OHL Announces 2018-19 Regular Season Award Winners

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced the recipients of four of the league’s annual awards following the conclusion of the 2018-19 regular season.

Offensively, Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson of the Niagara IceDogs captured the league’s scoring title earning the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy, while North Bay Battalion captain Justin Brazeau is the recipient of the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy for Top Scoring Right Winger.  Recognizing defensive efforts, the goaltending tandem of the team with the fewest goals against goes to Ottawa 67’s Cedrick Andree and Michael DiPietro who earn the Dave Pinkney Trophy, while Ethan Taylor of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds claims the F.W “Dinty” Moore Trophy as the rookie with the best goals-against average.

Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy (Scoring Champion): Jason Robertson, Niagara IceDogs

Jason Robertson finished atop the regular season scoring charts with 117 points powered by 48 goals and 69 assists in 62 games for a league-best points-per-game average of 1.89.

The 19-year-old from Northville, Michigan, split his season between the Niagara IceDogs and the Kingston Frontenacs where he was originally a fourth round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.  His tenure with the IceDogs began in November and included 25 goals and 54 assists for 79 points in 38 games helping the club clinch their second Central Division title.

His season highlight was undoubtedly on March 1 when he surpassed the century mark for points in a season while reaching the 300 point milestone for his career.  One of three IceDogs to top 100 points this season, Robertson accomplished the feat with 30 multi-point performances including five hat-tricks while producing point-streaks of 19 and 18 games which rank second and fourth respectively among the league’s best in 2018-19.

The second round pick of the Stars in the 2017 NHL Draft signed his entry-level contract last May and won silver with the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.  He finishes his four-year OHL career with three-straight seasons of more than 40 goals lighting the lamp a total of 149 times with 168 helpers for 317 points in 252 games.

Robertson becomes the first member of the IceDogs to win the award and sixth American following Alex DeBrincat (Erie Otters, 2017), Kevin Labanc (Barrie Colts, 2016), Vincent Trocheck (Plymouth Whalers, 2013), Patrick Kane (London Knights, 2007), and Rob Schremp (London Knights, 2006).

The Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy was donated by the Toronto Marlboro Athletic Club in memory of Eddie Powers and was first awarded in 1945-46 to Tod Sloan of St. Michael’s who scored 79 points in 25 games.  Aaron Luchuk of the Barrie Colts was last year’s recipient with 115 points in 68 games including 50 goals and 65 assists.  Other recent winners include Otters Dylan Strome (2015) and Connor Brown (2014).

Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy (Top Scoring Right Winger): Justin Brazeau, North Bay Battalion

Justin Brazeau finished second in OHL scoring but led all right wingers with 113 points including a league-high 61 goals along with 52 assists in 68 games.

The 21-year-old from New Liskeard, Ont., set a new Battalion mark for goals in a season and is one of just three North Bay OHL stars to surpass the 60 goal plateau joining former Centennials Vitali Yachmenev who scored 61 in 1993-94, and Nick Kypreos who netted 62 during the 1985-86 season.  Brazeau became just the second Battalion player to join the OHL’s century club for points in a season following Wojtek Wolski who produced 128 points in 2005-06.  It’s also the first time North Bay fans have seen a 100-point player since Trevor Gallant accomplished the feat by putting up 105 points for the Centennials in 1995-96.

Brazeau’s season was highlighted by 33 multi-point performances including five hat-tricks and an OHL best seven-point outing on October 21.  The 13th round pick by the Battalion in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection finishes his OHL career with 128 goals and 238 points which are the most by any player to suit up for the Troops since they relocated to North Bay in 2013-14.  His 128 goals are second behind Wolski (130) on the club’s all-time goal scoring list.

The Jim Mahon Trophy was first presented following the 1971-72 season by the players and management of the Peterborough Petes in memory of their right winger Jim Mahon who was accidentally killed that summer.  Brazeau becomes the second Battalion player to receive the honour following John Hughes who recorded 91 points in 68 games during the 2007-08 season.  Jordan Kyrou of the Sarnia Sting was last year’s recipient with 109 points in 56 games scoring 39 goals with 70 assists.  Recent winners also include Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters in 2017, Kevin Labanc of the Barrie Colts in 2016, and Mitch Marner of the London Knights in 2015.

