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The past 10 CHL scoring leaders: Where are they now?

The Canadian Hockey League is a prime producer of top-end NHL talent, but a look at the past 10 leading scorers in major junior reveals the difficulty in making the jump to the big leagues.

By Ben Shelley

In the past 10 years, the Canadian Hockey League has produced some of the NHL’s top talent. From Connor McDavid to Taylor Hall to John Tavares, many of the players leading the way in the NHL today got their start in major junior. So naturally, you’d expect that some of these generational talents would have a CHL scoring title under their belt. But actually, it’s the contrary. Not a single CHL scoring leader in the past 10 years has even reached 100 career NHL points.

Here’s a look at the past 10 CHL scoring leaders, and what they’ve been up to this season:

2018: Jayden Halbgewachs, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Playing one game with Moose Jaw way back in 2012-13, Halbgewachs spent parts of six different WHL seasons with the Warriors. His last two years were the head-turners, though, reaching at least 50 goals and 100 points in each campaign, with his overage season culminating with 70 goals and 129 points in 72 games. Despite being passed over in the draft, the 5-foot-8, 165-pounder was signed by the San Jose Sharks and joined their AHL affiliate this year, where he started strong with six goals and 13 points in 20 games thus far.

2017: Sam Steel, Regina (WHL)
Steel, a first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks (30th overall in 2016), played a major role in Canada’s road to gold at the 2018 World Junior Championship. But it was the season prior that earned him elite status in CHL scoring history, when he put together a 131-point season over 66 games for Regina. Now playing in his first pro season, Steel started the year with Anaheim, getting into 13 games before heading to AHL San Diego, where he has nine points in 16 games.

2016: Conor Garland, Moncton (QMJHL)
Winning his second straight CHL scoring title, but the first that he didn’t need to share, Garland hit 128 points in 62 games, putting up even more goals and points-per-game than in the previous year. The only player on this list to win two CHL scoring titles, Garland finished his QMJHL career with 328 points in 206 games. After two-plus seasons with AHL Tucson, he’s getting a chance with the Arizona Coyotes, where he’s played four NHL games so far this season.

2015: Conor Garland, Moncton (QMJHL) / Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL)
Garland had his time in the spotlight in the paragraph above, so we’ll focus on Strome, as the pair shared the 2014-15 CHL scoring title with 129 points. Strome will go down as one of the most productive CHL players across the past few decades -- his 354 points in 219 career games are hard to match. But it was his second season in Erie where he reached his highest point total, impressing enough people to end up being drafted third overall by Arizona, two spots behind Otters teammate Connor McDavid. Strome had 53 points in 50 AHL games last season, but once he couldn’t find his way in Arizona, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks where he has started strong with four goals and five points in 10 games.

2014: Connor Brown, Erie (OHL)
Of the CHL’s past 10 top scorers, Brown is really the only one who’s found consistent NHL work. On an Erie team that featured McDavid, Strome, Andre Burakovsky and Travis Dermott, it was captain Brown who led the way for the Otters. He didn’t miss a game all season, scoring 45 goals and 128 points, helping Erie reach the OHL conference final for the first time in over a decade. Since then, Brown has become a mainstay on the Toronto Maple Leafs and has contributed at the NHL level, too, with 38 goals and 79 points in 203 games.

2013: Brendan Leipsic, Portland (WHL)
In a year where the Memorial Cup featured Nathan MacKinnon’s Halifax Mooseheads versus Seth Jones’ Portland Winterhawks in the final, it was Leipsic who led the way for the Winterhawks all season long. Leipsic had 120 points in 68 games in his third WHL campaign and since turning pro, he has managed to find work as well. Between this season and last, Leipsic has bounced around the Western Conference from Vegas to Vancouver, now landing in Los Angeles. He’s collected 33 points in 88 games in that time, including a goal and three points in his first seven games with the Kings.

2012: Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City (WHL)
Shinnimin is one of the lesser-known names on this list. However, he has the most points in a CHL season of anyone listed, with his 134-point effort in 2011-12. It wasn’t a one-off, either, having already passed point-per-game status in both the regular season and playoffs in the prior two seasons as well. Wrapping up his junior career with 131 goals and 337 points in just 267 games, Shinnimin earned a spot with the AHL’s Portland Pirates, where he spent most of the next three seasons. He worked his way into 12 games of NHL action with Arizona in 2014-15 and then followed it up with one more year in the AHL before bouncing between leagues in Sweden, Switzerland and Russia.

2011: Linden Vey, Medicine Hat (WHL)
Vey spent his entire WHL career with Medicine Hat, winning his scoring title with 116 points in 2010-11. The Tigers couldn’t make it past the conference final in what was Vey’s last junior season, but he was able to get into a bit of NHL action after graduating from junior. After spending some time with AHL Manchester, Vey played 138 NHL games across the next four seasons with Los Angeles, Vancouver and Calgary, collecting 44 points in that time. Vey has spent the majority of the last two seasons in the KHL, where he’s put up near point-per-game numbers.

2010: Brandon Kozun, Calgary (WHL)
In 2009-10, Kozun became the first player from the WHL to take sole ownership of the CHL scoring title in two decades. Winning it in 2010, the 5-foot-8 forward kick started a drastic 180, as the WHL has now accounted for the CHL scoring leader in six of the past nine years. After graduating from the CHL in 2010, Kozun struggled to reach the big leagues. He spent four seasons in the AHL before he finally got a 20-game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014-15, notching two goals and four points. Since then, Kozun has been in Europe, where he’s putting up good numbers in his third season with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

2009: Yannick Riendeau, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Riendeau is the only player on this list other than Halbgewachs (who only graduated less than a year ago) who has never played an NHL game. Riendeau was acquired by Drummondville in his overage year after spending four seasons in Rouyn-Noranda, to gear up for a run at the QMJHL championship. Riendeau and the Voltigeurs were successful, going as far as the Memorial Cup semifinal in a year that saw Riendeau score 126 points in 64 games and an unbelievable 52 points in 19 playoff games. That was the peak for Riendeau, however, who then spent the next few seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL before doing the same between France and a low-level semi-pro league in Quebec, where he still plays.

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