OHL Announces 2021-2022 Academic Player of the Year Winners

Toronto, Ont. – The Ontario Hockey League today announced the recipients of the League’s three Academic Player of the Year awards for the 2021-22 season.

Owen Beck of the Mississauga Steelheads is the winner of the Bobby Smith Trophy as Scholastic Player of the Year presented by CIBC, Adam Varga of the Ottawa 67’s has earned the Roger Neilson Memorial Award as the Top Post-Secondary School Student for a second straight year, and Owen Sound Attack defenceman Cal Uens has been recognized as the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award recipient as OHL’s Top High School Student.

Beck will serve as the OHL’s nomination for the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year Award.


Bobby Smith Trophy (CIBC Scholastic Player of the Year) – Owen Beck (Mississauga Steelheads:

Draft eligible forward Owen Beck of the Mississauga Steelheads is the 2021-22 recipient of the Bobby Smith Trophy awarded to the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year presented by CIBC.

Beck is the latest Steelheads player to earn academic recognition from a program that has produced recent Bobby Smith Trophy winners in Thomas Harley (2019) and Nicolas Hague (2016). The 18-year-old centreman has been busy in the classroom, carrying a heavy course load that includes Advanced Functions (96%), University Chemistry (93%), Kinesiology (94%), Calculus (91%) and University Biology (93%), resulting in an overall average of over 93% in his Grade 12 studies at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School. On the ice, Beck came in as the 10th ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings for the 2022 NHL Draft following a rookie season that yielded 21 goals, 30 assists and 51 points in 68 games for the Steelheads.

“Education has always been important to me throughout my hockey career,” said Beck. “Being able to balance two busy activities has given me life skills and characteristics that I will use for the rest of my life. On top of that, as much as every hockey player wants to make a career out of hockey, not everybody always can for reasons beyond the person’s control. I have worked very hard over the past several years to make sure I have put myself in a position where if hockey unfortunately doesn’t work out I have a solid education and many opportunities available to move forward with another career.”

A native of Port Hope, Ont., Beck emerged as one of the OHL’s premier presences in the faceoff circle, winning 60.6% of his draws. He was voted the Eastern Conference’s top face-off man in the OHL Coaches Poll. Following an impressive season that included being named the OHL’s Rookie of the Month in November, Beck helped the Steelheads reach the second round of the OHL Playoffs, recording six points (1-5–6) in 10 games. He was Mississauga’s second round (29th overall) pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection.

“The Mississauga Steelheads would like to congratulate Owen Beck for being named this year’s Bobby Smith Trophy recipient,” said Steelheads Head Coach and General Manager James Richmond. “The entire organization is so proud of Owen for everything we all see every game on the ice but even more so for what he does in the classroom. This is a huge accomplishment! Owen’s commitment and dedication both in the classroom and on the ice is exceptional and he’s a very deserving recipient of this prestigious award.”

Each year the Bobby Smith Trophy is presented to the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence.  The trophy is in honour of Bobby Smith, a former Ottawa 67’s star who exhibited a standard of excellence in both of these areas.  Past recipients since the award was first presented in 1980 include three-time winner Dustin Brown (Guelph 2001-03), Steven Stamkos (Sarnia 2007), Ryan Ellis (Windsor 2008), Matt Duchene (Brampton 2009), Erik Gudbranson (Kingston 2010), Dougie Hamilton (Niagara 2011), Adam Pelech (Erie 2012), Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie 2013), back-to-back winner Connor McDavid (Erie 2014, ’15), Sasha Chmelevski (Ottawa 2017), Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie 2018), Thomas Harley (Mississauga 2019) and Cole Perfetti (Saginaw 2020).

Next in line for the award were a pair of other draft eligibles in forward Matthew Poitras of the Guelph Storm and top-ranked prospect Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs.


Roger Neilson Memorial Award (Top Post-Secondary Student) – Adam Varga (Ottawa 67’s):

For the second straight year, Ottawa 67’s forward Adam Varga is the recipient of the Roger Neilson Memorial Award presented annually to the League’s Top Academic Post-Secondary Student.