Dave Pinkney Trophy (Lowest Team Goals Against): Cedrick Andree and Michael DiPietro, Ottawa 67’s

The Ottawa 67’s allowed the fewest goals in the OHL during the 2018-19 season with just 183 against, backstopped primarily by the tandem of Cedrick Andree and Michael DiPietro.

The pair finished first and second among league leaders in goals-against-average with DiPietro’s overall mark of 2.40 just ahead of Andree’s 2.48.  The netminders were instrumental in delivering a franchise record of 106 points which included 50 wins for just the second time in team history en route to the club’s fourth Hamilton Spectator Trophy as regular season champions.

Andree, an 18-year-old from Orleans, Ont., appeared in 45 games for the Barber Poles amassing an overall record of 34-5-2-2 with a sparkling .910 save percentage.  The 12th round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection also recorded four shutouts this season which tied for third most in the league beginning with the first of his career on November 1.

DiPietro, a 19-year-old from Amherstburg, Ont., joined the 67’s in a December trade with the Windsor Spitfires.  As a member of the 67’s he played 17 games carrying a record of 12-4-0-0 with a goals-against-average of 2.50 and save percentage of .897 with three shutouts.  DiPietro made OHL history this season by setting the league’s all-time shutout record with 17 and finishes his illustrious career with 19.  He finishes his four-year OHL career as one of the best all-time winning a 2017 Memorial Cup title, earning 2018 Goaltender of the Year honours, representing Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and backstopping his teams to 98 wins in 174 games.  The third round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2017 NHL Draft made his NHL debut on February 11 during his stint as an emergency recall.

This marks the sixth time the 67’s have led the league with the fewest goals against with past award recipients including Craig Hillier and Seamus Kotyk (172 GA) in 1997-98, Tim Keyes and Craig Hillier (177 GA) in 1996-97, Darren Pang and Greg Coram (223 GA) in 1983-84, Jim Ralph (264 GA) in 1980-81, Michael Larocque (216) in 1971-72

The Dave Pinkney Trophy is awarded annually to the goaltending tandem from the team that allows the fewest goals against during the regular season.  Last season, Matthew Villalta and Tyler Johnson were part of a Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds club that allowed 186 goals against to claim the award.

F.W. “Dinty” Moore Trophy (Best Rookie GAA): Ethan Taylor, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Ethan Taylor posted the best-goals-against-average among OHL rookie goaltenders in 2018-19 with a mark of 3.24.

The 17-year-old from Trenton, Ont., appeared in 22 games for the Greyhounds this season playing to a 10-1-2-1 record with a .894 save percentage.  Chosen by the Greyhounds in the ninth round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection from the Quinte Red Devils Minor Midgets, Taylor played Midget AAA a year ago in Quinte before committing to the club in September.  He won his first career start on October 5 turning aside 36 shots in a 4-1 win over the Kingston Frontenacs.

Taylor becomes the sixth Greyhound to win the award following current teammate Matthew Villalta (2.41 GAA in 2016-17), Kyle Gajewski (2.55 GAA in 2004-05), Kevin Hodson (3.22 GAA in 1990-91), Gerry Iuliano (3.64 GAA in 1983-84), and John Vanbiesbrouck (4.14 GAA in 1980-81).

The trophy is named after F.W. “Dinty” Moore of Port Colborne, ON, who served as OHA President from 1942-45.  In order to qualify for this rookie award, a goaltender must play a minimum of 900 minutes.  Jordan Kooy of the London Knights won the award last season with a 3.11 goals-against-average, with other recent recipients including Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires (2.45 GAA) and Michael McNiven of the Owen Sound Attack (2.79 GAA) winning in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

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Goaltenders: Is This the Year For the OHL?

At the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, the Los Angeles Kings selected Jacob Ingham of the Mississauga Steelheads in the sixth round, 175th overall, while the Las Vegas Goldens Knights chose London Knights puck stopper Jordan Kooy in the seventh round, 208th overall.

