Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Drew Bannister of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the 2017-18 recipient of the Matt Leyden Trophy awarded annually to the OHL’s Coach of the Year.
Bannister led the Greyhounds to an all-time franchise best record of 55-7-3-3 for 116 points earning the club’s fifth Hamilton Spectator Trophy as OHL regular season champions while collecting their seventh Bumbacco Trophy as West Division winners. The 55 wins and 116 points surpass the club’s previous highs of 54 and 110 achieved most recently during the 2014-15 campaign led by Sheldon Keefe who also earned Coach of the Year honours.
“It’s an honour to be selected for this prestigious award in a league with so many outstanding coaches this season,” Bannister said. “It goes without saying that this award is not possible without the commitment of the young men I’ve been so proud to coach over my three years with the Greyhound organization, the support staff, and the coaching staff in Joe Cirella and Ryan Ward that push myself and our players to be better each and every day. I’m very appreciative to Kyle Raftis and the Greyhounds ownership that believed in me and provided me the opportunity to come in and coach the organization that I started my playing career with. I’m truly humbled and thankful for this prestigious award that has been given to me.”
With Bannister behind the bench the 2017-18 Greyhounds boasted the league’s most lethal offence and stingiest defence producing a league-high 317 goals while surrendering a league-low 186. They set a franchise record 23-game winning-streak from October 28 to December 30 which ranks third best in OHL history, and generated a run of 29 consecutive contests without a regulation loss. The Hounds also went on a 27-game home winning-streak from October 20 to March 14 which stands as the second-longest in OHL history following the club’s undefeated season at home in 1984-85. The 116 points and .853 winning-percentage are both tied for second best all-time under the 68-game schedule.
“We are so thrilled that Drew was recognized for his tireless work ethic and dedication to the Greyhounds organization by receiving the Matt Leyden Trophy for Coach of the Year,” said Greyhounds General Manager Kyle Raftis. “For the past three years, under Drew’s leadership, our program has made great strides in the development of our players both on and off the ice. Drew and his staff have committed to working with our players with the focus of helping them reach their goals while pushing them to become better, more efficient, more confident people. On behalf of the organization, I would like to say a big, well deserved, congratulations!”
Prior to joining the Greyhounds for the 2015-16 season Bannister spent three seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Owen Sound Attack from 2012-15. As a player, the defenceman spent his entire four-year OHL career with the Greyhounds from 1990-94 where he won back-to-back OHL championships in 1991 and 1992 followed by a Memorial Cup title in 1993. The second round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1992 NHL Draft went on to play 164 NHL games competing a total of 18 seasons in the professional ranks in North American and Europe before his retirement in 2011-12. The 44-year-old from Belleville, Ont., has accumulated a 136-50-13-5 record over the course of his three seasons in Sault Ste. Marie for an impressive winning-percentage of .711. He also recently enjoyed success on the international stage, earning a gold medal as an Assistant Coach with Canada’s National Summer Under-18 Team at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
The Matt Leyden Trophy has been awarded annually to the OHL’s Coach of the Year as selected by his peers since 1972. The award is in recognition of the contributions of Matt Leyden, past President of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1965-67, and former manager of the Oshawa Generals who spent more than 50 years with the team.
In a first round of balloting, teams vote for the top coaches within their own conference. The top three nominees from both the Eastern and Western conferences are declared finalists. A second round of voting is then conducted on a league wide basis where teams vote for any of the six finalists. At no time during the voting can a team select their own candidate. Coaches receive five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.
Bannister, who finished third for this award a year ago, led the voting process this time around with 79 points out of a possible 95. Dale Hawerchuk of the Barrie Colts finished in second place with 32 voting points, followed by Trevor Letowski of the Windsor Spitfires who finished in third place with 26 voting points.
This marks the fifth time a Greyhounds bench boss has claimed the award with a list that includes Sheldon Keefe (2015), Craig Hartsburg (2002), and two-time winner Terry Crisp (1985 and 1983). Crisp and Hartsburg are among the list of 10 coaches who have won the award multiple times along with Brian Kilrea, Bert Templeton, George Burnett, Peter DeBoer, Gary Agnew, Bob Boughner, Dale Hunter, and Mike Vellucci. Ryan McGill of the Owen Sound Attack was last season’s recipient, with Kris Knoblauch of the Erie Otters winning in 2016.
The Matt Leyden Trophy will be formally presented to Bannister at the 2017-18 OHL Awards Ceremony taking place on Wednesday June 6 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He will be the OHL’s nominee for Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year to be announced on Saturday May 26 as part of the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup festivities in Regina.