Welcome back to the holiday edition of the Monday Night Major. With the Christmas break upon us, there simply isn’t a lot of action to talk about on the ice.
Without action on the ice and the Christmas break meaning the unofficial midway point of the OHL season, there is no better time to review some first-half awards.
To do this I completed a flash poll of media personalities, NHL scouts and hockey operations people from around the league to answer seven categories for what I call the Halfy Awards.
Over the next two weeks, the Major will break up the awards into two parts. This week the Halfy awards categories will be Best Goaltender, Best Rookie not named Shane Wright and Biggest Surprise.
Next week the categories to round out the awards will be the most improved player since last season, the player most likely dealt to a contender, best overage player and most underappreciated defenceman.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the first three Halfy Awards!
The way things have gone thus far to open the season, Nico Daws is the runaway leader for best goaltender.
Daws captured 82% of the vote while only one other goalie gained votes as the OHL’s best goaltender. That goaltender is Peterborough’s Hunter Jones.
It’s really an easy vote in my opinion as Daws has come out of nowhere to become the league’s best goalie and has even played his way onto Team Canada’s World Junior Championship roster. His game has come a long way from a year ago and he is a major reason why Guelph has gone from preseason rebuilder to contender.
Jones ironically found himself in a similar spot last season having taken over from Dylan Wells as an inexperienced starter. Jones has continued his development but is edged out by the improbable play of Daws; otherwise, he likely wins this category by a landslide.
Best Rookie Not Named Shane Wright
Peterborough strikes again in this category as Mason McTavish takes this award with a unanimous vote.
Let’s be honest as well, he likely deserves just as much billing in the award name as Wright but also has significantly more talent surrounding him with the Petes.
McTavish enters the league with perhaps one of the best shots on a 16-year-old to have ever come into the league. You could tell he has likely caused a lot of damage to his parent’s garage doors as he perfected that shot.
At the end of the day a few comments in the flash poll sum up McTavish’s success perfectly.
“20 goals by Christmas, enough said” and “he’s 16 and can dominate shifts” are two of the boldest and accurate statements about the Petes’ star rookie.
Once again the Guelph Storm land as the winner of the biggest surprise award for the first half.
Nobody expected the Guelph Storm to be in the position they are in entering the year and their play might be one of the bigger surprises in the last decade, let alone this season.
Guelph has done it with stellar goaltending and Pavel Gogolev scoring almost on a nightly basis, which as one respondent put it, “is a good recipe for early season success.”
Guelph wins this by capturing 83% of the vote while the only other thing voters would touch upon as a surprise is the Western Conference’s parity.
At the break, only ten points separated the first-place team and the tenth place team. Further to that the first place and eighth place teams are just seven points apart.
This really is incredible as it could really create a huge set of inflation at the OHL’s trade deadline with so many teams in the West involved. It could also really hold the market back in the West as well though with General Manager’s remaining undecided if they should go all-in or not with the parity being what it is.
That said, the parity in the Western Conference is something we have not seen in a long time and will be a great storyline to watch going forward.
I honestly thought that the recent changes in North Bay with Stan Butler vacating his roles would be considered as one of the bigger surprises however that was not the case. Perhaps if North Bay can rebound in the second half they could be a part of the second half surprises.
That’s all for part one of the Halfy Awards. Join us at the OHL Network next week as the second part of the awards are unveiled.
Happy Holidays to everyone and thank you for reading this week’s Monday Night Major.