Toronto, Ont. – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Nico Daws of the Guelph Storm is the inaugural recipient of the Jim Rutherford Trophy awarded annually to the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year.
The top-ranked North American goaltender on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Draft Rankings, Daws led the League with a .924 save percentage and five shutouts, posting a 2.48 goals-against average and 23-8-3-3 record over 38 games for the defending OHL champions. He was named the OHL’s Goaltender of the Month for November as part of a span that included nine consecutive wins. The third-year netminder was recognized with three star of the game honours on 15 different occasions, including a total of eight first star distinctions. His impressive numbers as a 19-year-old came as he stepped into the Storm’s starting role after getting into just 20 games during the 2018-19 season. Daws was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning National Junior Team that claimed world supremacy at the 2020 IIHF World Juniors in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.
Announced last August, the Jim Rutherford Trophy is presented by the League in honour of former OHL goaltender, General Manager, Chairman of the Board and two-time Executive of the Year Jim Rutherford. The current General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rutherford played 13 seasons as an NHL netminder and was the architect behind Stanley Cup championships for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2019.
“I’m honoured to be the first recipient of the Jim Rutherford Trophy and am truly humbled to have my name associated with not only a world class goaltender, but an influential builder of the game,” said Daws. “I’d like to thank my family for always supporting me and also my billet family for giving me a home away from home. Lastly, thank you to my coaches and teammates. I wouldn’t be able to achieve this without their help.”
A 19-year-old product of Burlington, Ont., Daws’ .924 save percentage is the highest in Storm history by goaltenders having spent a full season with the club. His 2.48 goals-against average is the lowest by a qualified goaltender since Tom McCollum’s 2.39 mark in 2006-07. The 6-foot-4, 202Ib. Daws rounded out his third OHL season with a record of 34-20-5-6, a 2.94 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and six shutouts over 72 career regular season games. He was recognized in the 2019-20 OHL Coaches Poll as the Western Conference’s Most Improved Player, Best Puckhandling Goaltender and second-best Shootout Goaltender. Daws was Guelph’s seventh round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection from the Burlington Eagles minor midgets.
“Following our playoff run last spring Nico recognized the potential for opportunity and went to work,” said Storm head coach and general manager George Burnett. “His decision to make substantial adjustments with his nutrition, overall fitness and daily routine both on and off the ice was life changing. His total recommitment and outstanding work in all areas has led to this very special story he is currently writing and the opportunities which will result. Nico deserves all of the credit and we could not be more proud of him.”
The Jim Rutherford Trophy is awarded to the league’s most outstanding goaltender as selected by OHL General Managers. Teams were not permitted to vote for a goaltender from their own hockey club.
While becoming the first to formally receive the Jim Rutherford Trophy, Daws follows Craig Anderson (2001) as the second goaltender in Storm history to win OHL Goaltender of the Year honours. The award was first presented in 1987-88 to Rick Tabaracci (Cornwall) with other notable winners including Manny Legace (Niagara Falls 1993), Steve Mason (London 2007), the league’s only back-to-back winner Mike Murphy (Belleville 2008 and 2009), Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound 2013), Alex Nedeljkovic (Plymouth 2014), Lucas Peressini (Kingston 2015), Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie 2016), Michael McNiven (Owen Sound 2017), Michael DiPietro (Windsor 2018) and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sudbury 2019).
Daws is also the OHL’s nominee for CHL Goaltender of the Year to be announced in the coming weeks.