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OHL award picks: Panthers prospect Vince Trocheck hands-down fave for Red Tilson Trophy

Trocheck won a world junior gold medal, then averaged 2 PPG for the Whalers (Rena Laverty, Plymouth Whalers)

From the stuff you can't make up file, Vince Trocheck had the exact same 1.73 points-per-game average that his former Saginaw Spirit teammate and Pittsburgh homeboy Brandon Saad did one year prior.

Saad had a dominant second half last season to help pull the Spirit up by the skate laces in the second half of the season. Realistically, he never had a chance of winning the Red Tilson Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League's most outstanding player, since injuries and international hockey obligations confined his brilliance to 44 games. That didn't even match the record setting victory total of London Knights goalie Michael Houser, another Pittsburgh-area product, who won the award.

Now another player from western Pennsylvania could get the nod. Trocheck helped keep the retooling Spirit's head above water during the first half, morphed from scorer to energy player to help Team USA win the world junior gold medal, then went to the Plymouth Whalers and tallied two points a game in the second half. That's a player of the year argument if ever there was.

The Red Tilson voting, which is open to media members in all 20 OHL cities through April 5, is notoriously wide open. Here is a lazy person's look at the OHL's major award favourites:

Red Tilson Trophy (most outstanding player) — Vince Trocheck, Plymouth Whalers

All Trocheck did was win the scoring and plus/minus crowns with 109 points in 63 games and a +49 while having to blend in with a new team after moving across Michigan in January. The Florida Panthers prospect had the luxury of playing with two top prospects, Washington Capitals first-rounder Tom Wilson and potential first-rounder Ryan Hartman. It also helped that the Whalers are the OHL's deepest team any side of London. However, Trocheck pulled off the switch seamlessly. He also put his numbers against stiff Western Conference competition, since each of his teams were among the top five in the entire Canadian Hockey League in Rob Pettapiece's strength-of-schedule (S-o-S) computations. Trocheck also helped bring his team up, scoring 59 points in 28 games after the trade while helping the Whalers' go 23-4-1-0.

New York Islanders prospect Ryan Strome produced at a Trocheckian rate with 94 points and a +43 in 53 games. There is the argument that Strome had nowhere near the supporting cast Trocheck enjoyed once one gets past his regular wings, Dallas Stars prospect Brett Ritchie and overage left wing Steven Shipley. But the IceDogs' S-o-S was the lowest in the whole CHL.

The OHL might do well to add more awards recognizing the league's top professional prospect or its personality of the year, similar to the QMJHL's Golden Puck honours. London Knights centre Max Domi, with 87 points in 64 games, tied for the scoring lead among all first-time draft-eligible players and had nearly 20 more assists and goals than any other 17-year-old. Some honour that captures that type of feat could come in hand.

Max Kaminsky Trophy (most outstanding defenceman) — Ryan Sproul, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Sproul's graduating season corroborated why many draftniks such as rated him as a late first-rounder before the 2011 draft, when the Detroit Red Wings took him near the end of Round 2. He's matured into a do-everything 6-foot-3 offensive defenceman who can run a power play, improvise a centre position and tend to his own zone. He won the defenceman scoring title with 66 points in 50 games and the 'Hounds had a .650 point percentage when he played, compared to .361 during the 18 games he was injured. The Soo also missed Los Angeles Kings prospect Colin Miller, the quintessential late bloomer, during that stretch.

The London Knights' Scott Harrington and Kitchener Rangers' Ryan Murphy have more name recognition and play on teams which are sounder defensively. Sproul's year just looks like more of an improvement over his age-18 year. Owen Sound Attack overage Nathan Chairlitti should also be hailed for leading all D-men with a plus-41 for the league's stingiest team.

OHL Goaltender of the Year — Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound Attack

Just like with Team Canada, the debate is Binnington or the Belleville Bulls' Malcolm Subban, who might be the more projectable puck-stopper. Binnington posted his 2.17 average and .932 save percentage while playing a cutthroat Western Conference schedule. Subban did everything expected of him, but his 2.14 and .934 rate stats came in the more cupcake Eastern half of the league.

Team USA world junior hero John Gibson played too little (27 games) to get his proper consideration. An import has never been honoured, but Barrie's Mathias Niederberger (2.34, .933 in 56 games) should at least get some third-place votes.

Emms Family Award (rookie of the year) — Connor McDavid, Erie Otters

In 'blind pig, acorn news,' someone wrote in September that McDavid "scoring at a near point per game rate would be phenomenal." McDavid finished second in rookie scoring with 66 points in 63 games. The Sarnia Sting's Nikolay Goldbobin scored 68 in 68 as a newcomer from Russia, although he's 15 months older than McDavid.

Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy (overage player of the year) — Charlie Sarault, Sarnia Sting

Sarault earned a contract with the Anaheim Ducks after putting up an 86-assist, 108-point season while captaining the Sting after Alex Galchenyuk graduated to the Montreal Canadiens in January. Owen Sound's Chairlitti and Sproul's Sault Ste. Marie teammate Colin Miller probably had better seasons than some of past winners of the award.

Coach of the year — Dale Hawerchuk, Barrie Colts

Hawerchuk likely will not win. Change tends to help gets a coach noticed. The London Knights had a seamless adjustment from Mark Hunter coaching to Dale Hunter retaking his place behind the bench after his stint with the Washington Capitals. First-year head coach D.J. Smith guided the Oshawa Generals to a strong finish despite seldom having all of his top guns, but he and GM Jeff Twohey were also handed a stacked team when they were hired on last spring. Plymouth's Mike Vellucci oversaw a team that played .800-plus hockey in the second half to win its divsion. Sheldon Keefe also helped push an underachieving Greyhounds team from ninth to sixth. Is that enough to get the honour for just more than a half-year's work?

Hawerchuk steered the Colts to 92 points and 85 in '11-12 after suffering through a rebuilding effort in his first campaign. The Colts also improved despite star Mark Scheifele only playing 45 games due to international and NHL play. The Hockey Hall of Famer has helped Barrie develop players, which is the name of the game.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to

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