Season kicks off tomorrow! My awards predictions conclude my 2013/2014 season preview.
Red Tilson Trophy (MVP) - Connor McDavid
If the Erie Otters are as good as I think they're going to be (home ice in the first round), it's going to be because Connor McDavid is an unstoppable force. He makes everyone he plays with a better player. John Tavares won this award in 06/07 as a 17 year old sophomore and I think McDavid replicates that. The toughest competition McDavid will face for this one are Max Domi and Jake Paterson IMO. But as high as Domi's scoring totals are going to be, he won't be as valuable to his team as McDavid is. The Saginaw Spirit are going to need Jake Paterson to be the best goaltender in the league, like I know he can be, if they want to compete for the division. If they, and he, have a solid year, he'll get consideration for this award. Aaron Ekblad could be a darkhorse if he has a breakout year offensively, as could OA's Zach Hall and Eric Locke. I also think Kerby Rychel could get consideration if the Spitfires perform above their projected level.
OHL Goaltender of the Year - Jake Paterson
You might have guessed this to be my selection after my glowing endorsement above. I think Saginaw will have a pretty solid year and Paterson is going to be the main reason for that. His stats have never been overwhelmingly impressive, but he gets the job done and is IMO the best goalie in the league right now. I think Franky Palazzese is the second best preseason option for this prediction. I feel like he's going to have a good year for the Wolves as he attempts to earn himself an NHL contract. Outside of that, I think you need to look at Anthony Stolarz and Alex Nedeljkovic as the other top contenders. A darkhorse could be Matt Mahalak in Kingston, if the Fronts really explode and he has a bounce back year.
Max Kaminsky Trophy (Defenseman of the Year) - Aaron Ekblad
The race for the Max Kaminsky is WIDE open this year. There are a lot of great defenseman in the league this year who could challenge for this award. I'm going with Ekblad with the assumption that his offensive numbers really explode this year. If he can hit the 50 point plateau, on top of providing terrific defense and leadership, I think he's a terrific candidate. If he stays healthy, I also expect Slater Koekkoek to have a huge year in Windsor. My other top selections are perhaps more "outside of the box." I think Adam Pelech has a great shot in Erie, if he can stay healthy and continue to improve his offensive numbers. I also like Connor Carrick in Plymouth, where he's criminally underrated. Obviously you can't forget about Darnell Nurse should he return from Edmonton. And Matt Finn in Guelph is a great candidate for a bounce back season.
Emms Family Award (Rookie of the Year) - Matthew Spencer
As I mentioned in the Eastern Conference write up, I have high expectations for the Petes this year. I think they're going to have a big year and Spencer will be a big part of that. I realize that this has traditionally been a forwards award, but Aaron Ekblad did win this two years ago. Spencer will put up some points and be a part of a winning team. Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, and Nikita Korostelev are also going to be put in terrific situations to score, and score big. They'll be surrounded by top flight talent and could have big statistical seasons. Of the 96's eligible for this award, I think Ryan MacInnis has the greatest potential to take this one home. He will get a ton of opportunity to shine in Kitchener.
Leo Lalande Trophy (Overager of the Year) - Zach Hall
Hall will be replacing Mark Scheifele as Barrie's go to offensive player this year and I think he's going to be right up there among the league's scoring leaders. With his personal success, combined with the team's success, I think he's the top candidate for this award. I think the two best candidates after Hall are goaltenders in Franky Palazzese and Matt Mahalak. Both will be critical to their team's success this year. If Eric Locke returns, he jumps to the top of this list, but I expect him to stick in the AHL. A wild card could be Alex Broadhurst if he's returned to the Knights this year. On defense, Alex Basso is a great candidate, if he can find a team to play for (aka a trading partner with Sarnia) early enough into the season.
Matt Leyden Trophy (Coach of the Year) - Todd Gill
If you read my East predictions, I've got the Fronts higher than other people are predicting. If Gill can get his young team to focus and play mature hockey, he's definitely going to deserve this award. Two other possible favourites for this award would be Scott Walker and Jody Hull. Walker, because the Storm should be a terrific team and could even battle the Knights for first in the division if they can get good goaltending. And Hull because he should get the Petes to continue to play well for him, as they did in the 2nd half of last year.
Eddie Powers Trophy (Scoring Leader) - Connor McDavid
I'm going with McDavid on this one...in a close race over Max Domi, because I think those extra games he gets in at the beginning of the year could be the difference. I expect Domi to be back, but not after missing a few weeks of action. Meanwhile, McDavid will be ripping up gutted OHL rosters during that time until everyone is back from NHL camps. Zach Hall and Eric Locke (if he returns) are definite candidates as overagers. I also think Kerby Rychel is a darkhorse candidate if the Spitfires play well. Should he see enough game action, Sean Monahan might also be someone to consider (as long as he returns).
Goal Scoring Leader - Kerby Rychel
For the second year in a row, I'm going with Rychel in this category. Last year he burned me. This year I'm hoping that's not the case. I truly think his goal scoring prowess, in combination with his size and experience will make him a 50 goal scorer (possibly more) this year. Outside of that, I look at Scott Kosmachuk as another great candidate as a pure sniper and someone who is going to be playing with a lot of talented playmakers. And obviously Max Domi and Bo Horvat are going to score their share of goals while setting each other up. A darkhorse could be one of Connor Brown or Andre Burakovsky, thanks to the McDavid factor.
All Star Teams
1st Team All Stars
C - Connor McDavid
LW - Kerby Rychel
RW - Scott Kosmachuk
D - Aaron Ekblad
D - Slater Koekkoek
G - Jake Paterson
Coach - Todd Gill
2nd Team All Stars
C - Max Domi
LW - Bo Horvat
RW - Connor Brown
D - Matt Finn
D - Darnell Nurse
G - Franky Palazzese
Coach - Scott Walker
3rd Team All Stars
C - Zach Hall
LW - Andre Burakovsky
RW - Spencer Watson
D - Adam Pelech
D - Connor Carrick
G - Anthony Stolarz
Coach - Jody Hull