The OHL's annual "Coaches Poll" is always a nice, unofficial metric for NHL fans to measure their junior prospects with. Most NHL fans don't get to see their AHL team play regularly, let alone the clubs' prospects scattered throughout the CHL and international leagues, making surveys like this, conducted by the coaches who see these players every night, a nice insight into prospect development. Follow the link for the full 2014-2015 OHL Coaches Poll Winners.
For the second year in a row, the Avalanche's top prospect, Chris Bigras, makes an appearance on the Coaches Poll. Last year, Bigras was voted "Best Defensive Defenceman" for the OHL's Western Conference. Nikita Zadorov finished in second for the Western Conference and Slater Koekkoek in third, while Aaron Ekblad, Kevin Raine, and Marcus McIvo took 1st-3rd in the OHL's Eastern Conference. Avs fans have all swooned over Bigras' development this season and the added dimensions to his game, and it appears that OHL coaches agree, since they placed Bigras three times on the list this season.
Western Conference Best Defensive Defenseman:
1. Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (34 Votes)
2. Chris Bigras, Owen Sound Attack (26 Votes)
3. Kurtis MacDermid, Erie Otters (14 Votes)
Western Conference Best Offensive Defenseman:
1. Anthony DeAngelo, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (40 Votes)
2. Chris Bigras, Owen Sound Attack / Trevor Murphy Windsor Spitfires (15 Votes Each)
Western Conference Smartest Player:
1. Mitchell Marner, London Knights (28 Votes)
2. Chris Bigras, Owen Sound Attack (23 Votes)
3. Dylan Strome, Erie Otters (18 Votes)
In each category Bigras finishes surrounded by elite company. In the defensive defenseman category Bigras finished 2nd only to Darnell Nurse, the 7th overall selection in Bigras' draft year and he finishes ahead of King's prospect and 20 year old OHL over-ager Kurtis MacDermid. Last season Bigras would never have been considered in the "Offensive Defensman" category, but this year he trailed only Anthony DeAngelo, last season's 19th overall pick for votes in the offensive category. The Lightning prospect is tough competition for offense from the blue line, he won the coaches choice for that category last year and finished 3rd overall in his rookie season. Finally, in the running for the Western Conference's smartest player Bigras finished 2nd, between a pair of highly touted, draft eligible forwards. As of ISS Hockey's most recent Top 30 Prospects list, Marner and Strome were ranked 5th and 6th respectively. High praise and a great step forward for Chris Bigras, but the key will be whether he can translate those developments in his game to hockey's biggest stage.
As an added bonus, the Avs' honorees didn't end with Bigras this season. In the midst of his own breakout offensive season, Kyle Wood finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference's "Hardest Shot" poll. Meanwhile, Spencer Martin was awarded top spot in the Eastern Conference for "Puck-Handling Goalie," and second place for "Best Shootout Goalie." Martin finished 1st for puck-handling in 2012-2013 and 2nd in shootout last year. Below are the full listings for Martin and Wood's categories.
Eastern Conference Hardest Shot:
1. Brandon Devlin, Mississauga Steelheads (35 Votes)
2. Kyle Wood, North Bay Battalion (27 Votes)
3. Jordan Subban, Belleville Bulls (15 Votes)
Eastern Conference Best Puck-Handling Goalie:
1. Spencer Martin, Mississauga Steelheads (33 Votes)
2. Jake Smith, North Bay Battalion (19 Votes)
3. Lucas Peressini, Kingston Frontenacs (13 Votes)
Best Shootout Goalie:
1. Lucas Peressini, Kingston Frontenacs (30 Votes)
2. Spencer Martin, Mississauga Steelheads (22 Votes)
3. Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie Colts (11 Votes)