They have been deemed the best of the best of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. And, to be sure, this is a best list of players, coaches, general managers and executives from the 12 member NOJHL. Notably, more than one individual was recognized in two separate categories.
CARLO CATTARELLO TROPHY – NOJHL MVP: Cooper Foster, (F) Soo Thunderbirds. An exceptional first year of Jr. A hockey for the 16-year-old Foster saw him lead his hometown Thunderbirds in offensive production. As one of the youngest players in the entire league, he scored 18 times and doled out 42 assists for 60 points in just 38 games for Sault Ste. Marie. Finishing fifth in NOJHL scoring, Foster — who has already made his Ontario Hockey League debut as a top prospect of the Ottawa 67’s — was second-best in point-per-game average (1.68), tied for eighth in power play markers (8), fourth in man advantage assists (19) and shared 11th in game-winning goals (4) He also produced 19 multi-point games. In the 29 contests Foster registered at least one point, the Thunderbirds did not suffer a defeat in regulation, going 26-0-3 in that span.
NOJHL TROPHY – BEST DEFENCEMAN: Andrew Gibson, (D) Soo Thunderbirds. Another first-year stalwart on the Sault Ste. Marie roster was Gibson. The 16-year-old blue-liner, who hails from Windsor, Ont., led all NOJHL defencemen in scoring with 51 points in 40 outings. Gibson was also tops in tallies among rearguards (21), point-per-game average (1.28), man advantage markers (9), power play assists and points (21-30) and game-winning goals (5). He has already seen OHL action as a top blue line prospect of the Soo Greyhounds.
JOHN GRIGNON TROPHY – ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (1ST YEAR PLAYING JR. HOCKEY): Robbie Rutledge, (F) Hearst Lumberjacks. Impressing mightily for Hearst, Rutledge proved to be one of the premier players throughout the NOJHL. Not only did the 18-year-old, from Severn, Ont., lead all league rookies in both tallies (39) and points (67), those numbers were also good enough to pace all NOJHL skaters. His 20-man advantage markers also led the league. Rutledge was also fourth-best in point-per-game production (1.48) and shared fourth in game-winners (5).
GILLES LAPERRIERE TROPHY – MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Raphael Lajeunesse, (F) Hearst Lumberjacks. Boasting a 52-point improvement from last season, Lajeunesse’s contributions helped Hearst boast the top power play in the league. In 45 games played in 2021-2022, the 20-year-old from Mont-Laurier, Que., set personal single-season bests in goals, assists and points with 22, 36, and 58 respectively. His five game-winning markers tied him for fourth in league play. Lajeunesse also recently committed to National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 3 program, the University of Southern Maine, where he will attend school and continue his playing career with the Huskies men’s hockey program.
MITCH TETREAULT MEMORIAL TROPHY – TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD: Kobe Braham, (F) Espanola Express. The swift-skating Express forward proved to be a key contributor while his club was down at least one skater. Braham led all NOJHLers in shorthanded goals with six and was also tops in man-down points with eight. Hailing from Lloydminster, Sask., his half-dozen shorties on the campaign were the most six since Kyle Herbster had eight for the Cochrane Crunch back in 2017-2018.
WAYNE CHASE MEMORIAL AWARD – BEST GOALS-AGAINST AVERAGE: Noah Metivier, (G) Soo Thunderbirds. Making 27 appearances for his hometown Sault Ste. Marie squad, Metivier boasted a league-best GAA of 1.88. The 17-year-old goalkeeper also led all NOJHL netminders in save percentage, at .922 and tied for the overall lead in shutouts with six. Sporting a 20-3-4 record this season, Metivier enters the postseason having won each of his past nine starts and did not allow a goal in his past 203 minutes and 20 seconds of regular season game play.
NOJHL TEAM GOALTENDING AWARD (FEWEST GOALS ALLOWED) – Soo Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds tandem of Noah Zeppa and Noah Metivier, along with Nolan Chartrand, combined to allow just 101 goals against during the course of the regular season in 2021-2022. That number was 23 fewer than their nearest competitor in that category.
