Kelowna's Madison Bowey (CP Images)Trade deadline season came and went with most of the big deals having been made in the weeks leading up to last. While there was the usual flurry of trades, most involved depth pieces and draft picks, with household names in the OHL and WHL moved a while ago.
Of course, trade deadline week coincides with players also returning from the World Juniors, and most of the top teams were stacked with players leaving for Sweden, save for Kelowna, who find themselves back on top this week after rolling through December, but the competition should pick up for them soon.
1. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.587 RPI, +1.8 SRS, +2) — The Rockets saw a 16-game winning streak come to an end last week with consecutive losses in Vancouver and at home to Edmonton, but knocked off Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Calgary over the weekend to improve their season record to 36-5-0-2. Kelowna are working with the lowest strength of schedule in all teams in the Dynamic Dozen, but their dominant winning percentage makes up for the fact that they play in a weak division.
The Rockets win over Calgary was a potential WHL championship series preview. The two won't see each other until then if that's the case, and both have narrow wins over the other on the road this season.
Marek Tvrdon, acquired from Vancouver after being sent back to junior by the Detroit Red Wings, is practicing with the club and will make his WHL season debut Friday in Victoria.
2. Guelph Storm, OHL (.584 RPI, +2.0 SRS, -1) — Guelph fell to No. 2, but maintained their position over London thanks to a big 5-3 win against the Knights in front of a sold-out crowd at home. Kerby Rychel returned to the lineup and provided a point in each of his three games, expanding his point streak to eight games, but it's difficult to overtake the shadow of young Robby Fabbri, who has four goals and four assists in six games so far in 2014, and was named the 25th best North American skater in the NHL's Central Scouting rankings.
3. London Knights, OHL (.579 RPI, +1.5 SRS, -1) — After the loss in Guelph, the Knights went 0-2 on the I-75 road trip, named for the highway connecting Saginaw with Sault Ste. Marie. The schedule softens up between now and the end of the month, which will allow new acquisition Gemel Smith to get acquainted with the club. He was on the last team to defeat London in a playoff series, way back in the 2011 playoffs as a member of the Owen Sound Attack.4. Erie Otters, OHL (.578 RPI, +2.2 SRS, —) — Erie didn't improve their standing this week despite getting all of their players back from Malmo. The big addition was probably the return of Oscar Dansk, who had two shutouts and stopped 19-of-20 in a relief appearance for a save percentage of .987 on the week. Dane Fox hit the 50-goal mark, Connor McDavid recorded 8 points over the three games, and Windsor head coach Bob Boughner compared the Otters to his Windsor clubs that won consecutive MasterCard Memorial Cups in the minutes following his club's 9-0 dismantling at the hands of the Otters.
5. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.574 RPI, +1.2 SRS, +1) — Portland moved up going 3-1 this week in a rare four games in five nights part of the schedule. It was an impressive-enough performance that coach Mike Johnston was able to overlook all of their victories were one-goal wins and they needed a shootout against Vancouver. Defenceman Mat Dumba was expected to join the team Tuesday and should play Friday as the Winterhawks start off a four-game homestand against Moose Jaw.
Three wins and signing a player committed to an NCAA program? That's so Portland.
6. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.552 RPI, +1.1 SRS, -1) — The Armada dropped a spot after dropping two games this past week. BBA are no longer the top defensive club in the QMJHL, ceding that title to Baie-Comeau, as goaltender Étienne Marcoux has struggled in the new year with 11 goals against on just 53 shots.
7. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.548 RPI, +0.9 SRS, —) — This is a big week for the Chiefs, who played just twice a week ago with predictable results: they beat Kamloops and dropped an overtime decision to Seattle in Kent. The Chiefs get another crack at the T-Birds at home Tuesday night, before a three-game road trip that culminates in Portland Sunday night.
8. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.547 RPI, +1.1 SRS, +6) — Charles Hudon has yet to play a game since being traded from Chicoutimi to Baie-Comeau, and we all know the Drakkar could use him in the lineup. Despite being the top defensive team in the league with 111 goals against, they've scored just 155, the lowest among the top nine teams in the league. Until then, they'll have to bank on goaltender Philippe Cadorette and his .947 save percentage since the start of December. He picked up first star honours in the Q this week and notably shut out Anthony Mantha and the Foreurs.
9. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.544 RPI, +0.1 SRS, +2) — Somebody please explain how the Thunderbirds and Prince George Cougars could play a 9-7 game one night, and follow it up a day later with a 1-1 tie that had to be settled in a shootout (for the record, both results went in favour of the Thunderbirds). The T-Birds move up two spots after a 3-0 week in which Branden Troock and Mat Barzal continued to sit out with injuries. Alexander Delnov picked up the offensive slack, with seven points in the three games, including an assist on a late tying goal in Spokane, and the eventual OT winner that night.
10. Victoria Royals, WHL (.542 RPI, +0.7 SRS, -2) — Given that shot metrics somewhat predicted the rise of BC Division rival Vancouver after their rough start, should we expect the Victoria Royals to drop in the standings using the same logic? They played Portland twice this past week and kept them to 3 goals, but how much of that can be credited to goaltender Coleman Vollrath and how much to the team that got out-shot 75-57 in the two games?
11. Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (.541 RPI, +1.1 SRS, -2) — The streaky Foreurs have been consistent in one area this season: head coach Mario Durocher is always an excellent quote. He called out Anthony Mantha's linemates for spending too much time trying to feed him the puck and help Mantha hit a franchise record 24-game point streak during the team's shutout loss to Baie-Comeau.
12. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.539 RPI, +0.8 SRS, -2) — The Volts were finally able to halt a four-game losing streak Sunday against Cape Breton, but the damage was done with the Volts falling a few spots in the standings and wound up the week in 7th place. Head coach Martin Raymond had the right things to say about the four new Volts that were in the lineup for their loss against Val-d'Or, and put Ryan Culkin and William Carrier into the rotation of alternate captains. Raymond has yet to choose a captain for the duration of the season, but with the roster pretty much set from here on out, it's only a matter of time.
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.533, +2); 14. Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL (.531, -2); 15. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.529, -2); 16. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.529, +1); 17. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.525, +4); 18. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.525, +2); 19. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.521, +5); 20. Everett Silvertips, WHL (.521, -1); 21. Vancouver Giants, WHL (.513, +2); 22. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.513, -6); 23. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.511, -1); 24. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.506, +2).
Hot team — Niagara IceDogs, up 13 (50th to 37th).
Cold team — Prince George Cougars, down 9 (34th to 43rd).
Nowhere to go but up — Moose Jaw Warriors (.426).
An explanation on rankings — Buzzing The Net uses Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a recency factor. RPI combines a team's record with the strength of its opponents to produce an overall rating. Our method also gives more weight to recently played games. Shootout wins and losses are classified as ties, for philosophical and practical reasons. Simple Ranking System (SRS), a ranking which combines goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.
(All rankings through play on Jan. 12.)