It will be a major blindside if Connor McDavid is not named the 2014-15 CHL Player of the Year. One would think that perhaps a few decades from now, McDavid will also have a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The truth is, however, that being named CHL Player of the Year is not a direct pass to the Hall.
In fact, since 1974-75 when it was first awarded to Ed Staniowski of the Regina Pats, there have been just five that have won the award and gone on to a Hockey Hall of Fame induction. Despite the Ontario Hockey League having the most winners, none of the five won playing for an OHL team. Four have come from the QMJHL and one was a player in the WHL. There is some potential for OHL grads in the future with CHL Player of the Year winners like John Tavares, Ryan Ellis, Cody Hodgson and Brian Campbell still quite active in the NHL.
Dale Hawerchuk – Cornwall Royals
Hawerchuk won the CHL Player of the Year in 1980-81 with the Royals (today’s Sarnia Sting) while the team was still in the QMJHL. Playing the full 72 game regular season schedule, Dale scored 81 goals and assisted on 102 for 183 points. In the President’s Cup playoffs, he added another 15 goals and 20 assists over 19 games.
1980-81 was Hawerchuk’ second of two years with Cornwall. He led the QMJHL in goals, assists and points and was the First Team All-Star centre. Dale was awarded the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer, along with the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as most valuable player. His third piece of hardware came in the form of the Mike Bossy Trophy, given to the player deemed the best pro prospect.
Cornwall finished first overall in the QMJHL, earning the Jean Rougeau Trophy. They plowed through the playoffs and won the President’s Cup, beating the Trois Rivieres Draveurs in the finals.
The 1981 Memorial Cup tournament was held in Windsor, Ontario. It was a time when the host team was not automatically invited and only three teams competed. Representing the OHL were the Kitchener Rangers. It was Kitchener that the Royals met up with the final and beat 8-2 for the championship. Hawerchuk was given the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament MVP and was named the Mem Cup All-Star centre.
Dale was taken first overall by the Winnipeg Jets at the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. He went on to play 1,188 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1981-82 and 1996-97 with the Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers. Over that time, he scored 518 goals and assisted on 891 for 1,409 points. Hawerchuk added 99 points in 97 Stanley Cup playoff games.
Dale Hawerchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
Pat Lafontaine – Verdun Juniors
Lafontaine played just one year in the QMJHL, 1982-83, and was the CHL Player of the Year with the Verdun Juniors. Over 70 regular season games, Pat scored an amazing 104 goals and added an equally amazing 130 assists for 234 points. Over 15 games, he added 35 points.
Pat was named the First Team All-Star centre. He won both the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as MVP and the Jean Beliveau Trophy as top scorer. Lafontaine also won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP, the Mike Bossy Trophy as the top pro prospect and the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the offensive rookie of the year. If that wasn’t enough hardware, Pat also won the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as the league’s most sportsmanlike.
Verdun finished second in the Lebel Division and third overall in the QMJHL. The Juniors advanced to the finals and captured the President’s Cup with a win over the Longueuil Chevaliers in the finals. The Memorial Cup tournament was held in Portland, Oregon and Laval fell in the semi-final game to the Oshawa Generals.
At the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders selected Pat third overall behind Brian Lawton of the Minnesota North Stars and Sylvain Turgeon of the Hartford Whalers. All three came ahead of fourth overall pick, Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings.
Over his National Hockey League career, Lafontaine played 865 regular season games between 1983-84 and 1997-98 with the Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers. During his days in Buffalo, he played alongside Dale Hawerchuk. During his NHL days, Pat scored 468 goals and assisted on 545 for 1,013 points. In an additional 69 Stanley Cup playoff games, he added 62 points.
Pat Lafontaine was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Mario Lemieux – Laval Voisins
Lemieux’s historic season in the QMJHL, worthy of CHL Player of the Year honours, came in 1983-84 with the Laval Voisins. It was Mario’s third of three years with the club and he exploded to rewrite the CHL record books. Over 70 regular season games, Lemieux scored 133 and assisted on 149 for 282 points. He added another 52 points in just 14 playoff games.
Of course, he led the QMJHL in goals, assists and points. Mario was named the First Team All-Star centre and took home a mess of hardware. Lemieux was honoured with the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as MVP, the Jean Beliveau Trophy as top scorer, the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP and the Mike Bossy Trophy as top prospect.
The Voisins finished first overall in the QMJHL with a 25 point cushion over second place. The team won the President’s Cup championship, beating the Longueuil Chevaliers in six in the finals.
The Memorial Cup was hosted by the Kitchener Rangers in 1984. Surprisingly, Laval was held winless over their three round robin games and did not advance further. Mario had just a goal and two assists over those three games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins selected Lemieux first overall at the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. He played his entire NHL career with the Penguins, appearing in 915 regular season games between 1984-85 and 2005-06. Over that time, Mario scored 690 and assisted on 1,033 for 1,723 points. He added 172 points over 107 Stanley Cup playoff games.
Mario Lemieux was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
Luc Robitaille – Hull Olympiques
Robitaille was in his third of three years with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL in 1985-86 when he was honoured as the CHL Player of the Year. Over just 63 regular season games, Luc scored 68 and assisted on 123 for 191 points. He added 44 points over just 15 playoff games. His goal total was good for sixth in the league while he finished first for assists and tied for first in points with teammate Guy Rouleau.
Lucky Luc wasn’t exactly lucky in that 1985-86 season. He was named the First Team All-Star left winger but Rouleau won the tie-breaker for the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as top scorer with Rouleau also taking the nod as MVP, winning the Jean Beliveau Trophy. In the playoffs, Robitaille had to share the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP with teammate Sylvain Cote.
Hull finished first overall with a 24 point cushion over second place. In an odd QMJHL season, the Olympiques swept the Drummondville Voltigeurs in five games in the finals to capture the President’s Cup.
The 1986 Memorial Cup was hosted by the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. Hull reached the final game before falling to the Guelph Platers by a 6-2 score. Luc was named the tournament’s all-star left winger.
After just his first year in the QMJHL, the Los Angeles Kings had some foresight to select Robitaille in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, 171st overall. He went on to play 1,431 regular season NHL games between 1986-87 and 2005-06 with the Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings. He scored 668 goals over that time and assisted on 726 for 1,394 points. He added 127 more points over 159 Stanley Cup playoff games. Ironically, the only year that Luc played for the Penguins was 1994-95, the lockout shortened season. Mario Lemieux took that full season off.
Luc Robitaille was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Joe Sakic – Swift Current Broncos
1987-88 was Sakic’s third of three seasons with the Broncos in the WHL, although he played just three game with the team in his first year. Over 64 regular season games, Joe led the league with 78 goals and finished eighth with 82 assists. His 160 points tied Sakic for the WHL lead with Theo Fleury of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Joe got the nod for the Bob Clarke Trophy as leading scorer with a higher goal total than Fleury. He was also the recipient of the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as MVP.
Swift Current finished fourth in the eight team East Division and fifth overall. In the division semi-finals, the Broncos lost in six games to the Saskatoon Blades.
The Quebec Nordiques selected Sakic 15th overall at the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, after his first full season in the WHL. Between 1988-89 and 2008-09, Joe played 1,378 regular season games in the National Hockey League with the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche. Over that time, he scored 625 goals and assisted on 1,016 for 1,641 points. Over 172 Stanley Cup playoff games, he added 188 points.
Joe Sakic was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.