The conclusion of the 2014-2015 OHL regular season is a little over a week away – an obvious fact, if you do some research. Teams currently holding seeds 1 through 6 in each conference have clinched playoff berths, teams are about to start resting their starting goaltenders in anticipation of postseason play, and most importantly, six players have scored 100+ points (with Andrew Mangiapane and Max Domi not too far behind the 100-point mark).
Last year, the top three 2014 draft prospects playing in the OHL – Michael Dal Colle, Nikolay Goldobin and Sam Bennett – were ranked sixth, seventh and ninth respectively in OHL point-scoring. This year, top 2015 prospects Mitch Marner, Dylan Strome and Connor McDavid are ranked first, second and third respectively – a testament to how deep this draft class truly is.
London Knights right winger Mitch Marner has yet to match or exceed his 33 points in the month of November – although he has not played as many games (12) in a single month since, so it does not come as much of a surprise. Regardless, he’s taken off and it does not look like he can be caught up with. An electrifying six-point performance against the Saginaw Spirit on February 28 capped off another month during which the London Knights winger scored at an unreal pace (25 points in 10 games), but since then he’s tapered off a bit.
Held off the score sheet against Peterborough last Thursday, Marner has scored only four points in as many games so far in the month of March, and the other five 100+ point scorers are honing in on the scoring title that is his to lose. But even he knows that individual stats are nothing when it comes to overall team success.
He (McDavid) can get that (the scoring title) back in two games, but honestly, I don’t care about that at all. It’s in the back of your head, but at the same time, these last four games are all about the team. If you want to go far in the playoffs, it’s not about yourself.
Marner is currently five points behind last season’s OHL scoring leader, former Erie Otters captain Connor Brown. Having scored 123 points (44G, 79A) in 59 games, Marner’s success is partly thanks to the dominance his line has enjoyed this season; combined, his line with Domi and Christian Dvorak has scored 327 points this season. But still, Marner’s individual success has launched him from a mid-first round talent before the season to a sure top-5 pick in the waning days of the regular season.
The hockey world wondered how Strome would fare without McDavid in the lineup when he broke his hand back in November. Watching closely to see whether he’d crumble under the pressure of being “the guy” for the first time, or if he’d embrace the opportunity and take off, scouts were going to the Erie Insurance Arena to dissect the oft-overshadowed Strome play in a #1 center role.
Dylan Strome had 29 points in 19 games when McDavid was injured/at WJs and he was facing top pairings.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) March 8, 2015
His numbers did take a bit of a dip, but Strome regained his high-scoring pace when McDavid returned in early January. He’s off to a pretty good start in March with seven points in four games so far, and he recently became the second player this season to hit the century-mark after Marner – he’s now scored 116 points (39G, 77A).
The playmaking center played largely a depth role in his rookie season, scoring just 39 points last season. But now in a top-six role, he’s had a coming-out party with the Otters. In fact, Strome has also been labeled a top-5 pick, and projects to be a first-line center in the NHL – or at worst, a second-liner.
Realistically, a player who has played 16 less games than the leading scorer in any league should be nowhere near the top of the stats list. But missing two months of playing time with the Otters due to injury and the World Juniors didn’t prevent McDavid from pulling within 20 points of league-leader Mitch Marner.
McDavid had a relatively slow transition back into OHL action following Canada’s WJC gold medal win. And by slow, this means he failed to score more than two points in his first four games back, but he managed at least one point in every game since returning until last night against the Niagara IceDogs. In fact, McDavid set an Erie point-streak record at 27 straight games with at least one point.
Connor McDavid's 27-game point streak comes to an end against Niagara. McDavid has been held pointless twice this season…both against NIA
— Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood) March 12, 2015
McDavid has been so good lately that he almost managed a three point-per-game pace in the month of February, with 33 points in just 12 games. McDavid’s dominance in the OHL has propelled him to third overall in scoring with 109 points (40G, 69A) in 43 games; but had he played as many games as Marner, he’d be up to about 150 points by now. That means that had he played a full 68-game season, he would end the regular season with 172 points. Pretty unreal.
McDavid could realistically grab the scoring title from Marner in these final few games of the season, but regardless of where he finishes in the stats department, there is no doubt he will be the first overall pick at the 2015 NHL Draft.