Defense wins championships. It is a time tested saying that has been proven true again and again, and the 2015 OHL Championship was no different. The Oshawa Generals stout defense kept Connor McDavid off the scoreboard in game five, while its lesser known offense put up six goals to earn them the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions. Panther prospect and Oshawa captain Josh Brown was the game's first star- despite having no points.
McDavid had only one assist during the three games played in Oshawa. The Generals used last change to great advantage at home, matching Brown and Dakota Mermis as their defense pairing virtually whenever McDavid was on the ice. He was only able to explode offensively in the series while playing at home in Erie, where the Otters were able to keep him away from Brown, Mermis, and forward (and Vancouver draft pick) Cole Cassels. Brown earned first star honors for the shut-down role he played on the probable first overall NHL draft pick of 2015. The London Free Press added this about the job the Generals (and Brown) did on McDavid:
"When Erie takes a painful look back, they will rue the number of goals they allowed in the opening and closing minutes of periods. They also couldn’t figure out how to shake McDavid loose without last line change in Oshawa. The Generals did a masterful job — with guys like Cassels, Dakota Mermis and captain Josh Brown — leading the mission."
Oshawa Coach D.J. Smith brought a punishing, physical style to the Generals this season, something he was known for previously as the coach of the Windsor Spitfires. Ultimately, his team committed 100% to physical, grinding, team-oriented hockey that stressed system play first and foremost. The effectiveness of the game-plan can be noted in that the Generals were one of only two teams in the OHL that held McDavid without a point for two games against them this season.
The Florida Panthers, Dale Tallon and the scouting staff may have found themselves a very capable shut-down defensemen in the 6th round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The 6'5", physically-imposing Brown handled his role very well. Shutting down what many prognosticators consider the finest NHL prospect since Sidney Crosby is no small feat. While some can point to Brown's status as an overage player to explain away what was accomplished, that would be to ignore the fact that scouts consider McDavid an NHL ready prospect who some say could put up 50 or more points as a rookie next season against NHL-caliber defenses. Thus, Brown's age takes nothing away from what he has accomplished against the best player in the 2015 NHL draft.
The Generals are now off to Quebec City for the Memorial Cup series where they will face Rimouski of the QMJHL on May 23rd. Brown is not quite ready to hang up the juniors jersey, and we here at LBC will be following as he seeks a CHL championship before joining us at training camp this summer.