As I write this, we're about 2 hours from puck drop, commencing the 2012-2013 OHL season. Perfect timing for the final installment of my season preview; a look at this year's awards.
Enjoy (and flame away).
Red Tilson Trophy (MVP) - Mark Scheifele
Too be honest, I was a bit disappointed in Scheifele's play last year. After coming back from Winnipeg, I felt like he never really found his groove, or terrific chemistry with his linemates. His progression as a player didn't hit the point that I expected it to (which is a pretty high level). This year, he doesn't have to worry about the NHL (for now) and I have very high expectations for Barrie as a Conference contender. Even when the NHL resumes, I think he'll end up spending another year in Barrie to hone his skills and grow into his body. Needless to say, I expect a huge year. If I were to have a second choice, it'd be Ryan Murphy in Kitchener. The Rangers are going to have a monster year and I expect Murphy to have a bounce back season (after last year's mild disappointment). A Ryan Ellis-esque year could be in order for the new Rangers captain. Others to consider would be Ryan Strome or Dougie Hamilton in Niagara (if they stick around), Malcolm Subban in Belleville, Sean Monahan in Ottawa (if he gets the 67's to overachieve), and Vincent Trocheck in Saginaw (again if he gets the Spirit to overachieve).
OHL Goaltender of the Year - Malcolm Subban
As much as I want to go with John Gibson here, I'm taking Subban because I expect him to play more of a crucial role in his team's performance. The Rangers are a great team without Gibson, and he's going to lose starts to Franky Palazzese so that they can keep him fresh. Subban has little competition in Belleville and, as long as he's healthy, he should see a substantial amount of the starts. Not to mention he's extremely skilled and is going to have a lot of motivation to play well so that he can earn the starter's role for Team Canada at the WJC's. Both Subban and Gibson have had tough times staying healthy in their OHL careers thus far, so it's probably worth noting a few other contenders. I think Matt Mahalak in Plymouth has a great shot as an underdog, as does overager JP Anderson, as he tries to bounce back from a bit of an off year.
Max Kaminsky Trophy (Defenseman of the Year) - Ryan Murphy
This one is Murphy's to lose IMO. If, or when, the NHL heats up again, Dougie Hamilton should be gone to Boston. Meanwhile, Murphy should still be in Kitchener leading the Rangers to the top of the Western Conference standings. I think he's got a lot to prove after last season's mild misfire and he's got way too much talent to not progress and dominate in his final year in the league. Heck, maybe he can even crack the WJC team this year! A darkhorse could be Ryan O'Connor in Barrie. I think the Colts are going to have a big year and he's their new captain. As an overager, he'll be playing for a contract and should be able to pretty up pretty gaudy numbers. Ryan Sproul and Slater Koekkoek are two others I think will have big years. Another dark horse? Connor Murphy if he can stay healthy.
Emms Family Award (Rookie of the Year) - Connor McDavid
Come on, would you expect anyone else? I've seen McDavid play a few times now and he's the real deal folks. And while Erie may have stunk the joint up last year, they've got a fair amount of talent at forward. McDavid will have people to play with. An 80+ point season isn't outside the realm of possibility. Joshua Ho-Sang seems to be the other big contender among the 2012 Draft class. He'll get a lot of opportunity to put up points in Windsor. A dark horse from the recent draft crop might be Robby Fabbri in Guelph who appears to be getting every opportunity to play in tough offensive situations. As far as Imports go, Sergei Tolchinsky could have a big offensive year in the Soo.
Leo Lalande Trophy (Overager of the Year) - Ryan O'Connor
I said he was my dark horse pick for the Max Kaminsky, so I'm sticking with him for this. I've always been a fan and have long thought him to be an underrated player. He had a monster preseason, is the new captain of his team and is motivated to earn an NHL contract. A few others to consider; Charles Sarault (who should put up a ton of points in Sarnia this year), Colin Miller (who I think will breakout offensively this season), Alex Aleardi (took a big step forward last year and should do the same this year), and Steve Shipley (who'll be looking for an NHL deal after being spurned by Buffalo).
Matt Leyden Trophy (Coach of the Year) - George Burnett
Maybe a bit of a surprise here, but the Bulls have been near the bottom of the East for the last few years. They certainly have the talent this year to make run for the Eastern Conference, and if they do, Burnett should be commended for the club's improvement (despite having pretty much the same personnel). The big boys up near the top like Steve Spott, Mike Vellucci, Stan Butler, etc, should all garner attention. The other big one for me could be Scott Walker, if he's able to turn the Storm into a top 4 team this year (they're young but they have the talent).
Eddie Powers Trophy (Scoring Leader) - Seth Griffith
Traditionally, the trophy has been won by players who don't play at the WJC's. Griffith is someone I don't expect to do that, and he's going to have a TON of talent to play around in London. After his breakout year last season, he's my early pick for the scoring lead. Overager Charles Sarault could also make a charge up the charts. And some of the top talent in the league like Mark Scheifele, Alex Galchenyuk, and Ryan Strome should all be up there too (even if they're locks for the the WJC's). I expect Sean Monahan to be up there, if he can get some scoring help. Ditto for Vincent Trocheck and Nick Cousins. Perhaps a sleeper? How about Max Domi in London and Zach Mitchell in Guelph? Or Stefan Noesen in Plymouth?
Goal Scoring Leader - Kerby Rychel
Seth Griffith would probably be the easy pick here, but I'm taking Rychel because he doesn't always have to score the pretty goals. He could be having an off night, but still pot 2 because of his ability to work near the crease. Other than the aforementioned Griffith, I expect Tobias Rieder to be up near the top again. I also expect Stefan Noesen to be for the same reason as Rychel. Zack Mitchell has a great release and should score a ton of goals this year. I also expect Lucas Lessio to have a monster year and hit the 40 goal mark, inching closing to the top of this list. After the preseason he had, Sarnia's Reid Boucher could also get up there.
All Star Teams
1st Team All Stars
C - Mark Scheifele
LW - Kerby Rychel
RW - Seth Griffith
D - Ryan Murphy
D - Ryan O'Connor
G - Malcolm Subban
Coach - George Burnett
2nd Team All Stars
C - Sean Monahan
LW - Stefan Noesen
RW - Tobias Rieder
D - Ryan Sproul
D - Dougie Hamilton
G - John Gibson
Coach - Steve Spott
3rd Team All Stars
C - Alex Galchenyuk
LW - Lucas Lessio
RW - Zach Mitchell
D - Connor Murphy
D - Scott Harrington
G - Matt Mahalak
Coach - Scott Walker
BRING ON THE SEASON!