JIMMY CONNORS MEMORIAL TROPHY – NOJHL SCORING CHAMPION: Robbie Rutledge, (F) Hearst Lumberjacks.
DAVID HARRISON TROPHY – MOST GENTLEMANLY PLAYER: Alex Little, (D) Powassan Voodoos. Named in honour of the long-time NOJHL statistician and historian, Powassan’s Little garnered the accolades this season. A solid defender for the Voodoos, Little only incurred three minor penalties throughout the entire season. The 19-year-old from Minden, Ont., also provided nine goals, 19 assists and 28 points from the back-end.
NOJHL TROPHY – BEST OVERALL TEAM PLAYER: Cooper Foster, (F) Soo Thunderbirds.
MIRL “RED” MCCARTHY MEMORIAL AWARD – NOJHL COACH OF THE YEAR: Brandon Perry, Timmins Rock. In his first full season behind the Timmins bench, Perry guided the Rock to a NOJHL East Division title with a solid 33-8-5-2 overall record. His team also scored the most goals in the league in 2021-22 with 225 and allowed the second-fewest at 124 against. The honour will also see serve as the NOJHL’s nominee for the prestigious Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, emblematic of the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Coach of the Year, presented by the NHL Coaches’ Association.
THE JOE DRAGO TROPHY – NOJHL DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: Ted Gooch, Timmins Rock. A vital cog in the entire operation of the entire Timmins franchise, Gooch’s leadership and forward thinking has led the Rock to becoming one of the elite franchises in all of Jr. A hockey, both on and off the ice.
JAMES ASPIN TROPHY – NOJHL REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS: Soo Thunderbirds. It was a record-setting eighth regular season crown for the Thunderbirds in 2021-22. … The Soo boasted a record of 38-5-5.
GARY HALL MEMORIAL AWARD – NOJHL EAST CHAMPION: Timmins Rock. Timmins topped the NOJHL East table by going 33-8-5-2 on the campaign.
WILLIAM SIDNEY JONES MEMORIAL TROPHY – NOJHL WEST CHAMPION: Soo Thunderbirds. Their 38-5-2-3 mark was not the best in the NOJHL West, but also led the entire 13-team league.
The NOJHL also named its first and second all-star team recipients with the players and team staff members being recognized for their achievements, efforts and contributions with their respective clubs this season.
1ST ALL-STAR TEAM
FORWARD: Cooper Foster, Soo Thunderbirds.
FORWARD: Robbie Rutledge, Hearst Lumberjacks.
FORWARD: Tyler Schwindt, Timmins Rock. The Timmins captain proved once again to be one of the elite performers in the NOJHL this season. … Leading the Rock in offensive contributions, Schwindt finished tied for third in league scoring by amassing 64 points during the campaign, while having 34 goals and 30 assists to his credit. … In his final year of Jr. A hockey, Schwindt, a native of New Hamburg, Ont., has appeared in 125 NOJHL games, while registering 114 points on 62 tallies and 52 helpers.
DEFENCE: Andrew Gibson, Soo Thunderbirds.
DEFENCE: Jaden Raad, Hearst Lumberjacks. A standout at both ends of the ice for Hearst, Raad finished second in NOJHL scoring among defencemen. … Playing at nearly a point-per-game clip for the Lumberjacks, the 19-year-old blueliner from Burlington, Ont., scored eight times and helped set-up 37 others.
GOALTENDER: Noah Metivier, Soo Thunderbirds.
GENERAL MANAGER: Jonathan Blier, Hearst Lumberjacks. A guiding force for the operation in Hearst, Blier helped formulate a Lumberjacks roster that has proved their worth, not only as a team, but helped recruit quality players at every position, who has achieved tremendous success in their time in the NOJHL. … His efforts have also seen a solid number of players from the organization move on to compete at the next level.
