NOJHL announces all-stars

IROQUOIS FALLS - The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League has announced its first and second all-star teams for the 2013-14 season.

And while the selections honour individual players, it isn’t too surprising to see three members of the first-place Soo Thunderbirds on the first all-start team.

The selections also include two Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, two Espanola Rivermen, two Elliot Lake Bobcats (Cochrane Crunch), one Abitibi Eskimo, one North Bay Trapper and one Sudbury Nickel Baron.

The only team not represented among the 12 players selected is the last-place Blind River Beavers.

While I agree with the majority of the choices, there are a few of the selections that have left me scratching my head — not so much because the players chosen are unworthy, but because a number of very talented players have not been included.

Position by position, here is a rundown of the players honoured and, in some cases, the players I feel should have earned the recognition.

Goaltender — First team: Joel Horodziejczyk (Thunderbirds); Second team: Evan Cormier (Trappers).

No arguments from me when it comes to Horodziejczyk, by far the steadiest goaltender I have seen in the NOJHL over the past two seasons.

How consistent has Horodziejczyk been this season?

He has not suffered a regulation loss in his past 26 starts, posting a record of 25-0-1-0.

Statistically, he has no equal after posting a 1.77 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.

I take issue, however, with the selection of Cormier to the second team.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the 16 year old is an exceptional talent and has a bright future and not just in the NOJHL.

But let’s compare his 2013-14 campaign to another NOJHL rookie, 18-year-old Sylvain Miron of the Abitibi Eskimos.

Miron’s 3.36 goals against average is almost half a goal a game better than Cormier’s 3.77 mark.

When it comes to save percentage, Cormier’s .908 ranks only slightly ahead of Miron’s .903.

It can be argued that win-loss records are more a reflection of team than individual goaltender talent, but Miron comes out on top again at 15-16-0, compared to Cormier’s 8-27-0.

True, Cormier faced the most shots (1,345) in the NOJHL this season, but Miron (1,054) wasn’t far behind and he played in five fewer games than Cormier.

Age shouldn’t really be factored into the equation, or you could make a strong argument that Eskimos 16-year-old forward Brenden Locke deserved to be selected to one of the all-star teams.

Lest you brand me a homer for suggesting that Miron, not Cormier, deserved the selection allow me to point out that Kenny Fitzgerald (2.06, .918) of the Gold Miners, should also have ranked ahead of Cormier when it came time to choose all-stars.

Defence — First team: Jeremy Picard-Fiset (Gold Miners) and Tyler Jones (Thunderbirds); Second team: Bradley Bell (Nickel Barons) and Max Glashauser (Bobcats/Crunch).

The glaring omission, from my perspective, is Gold Miners captain Dan Morin.

When it comes to pure offence, Picard-Fiset (9-37-46) might be the clear choice over Morin (6-23-29), but there is a lot more to playing the position than racking up stats.

Morin is big, solid in his own zone, moves the puck well and is one of the best blue liners I have seen in some time when it comes to delivering open-ice hits.

In my books the first team should have consisted of Morin and Jones, while the second team should have included Picard-Fiset and Glashauser.

I know Bell has all the scouts drooling, but I am not even sure he is the best defenceman on his own team.

That title might belong to Khadyn Butterfly, the 6-2 and 185-pound Moosenee native.

Left wing — First team: Brady Clouthier (30-36-66, Eskimos); Second team: Corbin Bean (30-44-74, Rivermen).

Centre — First team: Gavin Burbach (48-39-87, Thunderbirds); Second team: Steven Babin (24-56-80, Gold Miners).

Right wing — First team: Brennen Dubchak (35-49-84, Rivermen); Second team: Brett Wagner (41-33-74, Bobcats/Crunch).

For our purposes we will consider all nine of these players as forwards.

And a pretty talented group of forwards they are, to be sure.

There are, however, at least three players I would consider at least as good, if not better than some of the nine.

Lets start off with Samuel Wilbur (36-50-86) who started off the season in Blind River and ended it in Kirkland Lake.

How do you finish second in the league in scoring and not make either the first, or second all-star team?

Sorry, that does not compute — even with new math.

Next, let’s consider the case of a couple of high-scoring forwards who played 33 and 36 games respectively but were tops in the league in terms of points per game.

Thunderbirds forward Darcy Haines (21-44-65) averaged 1.97 points per game this season, while Eskimos forward Erik Robichaud (32-29-61) averaged 1.69 points per game.

All three of them should be on either the first, or second all-star team.

Wilbur plays mostly right wing, while Haines and Robichaud played both centre and left wing this season.

So, who would we bump to include these three deserving players?

It would be a tough choice, but Bean, Babin and Wagner would likely get voted off this island.

Coach — First team: Jordan Smith (Thunderbirds); Second team: Marc Lafleur (Gold Miners).

Both excellent choices.

Win, lose, or draw, Smith and Lafleur are excellent sources of quotes afte a game.

More importantly, however, they have done an excellent job of keeping their teams at the top of the NOJHL standings all season.

Manager — First team: Kevin Cain (Thunderbirds); Second team: Oscar Clouthier (Nickel Barons).

Trainers — First team: Carla Vine (Gold Miners); Second team: Lisa Parise (Nickel Barons).

Wednesday we will look at the NOJHL’s award winners for the 2013-14 campaign.