Dalton SmithNo. 1 star: Dalton Smith, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
It took 171 OHL games, but Smith finally registered his first career hat trick as the 67's pasted Belleville 7-2 to move six points clear of the Bulls on top of the East Division.
Smith, of course, isn't the most popular guy in Belleville, considering he received a 10-game suspension earlier in the season for an elbow to the head of Bulls goaltender Malcolm Subban, who's currently out with a groin injury.
The timing of Smith's breakout is probably no accident. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has recently joined Ottawa's first line alongside top scorers Tyler Toffoli (who had a goal and four assists Friday) and Sean Monahan (who had four assists).
Smith made a last-ditch case for sticking with the top unit, with new acquisition John McFarland waiting in the wings to join the 67's for a rematch in Belleville Saturday night. Coach Chris Byrne might think twice about breaking up his top unit's chemistry for a new player, even though Toffoli and McFarland dominated midget hockey as teammates.
Goaltender Michael Nishi also had a big night for Ottawa, stopping 38 of 40 shots on the eve of Petr Mrazek's return from stardom at the World Junior Championship.
No. 2 star: Matt Hewitt, Regina Pats (WHL)
Hewitt, who's quietly having a quality season in Regina, posted his second shutout in a month on Friday, blanking the Saskatoon Blades 3-0.
The 19-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., made 33 saves to improve to 22-11-2-1, and the Pats moved into a tie (for the moment) with Kootenay and Medicine Hat for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Regina is now unbeaten in its past six games, and the notion that Jordan Weal is going to be available at the trade deadline is looking more far-fetched every day. Of course, with how close the East is right now, a four-game losing streak could find the Pats plunging back to eighth (potential buyers and sellers seem to be changing by the hour).
Meanwhile, the Blades have lost seven of 10 and have sunk into a tie for sixth with Calgary, just a point ahead of eighth-place Brandon.
No. 3 star: Zach O'Brien, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
With two goals and two assists in a 5-2 win over Cape Breton, O'Brien moved into a tie for the Q's scoring lead with Victoriaville's Yanni Gourde at 73 points. He's also the first player in the league to hit the 35-goal mark this season.
The Titan are also surging in the standings, having won nine of 12 to move into a tie with Chicoutimi for eighth place in the league and bolstering their hopes for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Honourable mention: Brad Ross, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Ross scored all three goals in the Winterhawks' tougher-than-expected 3-1 win over the last-place Everett Silvertips. While Ty Rattie is getting most of the publicity in Portland, Ross has surged as of late and now ranks fourth in the WHL with 28 goals -- still nine behind his league-leading teammate.
The score could have been much worse, but Everett goaltender Kent Simpson set a franchise record with 55 saves on 57 shots (Ross's third goal was an empty-netter). On the other end, 16-year-old Brendan Burke got a rare start in net for Portland and came up with 30 saves.
Read More »from Friday’s 3 Stars: Smith states his case to stick with Ottawa’s top line