COACH: Brandon Perry, Timmins Rock. In his first full season behind the Timmins bench, Perry guided the Rock to a NOJHL East Division title with a solid 33-8-5-2 overall record. His team also scored the most goals in the league in 2021-22 with 225 and allowed the second-fewest at 124 against. … The honour will also see serve as the NOJHL’s nominee for the prestigious Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, emblematic of the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Coach of the Year, presented by the NHL Coaches’ Association.
TRAINER/EQUIPMENT MANAGER: Dominic Buonomo – Soo Thunderbirds. Earning first team laurels at this position for the initial time, Buonomo is recognized as one of the top individuals in his area of expertise, in helping make sure the Thunderbirds’ players are all ready to go, come game night, or in practice.
2ND ALL-STAR TEAM
FORWARD: Chase Lefebvre, French River Rapids. As a rookie, the 17-year-old from North Bay, Ont., Lefebvre proved from the on-set that he was one of the top players in the league. … His efforts with the Rapids saw lead French River offensively with 66 points, as he scored 29 times and went on to earn assists on 37 others. … Those numbers saw him finish second in overall NOJHL offensive production. … His tally total was the fourth-highest among all skaters and was tied for fifth in helpers.
FORWARD: Raphael Lajeunesse, Hearst Lumberjacks.
FORWARD: Chase Tallaire, Soo Eagles. Making it count when called upon, Tallaire was timely for the Eagles on the year. … He led the Michigan Soo in scoring with 56, in 47 outings, as he scored 27 times and helped set-up 29 others. … Of his goal totals, nine of them were game-winners, which were the most in the entire NOJHL. … The 20-year-old from St. Ignace, Mich., also notched nine man-advantage markers during the campaign.
DEFENCE: Seth Coulter, Greater Sudbury Cubs. A solid blend of skill and play-making ability, along with being a steady influence on the Cubs’ back-end, helped earn Coulter second team accolades. … Wrapping up his time in Jr. A with Greater Sudbury, the Stoney Creek, Ont., native was a stalwart on the Cubs’ blueline where he contributed five goals and 33 assists. … A veteran of over 100 NOJHL games, Coulter wrapped up the regular season fifth in offensive numbers among blueliners.
DEFENCE: Cameron Dutkiewicz, Timmins Rock. Possessing a powerful shot, the Timmins product proved to be an anchor for the Rock’s back-end. … The 20-year-old Dutkiewicz was third in scoring among league defencemen with 43 points and he hammered home 18 goals for his side, including a trio of game-winners, and dished out 25 assists, in 45 contests.
GOALTENDER: Joel Rainville, Greater Sudbury Cubs. Finishing third overall in goals-against average (2.36) and second in save percentage (.921) this season, Rainville proved his worth for Greater Sudbury. … The six shutouts the 20-year-old from Sturgeon Falls, Ont., also posted tied him for the most in league play. … A veteran of 112 NOJHL appearances in his Jr. A career, he has seen over 6,000 minutes of game action while setting a personal-best in wins this season, with 18.
GENERAL MANAGER: Brandon Perry, Timmins Rock. Along with efforts behind the bench as coach, Perry off-ice efforts as Timmins GM helped him boost his club’s fortunes on the ice. … Recruiting a blend of talented rookies, to go with highly-skilled leadership, saw the team he put together play .760 hockey and win the NOJHL’s East Division.
COACH: Marc-Alain Bégin, Hearst Lumberjacks. An alumnus of the NOJHL in his playing days, Bégin’s line-up on game nights proved to be one of best in the league. … His efforts helped Hearst led the NOJHL in power play proficiency at 25 per cent while sporting a solid 35-11-2 overall record and having three of his forwards finish within the Top 6 in league scoring and two of the seven highest point-producing defencemen as well.
TRAINER/EQUIPMENT MANAGER: Carla Vine, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners – A cornerstone of the Gold Miners operation remains Vine … A multiple award recipient in this area, she has steadfastly guided the Gold Miners’ training and equipment management department for many seasons while maintaining her place as one the NOJHL’s elite in her role.