Varga managed to exceed his 2020-21 benchmark of a 94% average, achieving a 95.8% mark over seven courses at the University of Maryland, excelling in Human Resources Management (100%), Technology and Culture (98%), Philosophy (98%), Biology (98%), Psychology (95%), Information Systems and Organizations (94%) and Integrated Market Communications (88%).

Varga joins former Mississauga Steelheads teammate Stephen Gibson (2017 & ’18), Windsor Spitfires graduate Derek Lanoue (2010 & ’11) and past 67’s netminder Danny Battochio (2005 & ’06) as the fourth back-to-back winner in League history.

“I am honoured to receive the Roger Neilson Memorial Award for the second time,” said Varga. “At a young age, my family instilled in me the importance of continuing my education. The OHL has allowed me to do just that. I would not be able to achieve this honour without the resources provided to me by the Ottawa 67’s organization. I want to thank the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, James Boyd, Jan Egert, and Eileen Duffin for the remarkable support they have given me to succeed. Coach Dave Cameron has also had a tremendous influence on me. From day one, he preached the importance of hard work and dedication. Not just on the ice but in everything I do.”

A 20-year-old native of Bel Air, Maryland, Varga recorded four goals, 11 assists and 15 points in 40 games with the 67’s in his overage season. The 6-foot-1, 181Ib. right-winger appeared in 205 career regular season contests between Ottawa and Mississauga, recording 18 goals, 30 assists and 48 points in the process. He was originally Mississauga’s seventh round (121st overall) pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.

“Adam’s strong leadership skills are evident both on the ice and in his approach to academics,” said 67’s General Manager James Boyd. “He has once again proven to be a diligent student athlete with excellent time management skills. What stands out most during his time with the 67’s is Adam’s relentless work ethic and perseverance towards every task that he dedicates his time to. We congratulate Adam and are all excited to follow and support him in the next phase of his career.”

The Roger Neilson Memorial Award is named in honour of the Hall of Fame Coach who served behind the Peterborough Petes bench in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Neilson, a former high school teacher, was a pioneer in stressing the importance of education to all of his players. Varga is the third different 67’s player to receive the honour following back-to-back recipient Danny Battochio (2005, 2006) while joining Sasha Chmelevski (2019) as the second American-born player to have his name engraved on the trophy.

Finalists for the Roger Neilson Memorial Award include defencemen Luc Brzustowski of the Soo Greyhounds and Ryan Mast of the Sarnia Sting.


Ivan Tennant Memorial Award (Top Academic High School Student) – Cal Uens (Owen Sound Attack):

Owen Sound Attack defenceman Cal Uens is the 2021-22 recipient of the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award presented annually to the League’s Top Academic High School Student.

Uens achieved a 98.7% average in studies at Owen Sound District Secondary School, excelling in Business Leadership (100%), a pair of English courses (98%, 99%) and Challenge and Change in Society (98%). His impressive work ethic has resulted in him accumulating enough credits to graduate Grade 12 a year early, enabling him to begin taking University courses next season.

“It’s an honour to win the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award,” said Uens. “I would like to thank academic advisor Sarah Rowe and the Attack organization for giving me the best opportunities to be successful both on and off the ice.”

A 17-year-old native of Napanee, Ont., Uens recorded four goals, 14 assists and 18 points over 68 games in his rookie season on the Attack blue line. The 5-foot-8, 152Ib. defender was Owen Sound’s third round (42nd overall) choice in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection. He will be eligible for the NHL Draft in 2023.

“The Attack organization would like to congratulate Cal Uens on being named the recipient of this year‘s Ivan Tennant Memorial Award,” said Attack General Manager Dale DeGray. “Cal has been an incredibly dedicated individual both on and off the ice. Contributing in all 68 games this season and at the same time will finish with enough credits to graduate Grade 12 a year early. This in itself without the added commitment of playing in the OHL would be a tremendous feat. It is great to see that Cal’s drive in the classroom has been rewarded.”

The Ivan Tennant Memorial Award is given to the League’s Top Academic High School Player and is named in honour of Ivan Tennant, who spent a lifetime combining hockey and education. He was the Kitchener Rangers’ Education Consultant for 20 years and a key figure on the OHL’s Education Consultant’s Committee. Uens follows other recent Attack recipients in Logan LeSage (2020) and Mack Guzda (2018 & ’19). Hamilton Bulldogs forward Lawson Sherk claimed the award in 2021.

