Hodgson? Wolski? Duchene? Spezza? While these are all good candidates, the answer lies in how you define a “best” player. So lets make an argument for several players.
If you define the best player as the one who produced the most and had the biggest impact on the scoreboard, then the answer is Wojtek Wolski. Wolski is the Battalion’s all-time leading scorer with 328 career OHL points. He recorded a team record 128 in 2005-06 en route to finishing third in the league in scoring. Wolski also helped lead the team to 3 playoff series wins in 4 years.
You can also look at it from the standpoint of the most talented player. The best way to determine this is probably by looking at who was drafted the highest into the NHL. This gives you a barometer of how the player was viewed by talent evaluators when they were in junior. You can also factor in NHL production into this argument as a measure of their talent translated to the NHL level. The top five highest drafted Battalion players of all time are; Jason Spezza (2nd in ‘01 although he no longer played for the team), Matt Duchene (3rd in ‘09), Rostislav Klesla (4th in ’00), Raffi Torres (5th in ’00), and Cody Hodgson (10th in ’08).
Spezza only played one year for the team, recording 71 points in 67 games as a 15 year old. He has gone on to pile up 475 points in 464 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators, making him easily the most accomplished of the players on this list. Duchene played two seasons with the club putting up 129 points in 121 games. He just completed his first season in the NHL, where he scored 55 points in 81 games while finishing third in the Calder Trophy voting. 55 points is ironically the same amount that Spezza put up in his first full NHL season. Klesla and Torres have both struggled with injuries throughout their careers and their promise hasn’t necessarily translated to success in the NHL. Both players had good junior careers and have played in more than 400 NHL games.
Hodgson recently finished his four years with the Battalion ranking second all time in points with 243 in 197 games. He is first all time in playoff points with 50, including 31 in 21 games during the ’09 playoffs, leading the team to its first ever Eastern Conference Finals appearance. If you were to select the best player of all time by choosing the player who had the overall biggest impact on the team including intangibles such as being the face of the franchise the selection would probably be Hodgson. He would also have to be the pick if you measured it by which player had the highest profile and brought the most attention to the team while they were playing in Brampton.
So obviously there is no straight answer to who the best Battalion player of all time is. It can only be determined based on what your opinion of what constitutes the “best”. Lets just hope there are more players to throw into this argument soon.