for Belleville, and Jaden Lindo will play for Owen Sound.