There is a case to be made that New Jersey Devils prospect Mitch Hoelscher has been the Ottawa 67's best player in the 2019 OHL playoffs.
That is according to his coach, Andre Tourigny.
Tourigny has been Hoelscher's coach for the last two seasons and has watched the 19-year-old develop into a key contributor for the CHL franchise.
Hoelscher and the 67's are currently in the midst of their playoff series with the Oshawa Generals, a team they boast a 5-1-2 record against in the OHL regular season.
The 67's currently have the Generals on the brink of elimination, with a 3-0 series lead. Tonight, the two teams meet again for Game 4. In Game 3, Hoelscher had a pair of assists and has points in all 11 playoff games this season for Ottawa. The 67's swept their first two series and will go for a third consecutive sweep on Wednesday.
"We can really make a case that Hoelscher has been our best player since the start of the playoffs," Tourigny told TSN Radio 1200 in Ottawa late last week. "You have to look at the faceoffs, the key faceoff that he has to win, you have to look at his two-way play, you have to look at him on the [penalty kill] and how good he is.
"You have to look at his line and if I'm not mistaken he's one of the top plus/minus players in the playoffs so far," he added on the broadcast. "That's a good reflection on his performance. He's playing with a lot of intensity and a lot of urgency mentally and physically and he's a hell of a player. You know, he had a tremendous beginning half of the season last year, and this year we knew that that was the kind of hockey he can [play]."
Hoelscher has six goals and six assists in 11 playoff games this season. He also has just two penalty minutes and a plus-15 rating.
After he was drafted, Hoelscher attended his first Development Camp in July 2018 and attended his first NHL training camp last September. Hoelscher was among the first set of cuts by New Jersey at training camp, sent back to junior to continue to gain valuable experience.
The run that the 67's are currently on in the OHL post-season is an important part of his development, recognized by New Jersey Devils OHL scout Steve Smith. Hoelscher returned to junior where he had a career season both in the regular season and post-season. Smith noted the current playoff experience as a particular gage in evaluating how a player is able to rise to the occasion of big hockey moments.
"Playoffs are an opportunity for players to learn about themselves and how they react and respond to pressure," Smith said. "So, I see [this] as a valuable development tool for Mitchell and he has responded very well. He will face similar pressures as tries to become a pro and knowing you have succeeded already in junior adds another level of confidence to your game, especially if you struggle at times."
The 2018 sixth round pick by New Jersey is building off a career year in his second full OHL season. He had 40 points in 68 games in 2018-19, 12 points more than the previous season. His regular season plus-31 was a major improvement from his rookie year when he ended plus-1 in 67 games. In Hoelscher's first full OHL season, he finished the year with 20 points in the 67's final 30 games. His 10 goals and 18 assists led all Ottawa rookies in scoring.
Hoelscher joined the Ottawa 67's at the end of the 2016-17 OHL season, suiting up for six games after his GOJHL season with the Elmira Sugar King's ended with a championship win. In his first six games with Ottawa, Hoelscher scored the first two goals of his OHL career.
Hoelscher is currently one of seven NHL drafted players on this years' Ottawa 67's roster.
What is attractive about Hoelscher, Smith says, is his ability to see the game at both ends of the ice.
"The thing I like about Mitchell is he has 200-foot hockey sense," Smith said. "He is a sum of his parts and they add up to a quality hockey player."
Asking Smith about the type of player currently in the NHL Hoelscher has the ability to compare his game to, Smith says Matt Cullen, Nick Bonino and Nic Dowd.
"They're bottom six forwards that are reliable in all situations and play defense first but can also contribute some offense." Smith speaks highly of Hoelscher's continued hockey sense development, something the organization is encouraged by and is something that will only continue to grow with more responsibility on his OHL roster.
Center -- shoots left
Born Jan 27, 2000 -- Elora, ONT
Height 6.00 -- Weight 175 lbs.