The OJHL announced today that Buffalo Jr. Sabres forward Ryan Schmelzer (photo credit - Dave Powers/OJHL Images) has been named the Gongshow Gear South-West Conference Player-of-the-Month for January after recording 17 points in only seven games played during the month.
The 19-year old has been a key member of the Jr. Sabres jump to the top of the OJHL standings this season, currently sitting second on the club and ninth overall in the league in scoring with 61 points, including 24 goals and 37 assists. Schmelzer recorded a West Division leading eight goals in January, along with nine assists, tying for third in Conference scoring with 17 points. Much of the forward's success would come on special teams with five power play assists, seven power play points and two shorthanded goals, while recording four multi-point games. Twice he would notch four points, along with a five point outing on January 7, as the Sabres continued to fight for first place in the Conference with a record of 5-1-1 on the month. Schmelzer's efforts during the season earned a spot as a member of the OJHL West Division All-Star Team in December, recording three points in three games played, at the 2012 Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge held in Wellington, Ontario.
"It is a great honour to win this award," said Schmelzer upon hearing of his selection, "as there are a lot of great players in this league. So for me to be chosen for this award, it really means a lot. Both Tyler and Parker previously won this award and joining them is a great accomplishment in itself. None of us could have won this award without the players and coaches surrounding us and that goes to show how deep our team is."
Sabres' Head Coach and General Manager Michael Peca would praise his star forward's efforts thus far this season, "Ryan is the player coaches dream of having on their teams. Skilled, hard-working, tremendous leadership and very unselfish. He's been consistent all year long, driving all to be better. It's great to see him rewarded for his efforts."
Trevor Warnaar of the Mississauga Chargers was runner-up to Schmelzer as the OJHL South-West Conference Player-of-the-Month. Warnaar tied for the Conference lead during January with 10 goals, while also recording 18 points to lead the South Division in 12 games played.
Born on July 28, 1993, the East Amherst, New York native would grow up playing the majority of his youth hockey career as a member of the local Amherst Knights program. He would continue playing for the 'AAA' Knights while attending East Williamsville High School and playing baseball, as well as hockey, for the Flames up until his junior year in 2009-10.
Schmelzer kicked off his junior hockey career in 2010-11 as a member of the local Wheatfield (now Buffalo) Blades Junior 'B' club that also competed in Canada as a member of the OHA's Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League's (GOJHL) Golden Horseshoe Conference. The 17-year old rookie would be one of the club's best players all season, leading the Blades with 22 assists and 37 points, including 16 power play points, in 50 regular season games played. His potential combined with his efforts throughout the season, earned Schmelzer his first taste of Junior 'A' action, getting the call to play three games for his hometown Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
The now 6'1", 175 lbs. forward would turn the trial run into a full-time position with the Sabres in 2011-12 and he would not disappoint, recording 11 goals and 30 points in 41 games played to finish sixth on the club in scoring during the regular season. Schmelzer would score his first OJHL goal during the first game of the season and later notched his first Junior 'A' hat trick in Brampton. Picking up confidence as the season progressed, Schmelzer and his teammates peaked at the right time, winning the franchise's first-ever playoff round, while he would lead the team in scoring with seven assists and 11 points in eight playoff contests. Following the season, Schmelzer would also be named the Jr. Sabres top vote-getter in the OJHL’s first-ever Fan Favourite Award balloting.
Schmelzer entered 2012-13 as one of the club's leaders both on-and-off the ice and was named an alternate captain (for home games) by new bench boss Peca. Playing for one of the OJHL's most explosive offensive units, Schmelzer sits second in scoring on the Sabres and ninth overall in league scoring with 61 points in 45 games played, while playing key special teams minutes on both the power play and penalty kill.
"Playing for the Jr. Sabres has been the best decision of my hockey career," he would say when discussing the OJHL and Sabres’ role in his hockey-playing aspirations. "Being able to stay in your hometown and play for a team in a competitive league is something every player wishes to do. Playing here has allowed me to grow up and mature, not only as a hockey player, but in other aspects and I think those will help a lot when it’s finally time for school. This year I have learned how to be a leader and I can only thank my coaches for that. They have done a great job and the success has been shown throughout the year for all the players."