Finalists for the award included rookies Sam Alfano of the Peterborough Petes and Matthew Poitras of the Guelph Storm.


About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.

A Look at NHL Central Scouting’s Final Draft Ranking

So, I am not going to break down NHL Central Scouting’s rankings in its entirety, just those Ontario Hockey League players ranked (or not ranked). After all, this sight is all about the OHL, right?

Let’s begin in the blue paint. One name that we have been pushing on OHL Writers for most of the season is Patrick Leaver of the Oshawa Generals. We selected Leaver as our Draft Eligible Goaltender of the Year at the end of the regular season. Central scouting showed him a lot of love on their final list as Leaver had the highest jump among ranked OHL netminders climbing 13 spots from 29 on the midterm rankings to 16 on the final rankings.

Leaver wasn’t the only netminder with a massive jump. Niagara IceDogs Josh Rosenzweig went from unranked on the midterm list to 22 on the final list.

Of course, when you have risers, they must be accompanied by fallers and the OHL had their share. Brett Brochu of the London Knights dropped 15 spots from 16 to 31. Dom DiVincentiis of the North Bay Battalion dropped 10 spots from 14 to 24.  

When it comes to skaters, we have been big fans of Christian Kyrou of the Erie Otters since about the drop of the puck this season. We gave him serious consideration as our Draft Eligible Defenceman of the Year. In the annual OHL Coach’s Poll he was voted the most improved player in the Western Conference and the Most Underrated Player in the Western Conference as well as the second-best Offensive Defenceman in the Western Conference. Among draft eligible defencemen, he finished first in goals, second in points and third in assists. Central Scouting (finally) moved him up a whopping 131 spots from 179 to 48.

But that wasn’t the biggest jump. Matthew Maggio of the Windsor Spitfires jumped 149 spots from being not ranked (there were 251 players ranked on the midterm rankings so we used 252 as Maggio was not ranked) all the way up to 103 on the final rankings. Among draft eligible players, Maggio finished second in goals, assists and points. He was our runner up to Draft Eligible Forward of the Year. In the Coach’s Poll, he finished just ahead of Kyrou as the most improved player in the Western Conference and tied for third as the Hardest Worker in the Western Conference.

But the highest jump belonged to Amadeus Lombardi of the Flint Firebirds who moved up from not being ranked all the way to 94 on the final rankings. I can’t understand how he was not ranked on their midterm ranking, but they got this right.

Another player that deserves mentioning is David Goyette of the Sudbury Wolves who moved up 22 spots from 35 to 13. It’s a massive jump in its own right as that puts Goyette in the bottom third of the first round instead of middle second. And that’s a much-deserved spot for him. He deserves first round consideration.

Two of the biggest fallers are Ruslan Gazizov and Colton Smith, both of the London Knights who dropped from 62 to 149 and 129 to being not ranked respectively. For Comparison’s sake, Bob McKenzie had Gazizov at 15 and Smith as an honorable mention on his midterm rankings (only 80 players were ranked).

I do think that Central Scouting got a couple of Guelph Storm prospects correctly. For most of the season, Matthew Poitras was ranked ahead of Danny Zhilkin on a lot of lists. Poitras was ranked 23 on the midterm rankings and drops to 45 while Zhilkin was ranked 27 and drops to 35. We’re not saying we agree with the overall ranking, but that Zhilkin is rightfully ranked ahead of Poitras and we’ve been saying that for some time.

Vsevolod Gaidamak of the Ottawa 67’s was the highest ranked player on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to fall off the chart on their final ranking. He went from 121 to being not ranked.

Nice to see a little love for James Hardie of the Mississauga Steelheads who moved up 56 spots from 204 to 148. But we are also surprised to see Tucker Robertson drop 53 spots from 109 to 162.