At the 2017 Draft, the Vancouver Canucks selected Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires in the third round, 64th overall. Also selected in the third round was Sault Ste Marie netminder Matthew Villalta, 72nd overall by the Los Angeles Kings. Kaden Fulcher of the Hamilton Bulldogs and Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals were signed as free agents by the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins respectively before the start of the 2017-2018 season.

Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

In 2016, Tyler Parsons of the London Knights was selected in the second round, 54th overall, by the Calgary Flames. The New Jersey Devils would nab Evan Cormier from the Saginaw Spirit in the fourth round, 105th overall.  Dylan Wells of the Peterborough Petes was selected in the fifth round. 123rd overall, by the Flames neighbours the Edmonton Oilers. while the Carolina Hurricanes would take Jeremy Helvig of the Kingston Frontenacs in the fifth round, 134th overall.

In 2015, MacKenzie Blackwood would be the only Ontario Hockey League goaltender selected at the draft. The New Jersey Devils would select Blackwood in the second round, 42 overall.

Ask around in hockey circles and many would tell you that goaltending is an area of weakness in the OHL when it comes to the NHL Draft. 2017 looks good at the moment, but Fulcher and Keyser were never drafted which means all 31 NHL Clubs passed on them seven times.

So why would 2019, which takes place in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 21-22 be any different? Well the simple answer is: I don’t know. I don’t have some magic crystal ball that helps predict the future. Just the sheer number of goaltenders entering their draft year adds some intrigue. Add to them a couple of undrafted goaltenders that will be re-entering the draft adds another dimension.

During the 2016-2017 OHL season, an undrafted (in the OHL) Villalta drew my attention very early on. And as the season progressed, his draft stock began to rise. All the way to number 72 in the draft. So, is there another Matthew Villalta knocking at the door in 2018-2019?

When NHL Central Scouting released it’s players to watch list earlier this month, five OHL goaltenders were found on the list. They include Mack Guzda of the Owen Sound Attack as a B prospect, Luke Cavallin of the Flint Firebirds, Hunter Jones of the Peterborough Petes, Nicholas Daws of the Guelph Storm, and Kari Piiroinen of the Windsor Spitfires, all as C prospects. (a B prospect is considered a second or third rounder while a C prospect is considered a fourth, fifth or sixth round prospect).

It was no surprise to see Guzda at the top of Central’s list as he already had the benefit of an OHL season under his belt. During the 2017-2018 season, Guzda appeared in 30 games for the Attack posting a 3.20 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. But it has been a less-then-expected start for Guzda and his Attack Team. In seven games he boasts a 2-5-0-0 record with a save percentage at just .859 and a goals-against average of 4.11. But I have no doubt that he will improve on those stats as the season progresses.

Much like Villalta during the 2016-2017 season, if you haven’t started paying attention to the Petes’ Hunter Jones, then you should probably start now before you lag behind. He leads all OHL goaltenders in appearances (10), minutes played (539), shots faced (323), saves (303) and wins (8). Among puck stoppers who have played in four or more contests, he trails only Kooy in goals-against average (2.22 versus 2.01) and leads all netminders in save percentage (.938).

In eight of the complete games Jones has started this season, he has faced under 35 shots just twice. He had one poor start, allowing 6 goals against the Hamilton Bulldogs in two periods on September 29, 2018. His other starts would be a record setting pace.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, not making Central Scouting’s opening list is Hamilton netminder Zachary Roy. One has to wonder if things keep going the way they are in the Steel City, if there will be a goaltending controversy in the crease. Nick Donofrio, who went undrafted in 2018 and re-enters the draft, was the backup last season to Fulcher and the incumbent starter for this season.

It’s been a slow start for Donofrio, posting a 3-3-1-0 record with a 3.74 goals-against average and .881 save percentage. Roy was given his first OHL start on October 10 and put in a brilliant 42 save performance in a 5-2 victory over the Windsor Spitfires. A week later, Roy was given the start against the Mississauga Steelheads stopping 29 of 30 shots and getting the 5-1 victory. He was rewarded for his performance and started in back-to-back games and getting a 6-5 overtime victory on the road against the Oshawa Generals. Roy now has a 2.61 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

Perhaps the goaltender that is going to be the toughest to get a read on is Flint Firebirds’ Luke Cavallin. The Firebirds are off to a dismal start at 0-9-0-0 having allowed the most goals (53) and scoring the fewest (17) so wins are going to be tough to come by in Flint.

