The Toledo Walleye, behind new coach Pat Mikesch, are on a roll this season and are in the top three for overall points. Some of that success is owed to forward Brandon Hawkins, who is having an outstanding year. Is this the season he wins the Kelly Cup and the Most Valuable Player award in the same season?
Hawkins previously played for the Wheeling Nailers and Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. He had signed to play with the Walleye for the 2020-21 season but ended up playing for the rival Komets instead. The Toledo season was canceled due to the pandemic, and he was free to sign with any team for that season. Fort Wayne won the Kelly Cup that season, eliminating the South Carolina Stingrays three games to one.
Hawkins made it to Toledo the following season as part of the 2021-22 roster for the upcoming season. Since his Walleye debut, he has been a consistent scoring machine. He does not have many highlight reel moves or a blistering shot, but he shows up and leads the team offensively.
He has a lot of tools in his arsenal that make him successful and one of the more dangerous players in the league. His shot is incredibly accurate; he is an underrated puck handler who sees the ice well, is two steps ahead of every play, is a leader on and off the ice, and is lethal on the power play. His passing skills go unnoticed as he is a great passer and a sniper.
This season, Hawkins has 20 goals and 29 assists for 49 points, leading the league in points. Those 49 points put him five points ahead of Peter Bates of the Wichita Thunder and 21 points ahead of teammate Trenton Bliss (13-24-37) in Walleye scoring. He has been so dominant this season that he was named captain of the all-star game and produced a hat trick and an assist for four points in the contest.
Toledo is in second place in the Western Conference but in first place in the Central Division with a 24-8 record. While the roster has undergone many changes, the Walleye have been consistent on the ice due to the leadership of Hawkins and Mikesch. One reason for Hawkins’s success has been the way the Toledo roster has been built and the lines put together by the coaching staff, as they have a deep group of guys this season capable of scoring at will.
If Hawkins were to win the Most Valuable Player award, he would be the second player in Walleye history and the third player in Toledo hockey history to do so. Forward Josh Kestner won the Award in 2020, and forward Andrew Williamson won the Award as a player for the Toledo Storm.
For his career in Toledo, Hawkins has 94 goals and 100 assists for 194 points in 155 games and is a +34. Not only has he been consistent, but he is also leading by example on the ice. His teammates and coaching staff are a part of his success, but his work ethic and overall play make him a dangerous player that the opposition keeps an eye on. His consistent scoring could see him approach the 100-point mark at season’s end, and he is well within reach of the single-season points record (89) for the Toledo Walleye, held by forward Shane Berschbach.