As we enter the final weeks of the OHL season, we can start to take a look at who some of the contenders are for some of the prestigious Ontario Hockey League awards, and this week, I’ll take a look at a few players who should receive consideration for this season’s Rookie of the year. In the coming weeks, I’ll also look into various contenders for the best goaltenders, defencemen, coaches, and MVP awards as well.

It seems an easy choice to look at this year’s crop of rookies, and proclaim this award as a slam-dunk for Erie Otters phenom Connor McDavid, but to do so without digging would be an injustice to a very good group of players. McDavid is everything that is advertised, an imposing force with great awareness, and an uncanny ability to have the puck follow him around the ice. His 51 points in 47 games lead all rookies, and his 21 goals are good enough for second among first-year players.

Sarnia has a firecracker of a rookie in Nikolay Goldobin, who has already appeared in this column as our Top Forward a few weeks back. He has scored 23 goals this season, the most among all rookies, and his 44 points is second to only McDavid. Other offensive leaders worth consideration are Brampton’s Blake Clarke, Kingston’s Spencer Watson, and Sault Ste. Marie’s Sergey Tolchinsky, who have all hit the twine 17 times this season, as well as Oshawa’s Michael Dal Colle, who has 42 points playing on a line with Boone Jenner and Tyler Biggs, good for fourth in rookie scoring.

The Kingston Frontenacs also have another rookie making some noise this season, as rearguard Roland McKeown has lived up to the hype of being drafted number two behind McDavid. McKeown has provided a stabilizing force on the Kingston blue line, and his six goals and 23 points as a 16-year old show that he should be a top-end blueliner for years to come.

Players Of The Week

Top Forward

Alan Quine (Belleville Bulls) – One of the biggest acquisitions at the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, Alan Quine has made an immediate impact with the Bulls, striking for 19 points in his first 10 games in Belleville, including nine points in three games over the past week. Thursday night against Kingston, Alan put together an impressive effort, scoring a goal and adding five assists as part of a big six-point night. Two nights later, while the Bulls were playing host to Sarnia, Quine would score another, as well as add two more apples, helping lead Belleville to another lopsided victory. Sunday afternoon, Belleville wrapped up the week with a disappointing effort in Oshawa, where Alan was kept off of the scoresheet, but his two goals and nine points, along with a +5 rating, is enough to make Alan Quine our choice as the OHL Top Forward this week.

Top Defenceman

Ryan Sproul (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) – Another big week for Ryan Sproul sees the Greyhounds rearguard pull even with Owen Sound’s Cody Ceci in the scoring race among OHL defencemen with 47 points, though Ryan has accomplished that total playing 19 games less than Ceci. Over the weekend, Sault Ste. Marie had a pair of games south of the border, and Sproul made his presence known in both contests. In Plymouth on Friday, Ryan scored a pair of goals as part of a five-point game, helping the Hounds past the Whalers 6-5. The following night in Saginaw, Sproul scored again, helping the Soo erase an early 3-0 deficit, as the Hounds won in a shootout. While he only played twice, he was a force to be reckoned with this week, and with three goals and three assists, Ryan Sproul earns our choice as this week’s OHL Top Defenceman.

Top Goaltender

Daniel Altshuller (Oshawa Generals) – Another tough week to narrow the field of OHL goaltenders down to just one, but the nod goes to Oshawa Generals puck-stopper Daniel Altshuller, as his solid work in both of Oshawa’s game’s this week has kept his team in the race for first in the East Division. On Friday night in Mississauga, Altshuller picked up his third shutout of the season, turning aside 20 shots to backstop the Generals to a 2-0 victory. Playing against divisional-rivals Belleville on Superbowl Sunday, Daniel was big when called upon, making 24 saves as Oshawa won big at home. In his team’s two games, Altshuller would give up only two goals, and posted a save percentage of .957, and is named the OHL Top Goaltender for the second time this season.

OHL Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) Every time the door opens for someone to overtake the London Knights for top spot on the OHL Power Rankings, they find a way to close that door, winning both contests this week without conceding even a single goal. While they were themselves blanked at home Friday night against Brampton, the Knights got the goal they needed in the shootout to pick up the victory, and, the next night, London went to Owen Sound and picked up another shutout W. The Knights look to extend a three-game winning streak with three more games coming up, beginning with a visit from Sarnia on Thursday night. Owen Sound comes to visit a night later, looking for revenge, before London finishes the week Sunday afternoon in Kitchener.

2. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 4) There were no shortage of goals in any of the Belleville Bulls three contests this week, as all three games saw at least ten goals scored. Belleville was on the right end of two of those score-lines, winning big at home against Kingston, 8-2 on Wednesday, and Sarnia, 8-3 Saturday, before losing by six in Oshawa on Sunday afternoon. The Bulls remain in eastern Ontario for a three-game weekend, playing in Kingston on Friday night, then returning home to host Erie a night later. The weekend finishes for Belleville with a Sunday matinee in Ottawa.

3. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 6) The Guelph Storm move back into the top three this week, based more off of their excellent play as of late than their performance in the last seven days, which saw them split a home-and-home series with Windsor. Neither team would be successful on home-ice in games Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and the Storm look to another home-and-home series in the week ahead, playing Kitchener twice. The Storm play at home on Wednesday night, before the teams finish their set Friday night in Kitchener.

4. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 3) The Kitchener Rangers fall one spot in this week’s Power Rankings, but will have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the week ahead. Owen Sound put a stop to Kitchener’s four-game winning streak on Friday night, but the Rangers rebounded by drubbing Erie, winning by a touchdown on Superbowl Sunday. Kitchener is hoping that win will be the start of a new winning-streak, but a home-and-home series with Guelph starts a three-game week ahead. The Rangers play in Guelph on Wednesday night before returning home for the rematch on Friday, then wrap up the week with a visit from London on Sunday afternoon.

5. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 8) Up three spots this week, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds continue to play inspired hockey under new head coach Sheldon Keefe, and have completely turned around a lackluster start to the campaign. Now up to sixth in the Western Conference, the Hounds are riding a six-game point-streak after a pair of road wins this week. After winning Friday night in Plymouth, the Soo grabbed a come-from-behind win the next night in Saginaw, erasing a 3-0 deficit for a shootout decision. The Greyhounds remain on the road for three games this week to end a five-game trip, with the next stop being Thursday night in Brampton. On Saturday, Sault Ste. Marie plays in Peterborough, before ending the week Sunday evening in Oshawa.

6. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 7) Splitting a pair of home games this week is enough to move the Plymouth Whalers up one spot to number six on this week’s OHL Power Rankings. Friday night, the Whalers lost to the visitors from Sault Ste. Marie, but Plymouth answered with a win against Peterborough the next night. The Whalers start a three-game weekend with two more at home, playing Friday night against Barrie and Saturday against Owen Sound, before traveling to Brampton for a Sunday afternoon tilt.

7. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 10) Wins in two of three games this week sees the Owen Sound Attack climb back to number seven in the Power Rankings. After a win at home to Barrie on Wednesday, the Attack won again Friday night in Kitchener, before being shutout by London to end the week Saturday. Owen Sound has an opportunity at revenge when they play in London on Friday night, before heading south of the border for a game in Plymouth on Saturday.

8. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 2) Don’t read too much into the fact that the Barrie Colts are down six spots this week, as they find themselves at number eight, based as much on the strong play of other teams in the league. The Colts lost in Owen Sound on Wednesday night, and were pushed to the limit on Friday, eventually winning a shootout in Kingston. Barrie takes on a three-game weekend, as they continue through a six-game trip, which begins Friday night in Plymouth. A night later, the Colts play in Saginaw, before returning to Canada to battle in Sarnia on Sunday afternoon.

9. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 11) After falling two spots last week, the Oshawa Generals regain position at number nine this week by winning both of their games impressively. On Friday night, the Generals went into Mississauga and picked up a shutout victory, and, Sunday afternoon, Oshawa returned home, defeating Belleville soundly. Oshawa looks to remain in the fight for the East Division with a three-game weekend ahead, opening with a date at home against Erie on Friday night. The Generals play in Niagara on Saturday before returning to home-ice to play Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday evening.

10. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 5) A large leap last week finds the Saginaw Spirit unable to keep the torrid pace they had been setting, and they fall five spots to land at number ten this week on the Power Rankings. The Spirit dropped both games on home-ice this week, losing to Peterborough on Friday, but picking up a big point in a shootout loss to Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday. With just two losses in regulation in their last twelve games, Saginaw will look to get back to winning with two more games this weekend, which begins Friday night in Sarnia. The Spirit return home for a Saturday night battle with Barrie to finish their week.

11. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 9)  Even wins in two of three games away from home this week wouldn’t be enough to keep the Sudbury Wolves from falling out of the top ten, as they slide to number eleven this week. After winning in Niagara Thursday night, the Wolves continued their winning ways Saturday in Erie. However, a loss Sunday afternoon in Brampton put a stop to a seven-game point-streak for Sudbury, who will look to rebound with a pair of home-ice contests in the week ahead. On Friday night, the Wolves play host to Brampton, and Mississauga comes to visit the following night.

12. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 13) A very good week for the Brampton Battalion sees them rise to number twelve on the OHL Power Rankings, after they grabbed five of six possible points from a trio of tough games. On Thursday night, the troops hung on at home to defeat Mississauga, and, the next night, Brampton picked up an important point by forcing London into a shootout before surrendering a goal. Returning home Sunday afternoon, the Battalion were impressive once more, defeating Sudbury to make things even tighter in the Eastern Conference. Like last week, Brampton faces three games in four nights, beginning on Thursday when they host Sault Ste. Marie. A night later the Battalion head to Sudbury for another big conference game, before returning home to Brampton to play Plymouth on Sunday afternoon.

13. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 12) The Sarnia Sting have struggled through the opening of a long road trip, and losses in two of three games this week sees them slide one spot in this week’s rankings. A Friday night loss in Ottawa was followed by a humbling loss in Belleville the next night, but the Sting finished the weekend on a high-note, snapping a three-game slide with a victory in Kingston on Sunday afternoon. Looking ahead, Sarnia plays in London on Thursday night to end the road-trip, and return home for weekend matches, Friday, against Saginaw, and Sunday afternoon, against Barrie.

14. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 14) The Windsor Spitfires hold position this week, remaining steady at number fourteen despite dropping two of three decisions over the past seven days. Peterborough would hand the Spits a loss at home on Thursday, but Windsor answered a night later with a solid victory in Guelph. Sunday afternoon, Guelph would return the favour by defeating the Spitfires in their own building. The visitors won all three games Windsor played over the last week, which bodes well if it continues, as the Spitfires head out on a three-game road-trip this week. Windsor starts the week Thursday night in Peterborough, before making stops Friday in Ottawa, and Sunday in Kingston.

15. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 15) While wins in two of three games isn’t enough to see the Peterborough Petes climb in this week’s OHL Power Rankings, the gap between them and the teams ahead of them is getting much smaller. Toiling through a five-game road-trip, the Petes found victory Thursday night in Windsor, and again the following night in Saginaw. While Peterborough would lose in Saturday night in Plymouth, they find themselves just six points out of the playoffs with seventeen games remaining, and play three of them in the coming week. After the Petes end their road-trip Wednesday night in Ottawa, they return home, playing host to Windsor on Thursday, and Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday night.

16. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 19) The Niagara Icedogs fell dangerously close to the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings last week, but after back-to-back victories put an end to an eight-game losing streak. After the ‘Dogs lost at home to Sudbury on Thursday night, they would reply with a win in Erie a night later, followed by another win on the Saturday, this time back at home against Mississauga. The Icedogs will look to continue their new winning streak with a pair of games this weekend, playing in Mississauga on Friday before returning home to face Oshawa on Saturday night.

17. Mississauga Steelheads – (Last Week: 17) The Mississauga Steelheads remain firm at number seventeen in this week’s OHL Power Rankings, lucky perhaps not to fall even further after dropping all three of their games over the past week. Thursday night, the Steelheads lost a close decision in Brampton, but found themselves shutout back at home on Friday, losing to Oshawa. Sunday afternoon, Mississauga lost in Niagara, and need to start picking up points with teams behind them in the standings closing in. Mississauga plays three times this week, which begins at home to Kingston on Wednesday night. After another home game, Friday night versus Niagara, the Steelheads finish the weekend Saturday night, playing in Sudbury.

18. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 16) The Erie Otters slide down two positions on this week’s Power Rankings, as three more losses sees their winless streak reach seven games. Two of their losses over the last week came on home ice, as they lost Friday night to Niagara, and Saturday against Sudbury, before heading on the road, losing Sunday afternoon in Kitchener. The Otters look to put an end to the losing streak with two games in eastern Ontario, as they play Friday, in Oshawa, and Saturday, in Belleville.

19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 18) After playing inspired hockey for the first half of the season, the Kingston Frontenacs have hit the wall at the worst time of the season, and now find themselves in a potential fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Three more losses and just a single point sees Kingston’s winless streak reach eleven games and one month, and they find themselves just six points ahead of Peterborough for eighth place. The Frontenacs lost big Wednesday night in Belleville, lost again Friday, this time in a shootout at home to Barrie, and lost to Sarnia Sunday afternoon. Kingston will look to turn things around this week, playing three times, including Wednesday night in Mississauga. Two nights later, the Fronts host Belleville, and Windsor comes to town on Sunday afternoon.

20. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 20) Playoff hopes pretty much out of reach, the Ottawa 67’s are playing out the schedule for pride, and proving to be stiff competition for most of their opponents. A win in their only game this past week, Friday night at home to Sarnia, the 67’s now have points in each of their last three games, and look to extend one of their better streaks of the season as they continue through a seven-game home-stand. After Ottawa hosts Peterborough on Wednesday, the 67’s play games Friday, against Windsor, and Sunday afternoon, against Belleville.

The ITO Players of the Week and OHL Power Rankings can be found every week for the rest of the season, right here at OHLWriters.com. Until then, you can regularly find my ramblings about the Ontario Hockey League, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs, @N24Nicholson.

Anthony Nicholson is the Sports Editor for Toronto News 24 covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and regular contributor to OHLWriters.com. Contact Anthony anytime for a conversation by joining him on Twitter, or send mail to anicholson@n24.ca.

Photo:  Newly acquired Belleville Bulls forward Alan Quine has been excellent since his acquisition, and his nine points this week lead all OHL players, earning Top Forward honours. (Photo Courtesy: Terry Wilson/OHLImages)