If you are looking for our final list, it usually comes out after the Memorial Cup. Until then, here is NHL Central Scouting’s rankings with their midterm and final ranking shown:

PLAYERTEAMNHL MIDNHL FIN
Shane WrightKingston11
Pavel MintyukovSaginaw56
Luca Del Bel BelluzMississauga118
Owen BeckMississauga1910
David GoyetteSudbury3513
Matyas SapovalivSaginaw1323
Michael BuchingerGuelph3630
Ty NelsonNorth Bay2532
Bryce McConnell-BarkerSoo2834
Danny ZhilkinGuelph2735
Vinzenz RohrerOttawa4642
Hunter HaightBarrie4744
Matthew PoitrasGuelph2345
Christian KyrouErie17948
Paul LudwinskiKingston2949
Gavin HayesFlint6851
Isiah GeorgeLondon4253
Servac PetrovskyOwen Sound5258
Cedrick GuindonOwen Sound7659
Jake KarabelaGuelph6162
Pano FimisNiagara7775
Spencer SovaErie2880
Jorian DonovanHamilton3981
Evan KonyenSudbury8885
Beau JelsmaBarrie13788
Amadeus LombardiFlint25294
Matthew MaggioWindsor252103
Lucas EdmondsKingston107104
Kiriil KudryavtsevSoo103108
Liam ArnsbyNorth Bay66115
Rodwin DionicioNiagara132118
Kocha DelicSudbury200122
Jackson EdwardLondon75123
Tnias MathurinNorth Bay152126
Zakary LavoieMississauga124134
Samuel MayerPeterborough120139
James HardieMississauga204148
Ruslan GazizovLondon62149
Aidan CastleOwen Sound155151
Brady StonehouseOttawa138152
Nolan CollinsSudbury252153
Kyle JacksonNorth Bay182158
Tucker RobertsonPeterborough109162
Gavin BryantOwen Sound160179
Bryce CookNiagara163183
Braeden BowmanGuelph217194
Kai SchwindtMississauga252196
Sam AlfanoPeterborough190207
Max NamestnikovSarnia219211
Landon SimLondon213215
Kasper LarsenMississauga252220
Kirill SteklovLondon196221
Roberto ManciniSaginaw195222
Caeden CarlisleSoo252223
Vsevolod GaidamakOttawa121225
Colton SmithLondon129225
Stuart RolofsOshawa142225
Bryce CookNiagara163225
Tyler SavardSoo183225
Brody CraneLondon188225
Ryan AbrahamWindsor210225
Nolan DannSarnia225225
Simon SlavicekFlintLV225
GOALIESNHL MIDNHL  FIN
Andrew OkeSaginaw89
Nolan LalondeErie1014
Patrick LeaverOshawa2916
Charlie SchenkelSoo1217
Jacob OsterGuelph1518
Josh RosenzweigNiagara3322
Domenic DiVincentiisNorth Bay1424
Marco CostantiniHamilton3329

Matthew Poitras – Guelph Storm – Player Profile

Matthew Poitras of the Guelph Storm. Photo courtesy of OHL Images.
HTWTDOBPOSSHOOTSOHL DRAFTNHLCSCOUNTRY
5’11”170Mar 10, 2004CRight12th – 2020A Prospect NovemberCanada
SEASONLEAGUETEAMGPGAPTSPIM
2018-2019Under-15Whitby Wildcats16861439
2019-2020Under-16Whitby Wildcats3626426829
2020-2021OHLDID NOT PLAY00000

The missed season of 2020-2021 didn’t prevent NHL Central Scouting from ranking Guelph Storm’s Matthew Poitras as an A Prospect on their preliminary rankings. An A ranking is reserved for potential first round picks and Poitras was just one of two Ontario Hockey League players with an A ranking. Now, this is just my opinion, and it is early, but that will likely change mainly because there were no eyes on the OHL last season because of the pandemic. Well, there was no season.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of production so far in this OHL season. There is so much to like about Poitras’ game and sooner or later he is going to break out.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Poitras is his work ethic. He has an internal engine that just will not stop or pause. His ‘I will not be outworked’ mentality is hard to match. He goes into every battle with sheer determination and a will to win. That bodes well for Poitras, but he isn’t without talent.

Poitras is an excellent skater with very good speed, excellent mobility and superb edgework. With the puck on his stick, he has a ‘computer processor between the ears’ able to survey the ice with his excellent vision and make decisions in the blink of an eye. But he is also able to buy time and space for his teammates by maintaining possession be simply beating the opposition with his shiftiness to create space. To put it simply, he makes everyone around him better.

