Adam Dennis named as top GM

Adam Dennis named as top GM
Article/photo credit- North Bay Battalion

Adam Dennis of the North Bay Battalion is the winner of the Jim Gregory Award as the General Manager of the Year for 2023-24, the Ontario Hockey League announced Tuesday.

Dennis helped guide North Bay to a third straight Central Division title with a won-lost-extended record of 39-20-9 for 87 points, second in the Eastern Conference.

The Battalion featured a roster consisting largely of its own drafted and developed talent, including defenceman Ty Nelson, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, centres Liam Arnsby and Dalyn Wakely, right winger Anthony Romani, who led the league with 58 goals, left wingers Justin Ertel and Owen Van Steensel, goaltender Dom DiVincentiis and blueliners Paul Christopoulos and Tnias Mathurin.

“To be recognized for an award that commemorates a great contributor to our game such as Jim Gregory is something I will forever cherish,” said Dennis, who assumed the GM role in December, 2019. “I am honoured to receive this award on behalf of the North Bay Battalion.

“This doesn’t happen without the incredible team at the rink and the supportive platform our owner Scott Abbott provides. I’m incredibly blessed to have a great team at home as well. Thank you Caitlin, Clara, William and Ellie. None of this is possible without all of your love and sacrifice.

“There is so much credit that needs to go around. At the rink, (head coach) Ryan Oulahen and his staff put an incredible amount of time and energy into the development of our players. Behind the scenes, John Winstanley, Charles Abbott and the entire scouting staff spend countless hours on evenings and weekends helping us build our foundation. A huge thanks needs to go to the billet families that have opened their homes to our players and the great fans that have shown us unwavering support as well.

“North Bay is an incredible community and one my family is grateful to call home. We can’t wait to get back to the rink and do it all over again in the fall.”

Dennis, the first Battalion executive to be so honoured, and finalists Dave Drinkill of the Saginaw Spirit and Mark Hunter of the London Knights finished as front-runners in voting by league GMs. The winner was chosen by a committee consisting of one media representative from each of the OHL’s four divisions, a representative from the National Hockey League’s central scouting department and a league staff member.

“We’re very happy that Adam has been recognized for the outstanding job he’s done,” said owner Abbott. “While the award is for the 2023-24 season, he assembled teams that won three consecutive Central Division titles, so his abilities have been well known to Battalion fans for some time. His knowledge of the OHL and his work ethic are second to none, and this award is richly deserved.”

The Battalion played in a third consecutive conference final, becoming the first Eastern Conference team to do so since the Belleville Bulls, from 2007-09.

Dennis’s acquisition of Florida Panthers prospect Sandis Vilmanis and twins Andrew and Jacob LeBlanc from the Sarnia Sting in January proved to be one of the season’s most impactful transactions. Right winger Vilmanis scored 28 goals in 30 regular-season games with the Troops before leading them in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 16 games.

Originally from Toronto, Dennis completed his eighth season with North Bay, having joined the organization as an assistant GM and an assistant and goaltending coach in 2016-17. The Battalion has won 130 regular-season games since the OHL’s return from the covid pandemic, the most by any team in the conference.

Dennis’s 36 playoff wins are the most by any goaltender in league history. A 14th-round pick of the Guelph Storm in 2001, he won back-to-back OHL championships in 2004 with Guelph and 2005 with London before earning Goaltender of the Year honours in 2006 as the Knights won a Western Conference title. A sixth-round pick by the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in 2005, he played six professional seasons in Italy and Austria.

Announced in August, 2019, the Jim Gregory Award goes to the GM who best excelled in his role during the regular season. It honours one of the game’s great builders in longtime NHL executive Gregory, who passed away in October, 2019, at 83.

Dennis will be presented with the award at the OHL’s awards ceremony on June 12 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

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