Emanuel Vella is the number one goaltender in Flint. Cavallin has only appeared in two complete games this season, five in total. He’s come on in relief of Vella twice, not allowing a goal on both occasions. But he was also given the hook on one occasion in a game everyone would like to forget, a 12-1 drubbing by the Erie Otters.

The only way to get a good read on Cavallin is to hope he plays and plays a lot and to constantly have eyes on his performance and not paying attention to the outcome. Because the outcome may not be pretty.

Kari Piiroinen of the Windsor Spitfires is in kind of a similar situation. Not that the Spits are the Firebirds, but that you need to have eyes on Piiroinen constantly as you never know when he will make his next appearance. At least that is what one would think when you are backing up the best netminder in the OHL in Micheal DiPietro.

However, the Finnish born Piiroinen has started three of the Spits nine games and came on in relief of DiPietro in another. He boasts a 2-2-0-0 record with a goals-against average of 2.70 and a save percentage of .913, all of which are better then DiPietro’s stats. It’s possible the Spitfires might consider trading DiPietro in order to recoup some assets and that could benefit Piiroinen and his draft stock.

In Sault Ste Marie, Villalta is the incumbent for the Greyhounds. They began the season with OHL veteran Tyler Johnson as his backup, but he has since made the jump to the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. In comes Ethan Taylor, who was not on Central Scouting’s list.

Taylor has gotten 2 starts in the last ten days and has come on in relief of Villalta where he stopped all 15 shots he faced in a 6-2 loss the Ottawa 67’s handed the Greyhounds. Taylor has exceptional numbers: a 1-0-1-0 record to go along with his 1.65 goals-against average and .973 save percentage. There was a lot of intrigue surrounding Taylor, and with Johnson moving on, a window of opportunity has opened up for him. Now he has to make the best of his chances when his number is called upon.

The Guelph Storm’s Nicholas Daws did make Central Scouting’s list. He appeared in 14 games for the Storm a season ago posting a goals-against average of 4.06 and a save percentage of .880 and a 1-7-1-1 record. He has started three games for the Storm this season and his stats have regressed from a year ago with his 4.25 goals-against average and .843 saver percentage and a 2-1-0-0 record.

Daws is backing up veteran Anthony Popovich and will likely see more starts then the other backups who are draft eligible. The Storm currently lead the Midwest Division, second overall in the league, with a 6-2-1-0 record but with the league’s eighth worst goals allowed (33).  There is a real opportunity here for Daws and the Storm if he can put it all together and improve on his early season start.

Ryan Dugas of the 3-7-0-0 Kingston Frontenacs is another netminder not on Central Scouting’s list. The Fronts occupy the basement of the East Division and are third from the bottom in the entire league. Although he is backing up veteran Brendan Bonello, Dugas has been a bright spot of sorts for Kingston.

Dugas has appeared in 4 games, one of those being in relief of Bonello, and has a 2-1-0-0 record. His first OHL game was a 27 save shutout performance on September 29 against the Erie Otters. He holds a 2.52 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. He is Kingston’s goalie of the future and if he can steal some starts – and wins – he will draw some attention.

Finally, we have to give a mention to Barrie Colts netminder Jet Greaves. Currently behind veteran Kai Edmonds and 2017 Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Maksim Zhukov who the Colts selected in the 2018 Import Draft, I really like Greaves coming into the season if not for name alone.

The fact is that Edmonds and Zhukov were not getting it done for the Colts, who sit second to last in the Central Division and Greaves got a chance and has outperformed his partners. Although he has a 1-1-0-0 record, his loss came against the Mississauga Steelheads in which he stopped 28 of 30 shots and his teammates could only score once.

Greaves holds a 1.52 goals-against average with a .949 save percentage. It could be in the Colts best interest to give him more starts right now and see if he can run with it.

With all that said and out of the way, 2019 is not the best draft class to come out of the OHL. In fact, it could be one of the worst ever for the OHL. And that could bode well for a goaltending class that is better then usual – at least in sheer numbers.