While Poitras is first and foremost a playmaker, he will not shy away from taking the shot if he deems it to be the best opportunity for his team. He puts a lot into his shot and he can get it off quickly and on target, but that’s not to say his accuracy isn’t a work in progress. While getting it on the 4 x 6-foot cage is a plus, too many times it’s in the goaltender’s chest and easily absorbed. Improving on his accuracy will allow him to pick holes in the goaltender. But it’s not just about picking corners. Shooting with a purpose, low and along the ice and into the pads for example, to create second chance opportunities via rebounds or dirty goals via goal mouth scrambles would be a benefit.

Known for being a two-way pivot, let’s start with the good. When Poitras gets the puck on his stick in his own zone, it’s one-and-done for the opposition. He transitions to offense as quick as anyone and he usually takes it right into the offensive zone.

Poitras has shown that he is also capable of breaking up plays with his stick and turning the other way. However, he doesn’t show consistency while defending. That is something to watch for as the becomes more accustomed to the OHL – seeing improvement as the season progresses. His positioning and play without the puck is kind of sporadic.

I think Poitras will top out as a second line center at the NHL level if he puts all the pieces together. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on as the season moves forward.

I wouldn’t bet against him.

HOCKEY CANADA RECOGNIZES 13 OHL PLAYERS INVITED TO 2021 NATIONAL SUMMER UNDER-18 TEAM DEVELOPMENT CAMP

CALGARY, Alta. – Hockey Canada has recognized 13 Ontario Hockey League players as part of a group of 45 players invited to attend Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team Development Camp at Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina Nation near Calgary from July 25th to Aug 4th. Sarnia Sting head coach Alan Letang, Ottawa 67’s goaltending coach Charles McTavish and Kingston Frontenacs equipment manager Chris Cook have also been recognized, along with Owen Sound Attack therapist Andy Brown, North Bay Battalion therapist Andrew Sachkiw and Guelph Storm mental performance consultant Dr. Ashwin Patel.

One OHL goaltender, four defencemen and eight forwards were recognized as invitees to the 11-day camp. Players will be split into two teams, Red and White, and participate in practices and intrasquad games, including combined practices and intrasquad games with Canada’s National Junior Team on Aug. 2nd and 3rd.

“This stage of our Summer Showcase is about bringing together the top under-18 players in Canada to work and learn from an elite-level coaching staff, giving them the necessary skills for their hockey development to grow and succeed,” said Alan Millar, director of player personnel for Hockey Canada. “We have an opportunity to connect with the players through on- and off-ice sessions to give them the tools that will only enhance their skill set as they advance through our program and prepare for the upcoming season.”

Letang, who was appointed head coach of the Sting late last month after serving behind the Attack bench, will return to Canada’s coaching staff. Letang won a gold medal as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and, as a player, helped Canada’s National Men’s Team to a 1998 Spengler Cup championship and won a bronze medal at the 2006 Deutschland Cup.

The camp is typically a stepping stone in evaluating and selecting Canada’s roster for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but Canada will not participate this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The focus will now turn to the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship next spring, where Canada will look to defend their gold medal after claiming the top prize at this year’s tournament in Texas.

OHL Players Invited to Canada’s National Summer Under-18 Team Development Camp

Goaltenders:
Domenic DiVincentiis (North Bay Battalion)

Defencemen:
Jorian Donovan (Hamilton Bulldogs)
Donovan McCoy (Sudbury Wolves)
Ty Nelson (North Bay Battalion)
Spencer Sova (Erie Otters)

Forwards:
Sam Alfano (Peterborough Petes)
Pano Fimis (Niagara IceDogs)
David Goyette (Sudbury Wolves)
Cedrick Guindon (Owen Sound Attack)
Hunter Haight (Barrie Colts)
Paul Ludwinski (Kingston Frontenacs)
Bryce McConnell-Barker (Soo Greyhounds)
Matthew Poitras (Guelph Storm)

Coaches:
Assistant Coach – Alan Letang (Sarnia Sting)
Goaltending Coach – Charles McTavish (Ottawa 67’s)
Equipment Manager – Chris Cook (Kingston Frontenacs)
Therapist – Andy Brown (Owen Sound Attack)
Therapist – Andrew Sachkiw (North Bay Battalion)
Mental Performance Consultant – Dr. Ashwin Patel (Guelph Storm)

About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.