There's a very strong chance that this season's Canadian Hockey League Top Scorer award will be won by someone going to the NHL Draft.
The top three scorers across the 60-team CHL heading into Thursday night's action were NHL draft-eligible forwards in a deep 2020 class of talent, and not a veteran with four years of major junior experience like last season.
They all have the chance to add some potential hardware to their resume before hearing their name called in June as they continue to outpace their veteran competition.
The 2018-19 winner was then 19-year-old Dallas Stars prospect Jason Roberston, who led the CHL with 117 points in 62 games split between the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs and Niagara IceDogs. Finalists included then 20-year-old San Jose Sharks prospect Joachim Blichfeld of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, who scored 114 points, and then 20-year-old Peter Abbandonato of the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies with 111 points.
The CHL's three leagues wrap up their regular seasons the weekend of March 21-22.
Here are five players that could take home the CHL Top Scorer Award.
1. Marco Rossi, Forward, Ottawa 67's
The 18-year-old Austrian currently leads all CHL skaters with 105 points in 50 games, and is on pace to capture the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League's top scorer. Rossi, who is ranked No. 9 on Central Scouting's draft list, produced 47 points on an 18-game streak that began Nov. 10 and ended Jan. 10 to take over the league lead, while also guiding the 67's to top spot in the standings. He was behind Hamilton forward Arthur Kaliyev, London forward Connor McMichael and Sudbury forward Quinton Byfield in late December, but those three went away for the world juniors and left the door open for 2001-born Rossi to eclipse them in their absence. All three returned strong from the Czech Republic, but Byfield, Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked skater, has been sidelined since Feb. 7 with an injury.
2. Cole Perfetti, Forward, Saginaw Spirit
Perfetti, No. 4 on Central Scouting's prospect list, is three weeks away from completing one of the best individual regular seasons ever recorded by a player his age in the OHL, with his 102 points in 56 games putting him second in the CHL. With a strong finish, the Whitby, Ont., native could add himself to a small group of players in their 17-year-old season to capture the CHL top scorer award, with Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome being the last to do so in 2015. Perfetti, 2002-born and recently turned 18, has been on a tear with 53 points in his last 25 games, hitting the scoresheet in 23 of those contests including two five-point performances.
3. Alexis Lafreniere, Forward, Rimouski Oceanic
The 18-year-old Lafreniere, the potential No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL Draft, missed seven Oceanic games while at the world juniors and three more in January because of a suspension, but the Saint-Eustache, Que., native is still right there in the CHL scoring race with 101 points in 47 games, never going more than two games without hitting the scoresheet. Lafreniere leads the QMJHL in the race for the Jean Beliveau Trophy and is the top skater in the CHL in points per game with 2.15. The 2001-born Lafreniere, who is in his third full season ahead of the NHL Draft thanks to an October birthday and has 286 points in 160 career games, is well ahead of Moncton Wildcats forward Alexander Khovanov of Russia, who is second with 88 points in 44 games.
4. Adam Beckman, forward Spokane Chiefs
The 18-year-old Beckman, born in 2001, has been amongst the Western Hockey League leaders all season and is currently No. 1 with 44 goals and 98 points in 57 contests. He used a strong run through the first three weeks of February to all but secure himself the league scoring title, with Beckman producing 27 points on an 11-game streak to pull ahead of the competition for the WHL's Bob Clarke Trophy. The Saskatoon native was a latecomer to major junior and is only in his second season despite turning 19 in May, but he did enough last year as a rookie for the Minnesota Wild to select him 75th overall. His closest competition is Portland Winterhawks forward Seth Jarvis, another 2020 NHL Draft prospect who has 86 points in 52 games.
5. Philip Tomasino, forward Oshawa Generals
The 18-year-old Tomasino has been surging since early January, averaging 1.86 point per outing in 21 games since a trade sent him from Niagara to the Oshawa Generals. The 2001-born Mississauga, Ont., resident sits third in the OHL scoring race with 96 points in 57 games and has three streaks of at least six or more games with a point including a career-high 10 games ending in mid-January. Tomasino isn't likely catching Rossi or Perfetti but should easily crack the 100-point mark. He was selected in 2019 by the Nashville Predators 24th overall.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020.
Kyle Cicerella, The Canadian Press