OHL Red Tilson Nominees – West
The Ontario Hockey League has announced its nominees for its most outstanding player award.
The award allows one nominee from each team in the OHL to be nominated, which means that, this year in particular, there are many exceptional players who will not be eligible. Consider the top two OHL point scorers during the regular season, Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome.
That being said, here are a look at the nominees from the Western conference and the logic behind why they deserve to win.
Connor McDavid – Erie Otters – An easy choice for most fans, and the consensus number one pick in the upcoming draft, he was simply magical when in the lineup this season. Had McDavid played in all 68 games this season, he would have been on pace to record 175 points and his continuous highlight reel would be nearly twice as long. Perhaps the most skilled hockey player since Sidney Crosby would be a lock for the award if it hadn’t been for missing 21 games due to a hand injury, and he still might be. A generational talent.
Tyler Bertuzzi – Guelph Storm – Coming off of a strong playoff performance in 2014, Bertuzzi had shown many signs of catapulting into the spotlight this season and he fully lived up to it. Finishing just shy of 100 points (43-55-98), he led the Storm night in and out with the physical presence and high end skill that made him a second round pick by one the NHL’s most prolific drafting teams, the Detroit Red Wings.
Ryan MacInnis – Kitchener Rangers – Speed kills. And few OHL snipers can skate with the deftness and acuity of MacInnis. His size gives him the advantage over the majority of other candidates to dominate next year with a more developed supporting cast in Kitchener.
Max Domi – London Knights – Although getting cut from an NHL roster after being a first round pick with NHL family ties can be devastating at first, it rarely doesn’t work out. In the case of Arizona top prospect Max Domi, getting sent back to London was exactly what was needed. Although he may have been NHL ready last October, a year with the ‘C’ on his jersey leading a young team to a third place finish, not to mention a Gold Medal and World Junior top forward honors look outstanding on an already impressive resume.
Zach Nastasiuk – Owen Sound Attack – Playing in his fourth full season. Nastasiuk captained the Attack to a bit of a surprise fifth place finish and first round playoff matchup against Guelph. His point totals have gone up every year since he’s been in the league and his size matched with his ability to stay disciplined (34 PIMs) on a team that took the third most penalties overall, demonstrate exactly why Nastasiuk is representing Owen Sound for this award.
Alex Nedeljkovic – Plymouth – After an impressive 5-0 win on the road in London in their season opener, the Whalers were a disappointment in 2014-2015, finishing just one point out of last place in the west. One continued bright spot however, was in between the pipes as the American born netminder picked up right where he left off after a very impressive 2013-2014 season. With a lifetime GAA of 2.88 and 65 career wins in already 165 starts, expect big things again next season.
Connor Brown – Saginaw Spirit – Brown’s first season with the Spirit was as expected with the slightly undersized forward finishing with career highs in goals, assists and points. Despite playing occasionally in the shadow of linemate Dylan Sadowy, the 18 year old impressed all around and his 98 PIMs led the Spirit.
Jakob Chychrun – Sarnia Sting – After a midseason trade that sent Anthony DeAngelo to the Greyhounds, a fellow American born defenseman was forced to take the reins on the Stings potent powerplay. 16 goals from a 17 year old blueliner in just 42 games is impressive at any level, and at 6’2 already, this guy is still not draft eligible for another year and he should flourish as an impactful player over a full season next year.
Anthony DeAngelo – Sault St. Marie Greyhounds – Four seasons into his OHL career, DeAngelo may be the best offensive defenseman to come out of the league since Drew Doughty. Yes, you read that right. Averaging two points a game after being traded to the first place Greyhounds and finishing second on team scoring with 89 points, DeAngelo’s slight lack of size is almost completely extraneous compared to his impeccable skating ability, vision, and all around offensive toolkit. He has finished three of his four OHL seasons with over a point per game and was a stalwart on defense for the Americans at the World Juniors. A player of this impact and caliber cannot be overlooked.
Trevor Murphy – Windsor Spitfires – Over a point a game to lead his hometown team, Murphy’s offensive game took leaps and bounds in 2014-2015. Despite his stature and occasional lack of physicality, his positioning and first pass ability are rather impressive and the 19 year old has a strong case to win this award.
As I said, this award comes with a bit of an asterisk; it is not an MVP award, and its format relegates some of its most impressive players. Names like Marner, Strome, Dvorak, and Tolchinsky are among those who’s seasons could have deserved top player honors in other years, but team depth is more vital and all of those players had someone else on they’re team who’s value eclipsed even theirs.
Winner: Max Domi – London Knights – Domi was Mr. Everything for the Knights since the day he was returned. Helping lead a team with a cast of young stars that would have been otherwise lost without their captain. He was the heartbeat of the team playing in all situations and showing Dave Tippett and the Coyotes that he would have been more than capable of being a mainstay on their roster the entire year, but fret not, he will be there next year. No questions asked.
Connor McDavid – Erie Otters
Anthony DeAngelo – Sault St. Marie Greyhounds