BRAMPTON, Ont. – Matt Duchene of the Brampton Battalion has won the Bobby Smith Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League’s Scholastic Player of the Year, it was announced Thursday.
Centre Duchene, a Grade 12 student at Turner Fenton Secondary School who turned 18 on Jan. 16, maintained an average of 85 percent in six courses, including five university prep courses.
The trophy, presented to the player who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence, is named in honour of Bobby Smith, a former Ottawa 67’s star who excelled in both areas. Defenceman Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires won the award last season.
A resident of Haliburton, Ont., Duchene was a first-round pick in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. He scored 31 goals and earned 48 assists for 79 points in 53 games this season and is rated second among North American-based skaters by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting department for the NHL Entry Draft in June.
“It’s just a matter of balancing your time,” said Duchene. “The Battalion does a great job of emphasizing academic performance. It’s something my family and I have always taken seriously. I was brought up knowing hockey wasn’t always a guarantee and I needed a backup plan. That’s always been my focus.”
Stan Butler, Battalion head coach and director of hockey operations, is a former high school teacher and vice-principal.
“As an organization we’re really excited for Matt,” said Butler. “He’s an extremely focused individual on the ice, and he takes that to the classroom too. He’s a prime example of the type of people who come through the OHL. They’re balanced and show you can combine education and hockey at the highest levels and be successful in both.”
Duchene, the first Battalion player to win the Bobby Smith Trophy, is one of three members of the team to have won an OHL award this season. Left winger Evgeny Grachev won the Emms Family Award as the Rookie of the Year, while centre Cody Hodgson captured the William Hanley Trophy as the OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player.
Formed in 1991 from W.J. Fenton and J.A. Turner secondary schools, Turner Fenton, located near the Powerade Centre on Kennedy Road, has an enrollment of about 2,300 students. It is one of only 17 public schools in Ontario that offers the International Baccalaureate program, a two-year curriculum of international education for students aged 16 to 19.
The Bobby Smith Trophy is the most illustrious of three scholastic awards presented by the OHL. Freddie Hamilton, a rookie centre with the Niagara IceDogs, won the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award as the top academic player in high school, and overage defenceman Tim Priamo of the Guelph Storm was honoured with the Roger Neilson Memorial Award as the top academic player in college or university.
Defenceman Matt Clark, an 18-year-old first-year student at the University of Guelph, was the Battalion’s nominee for the Roger Neilson Memorial Award.