Jordan Binnington of the Owen Sound Attack won a very narrow victory over Kitchener's John Gibson for the OHL Goaltender of the Year. It isn't necessarily shocking that Binnington, who was among the top three in OHL save percentage along with Malcolm Subban and Mathias Niederberger won the award, but moreso that he ended up beating Gibson who played just 27 games all season.
The vote is down by the OHL general managers—five points for a first place vote, three for a second place vote and one vote for third, and Binnington won 60-57 in the end. Subban, who led the OHL in save percentage and was the starter for Team Canada at the IIHF U-20s in Ufa, finished a distant third with 29.
"There was tonnes of great goalies this year," Binnington said. "Playing with Malcolm and being able to watch him and learn from him really helped me out. You take stuff from everywhere."
Ironically, Binnington backed up Subban at the World Juniors. While the two were indubitably the two best goalies in the OHL, 28-games-or-more division, part of the reason Binnington was Buzzing the Net's pick for Goaltender of the Year was that Binnington faced a higher level of competition in the Western Conference. His .932 save percentage was just two points below Subban's.
"I think that contributes a little bit," he said. "The competition rises and it's more intense. That's what you want, something to bring out the best in you. The competition was high and that made it fun all year."
Playing in a division with juggernaut London and in the same conference as Plymouth, Binnington had to be pretty sharp each night. He made 41 saves in a memorable 2-1 shootout loss to the Kitchener Rangers back in March going head-to-head with Joel Vinneau. He also had a 35-save shutout over the Rangers back in January, out-playing Gibson after the two returned from Russia after the World Juniors.
It's a good way to cap off an excellent junior hockey career that netted Binnington everything but a Memorial Cup and a World Junior medal. Binnington was one of the heads in Owen Sound's three-headed goaltending monster during their 2011 Memorial Cup appearance and OHL championship, won in a seventh game overtime over the Mississauga St.-Michael's Majors. Binnington started for the Attack in that game and was the team's primary goaltender at the MasterCard Memorial Cup that season.
In 2011-2012, Binnington would split duties with Scott Stajcer.
"I met lots of great people and had lots of great teammates that I learned from — Garrett Wilson, Joey Hishon. Scott Stajcer was a great mentor for me. Everything has worked out very well. Owen Sound is a first-class organization and I cannot thank them enough."
Manager Dale DeGray had a lot of positive things to say about Binnington as well, and his development and willingness to play in a situation where he wouldn't be the clear-cut starter. "I thought from the get-go that Jordan would have the most success of any goaltender we've brought along. No disprespect to any other goalies we've drafted. I think the world of Scott Stajcer. I just know with Jordan — and I've mentioned it to NHL scouts — there was a lot of upside."
"His first game in Barrie he got beat 9-1, I know he took that and worked every day to become a better goalie. I know that is a cliché kind of deal but he really, really has become a stalwart."
Binnington was picked in the third round of the 2011 draft by the St. Louis Blues and will likely go pro next season as a 1993-born player and would-be overager next season. The Blues' AHL affiliate starting next season is the Chicago Wolves.
"Moving on to the AHL would be the ideal plan," said Binnington on his future. "Nothing's guaranteed, you have to work your way up there and treat every day like it's your last."
It's rare for a player at any position to go through a full junior career with the same team, but the Attack have been contenders for three of the four years Binnington put in there. "They gave me an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. It had a lot to do with my development," he said. "Besides my billets [I'll miss] the atmosphere in Owen Sound and the loyals fans. It's an honour to play there for the fans and the ownership group."