The Oscars are upon us, and three quarters of the hockey season are up. If the Academy gave out a trophy for Best Starting Goaltender (QMJHL) who would it be?
Rookie of the Year: Brayden Schenn (Brandon)
The other Schenn hasn't even been drafted yet, and he's already got a hot-stuff younger brother. While Luke Schenn is a defender in the Rod Langway mold, bro Brayden is a crowd-pleasing offensive talent. Not eligible for '09, the 16 year-old did all kinds of nasty to the World U18s before coming back to the Dub on a mission. On February 1st, the 6'0, 195 lbs centre recorded his first career 5-point game. He's also posted better than a PPG every month in the league, totaling 59 in 56 games. Shortlist his name for next year's keeper league draft.
Best Performance by an Undrafted Player: Colin Long (Kelowna)
Every draft year has a player who goes unselected one year only to earn top-60 status the next. However, few have put up as impressive seasons as Colin Long. The Dub's point leader with a simply silly 90 in 61 games, it's hard to project where the 19 year-old will be drafted. A cerebral playmaker who excels on the cycle, Long could go 25th or 45th. And after his huge year, it wouldn't be out of the question for the 5'11, 174 lbs pivot to make noise in an NHL camp.
Best 17 year-old in a Supporting Role on a Contender: Kruise Reddick (Tri-City)
So what if the Americans have a loaded roster like few others in the CHL? Is it a bad thing that a 17 year-old can still earn top-six ice-time and sit top 15 in league scoring? Apparently it is, because the love for 5'9 forward Kruise Reddick has been sparse. A lot of it had to do with the enigma factor- no one knew what to make of the youngster's explosive breakout from elite PKer to early Dub scoring leader. People are apparently still trying to figure it out even as he keeps the pace up (22-45-67, +25 in 61 GP). Here, I'll help those people: Theo Fleury with Pavel Datsyuk's temper. Now go scoop him up as a steal next draft; he's '08 eligible.
Best Goalie in a Starting Role: Chet Pickard (Tri-City)
A pure game-stealer since Midget who is third-best in the WHL (2.09) in GAA tied for first in Sv% (.918) should be a lock, right? Well, there's the guy he's tied with. '08 eligibles Dustin Tokarski and Jacob DeSerres have filled the goaltending void, and just in time. A keeper class that looked stellar early has decayed rapidly, but not for the aforementioned two. Tokarski is a big-game machine for Spokane, owning the Telus Cup with a 1.74 GAA and 0.949 Sv% at age 16; DeSerres is a gifted technical goaltender who has stolen the spotlight from Tampa first rounder Riku Helenius in Seattle
But it says here neither is it. Try Chet Pickard of Tri-City. A shade behind DeSerres and Tokarski with a 0.918 Sv%, Pickard is a contender for WHL MVP. Despite starting the second-most games in the league, the 6'3 18 year-old is top ten in every major statistical category. Older than most of his draft peers, Pickard is nevertheless an enticing package of size and ability.
Rookie of the Year: Taylor Hall (Windsor)
Ladies and gentlemen, here's your first look at 2010. Despite being 16 for just four months, Taylor Hall is one of the CHL's most electrifying players. While comparisons to Bure run rampant, the 6'1 center smacks of another pure scorer: Guy Lafleur. At age 16, The Flower potted 30 goals in 43 games to lead the Quebec Aces; in comparison, Hall's 31 in 53 lead the Spitfires. If your keeper league can draft players this young, don't hesitate; you'll be hearing stories about this young phenom for the next three years.
Best Performance by an Undrafted Player: Justin Azevedo (Kitchener)
Disclaimer: this is the award for best performance, not necessarily pro potential. And despite scoring 111 points through 57 games, it's hard to imagine 19 year-old Justin Azevedo having a future in the show. Listed at 5'8 but probably 5'7, the fourth-year OHLer has been able to dominate his opposition with elite agility and hands. But don't get suckered in by the numbers; you may find yourself with the next Peter Sarno.
Award for Most Unsuspecting OHL Goal-Scoring Leader: Brett MacLean (Oshawa)
Almost everyone had an Oshawa General pegged to lead the O in pucks-in-net, but they all had the wrong one. Sure, we know John Tavares would miss some games due to the WJCs, but who know he'd decide to turn into Adam Oates instead of Mike Bossy? It's nice to see some versatility in the future superstar's game, but it's just weird seeing someone pass him in goals by a fair margin, only to be second in the O in helpers. But enough about that; this is Brett MacLean's award. A future star in his own right, the Coyotes have a good one in this garbage man with uncanny vision and hands.
Best Goaltender: Mike Murphy (Bellville)
Another enticing draft commodity due to age and simply unseen production, '07 eligible keeper Mike Murphy would have made any betting man rich. Seeing just 18 games of action last year, the 18 year-old has gotten into double as many already this season, and for good reason- his 0.930 save percentage leads the entire CHL among starting goaltenders. His 31 wins and 2.26 GAA aren't too shabby either.
Rookie of the Year: Olivier Roy (Cape Breton)
See also: QMJHL MVP, Goaltender of the Year. It's just been that kind of year for '09 eligible goalie Olivier Roy. After starting it off by posting the fourth-longest scoreless streak in league history- jumping ahead of Jose Theodore and Roberto Luongo's marks in the process- Roy became the first rookie goalie to receive Defensive Player of the Week honors twice in a season. However, last night was the 16 year-old's proudest moment. A 4-0 victory over PEI allowed Roy to break two records: Wins by a rookie goalie and shutouts by a rookie goalie. As someone else said, 2009 is God's gift to hockey. It almost makes up for having Gary Bettman as commissioner. Almost.
Best Performance by an Undrafted Player: Olivier Roy (Cape Breton)
Avery Award for Excellence in the Field of Asshattery: Danick Paquette (Lewiston)
30 goals, 200 PIM, late-born '90. What's the problem? Well, Danick Paquette could also win the Rick Nash Trophy with just 16 helpers to match his goal output; he'd also challenge for the Dave Andreychuk Speed Skating Bowl. But then again, few player get 30 goals and 200 PIM while being one of the youngest players in their draft class. If he pans out, Paquette will be a Carcillo clone.
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