If the sophomore jinx is a curse on hockey players, don’t tell that to Andrew Cassels.
Cassels was an Ottawa 67’s second round pick in 1986 and won the Emms Family Award as the OHL’s top rookie after leading all freshmen with 92 points that season. The following year, he was determined to leave any notion of a second-year slump in the wake of his scoring exploits.
Cassels led the league with 48 goals and 151 points and became just the third player in league history to win both the Rookie of the Year and Red Tilson trophies and the first to do it in successive seasons. He also took home the league’s Most Sportsmanlike Player trophy, was the OHL’s nominee for Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year and was a unanimous first team all-star.
“I expected a lot of myself this season,” Cassels admitted. “When you have been lucky enough to win the accolades and awards that I have you know that you have to go out and prove yourself.”
It would have been easy for Cassels to start believing in the jinx when he suffered a separated shoulder early in the season and was forced to miss five games. But he came back as strong as ever and continued his assault on the OHL scoring title.
“He meant everything to our team,” 67’s head coach Brian Kilrea said after Cassels took home practically all of the hardware at the OHL awards ceremony. “I can’t say enough about him. He plays both ends of the rink so well. What separates him from other players is that he knows where everything is. Andrew came in here his first year and did things others couldn’t do until their third or fourth year. He’s just such an accurate passer.”
After his solid rookie season, Cassels was a first round pick (17th overall) by the Montreal Canadiens. He came back for a final season of junior, racking up 134 points in 56 games and was named to the OHL’s first all-star team for the second straight season before graduating to a 15-year NHL career.
Kilrea said that Cassels’ ability to play beyond his years was evident from the first time he took the ice as a rookie in Ottawa.
“He had the brains of a 20-year-old and that special desire and ability that’s needed to become a star,” said Kilrea. “Our Toronto area scout Joe Rowley liked him. While he didn’t predict the stardom that Andrew has achieved, he felt that Andrew had tremendous potential. He also sensed that he was an unselfish player, someone who his teammates could count on. Joe certainly has proven himself right.”
Today, Cassels coaches the Ohio Blue Jackets 14U AAA program. His son Cole currently plays for the AHL’s Belleville Senators and spent four years with the Oshawa Generals from 2011-15, winning a Memorial Cup in his final season.
Written by Aaron Bell
OHL PLAYERS THAT HAVE WON BOTH EMMS FAMILY AWARD AND RED TILSON TROPHY:
Jack Valiquette (Soo Greyhounds) – Emms & Red Tilson (1973-74)
Dennis Maruk (London Knights) – Emms (1972-73) & Red Tilson (1974-75)
Andrew Cassels (Ottawa 67’s) – Emms (1986-87) & Red Tilson (1987-88)
John Tavares (Oshawa Generals) – Emms (2005-06) & Red Tilson (2006-07)
Connor McDavid (Erie Otters) – Emms (2012-13) & Red Tilson (2014-15)
Alex DeBrincat (Erie Otters) – Emms (2014-15) & Red Tilson (2016-17)