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  • Oscar Dansk (via ottershockey.com)The Erie Otters don't have the worst defence in the Ontario Hockey League, by a certain measure, but they're pretty close. Much of this is in an attempt to determine why Oscar Dansk, the highly-touted Columbus Blue Jacket-select who was drafted 3rd overall in the CHL Import Draft, has had such a rough start to his OHL career.

    Officially, Dansk is listed as having a 4-9-0-2 record with a 4.04 goals against average, though a more puzzling .894 save percentage, which would put him last in the OHL among starting goaltenders.

    Unfortunately, though National Hockey League blogs have have fans dutifully count the number of scoring chances going for and against each team, the amount of quality shots recorded for and against each net is not a luxury many of us statistically-inclined junior hockey writers are not privy to.  All we have to work with are the shots for and against each team, and while the number of shots on goal usually gives us some indication of the amount of quality shots a team gives up, at the NHL volume its shown to be more of an indicator of overall volume and not by rate.

    Read More »from Reconciling Oscar Dansk’s early season struggles in Erie’s net
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Kamloops Blazers forward Dylan Willick might miss the rest of the first half with a broken ankle. (Kamloops Daily News)

    This is the end of the organization code-named chalupa. Although its Twitter account is three-quarters as entertaining as The Iron Sheik's. (The Pipeline Show)

    Readers might wince at what happened to Medicine Hat's Elgin Pearce in a game last weekend. Let us just say he sang soprano for a while. (Medicine Hat News)

    Tri-City Americans overage Justin Feser has the rare feat of having had a hat trick in all five of his WHL seasons, but never two in the same campaign. (Tri-City Herald)

    Kelowna Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle had a shutout in his first home start at Prospera Place. (Kelowna Daily Courier)

    Should a team with a feline-derived name really have Dog Night? Poor cats never get to go anywhere. (HQPrinceGeorge.com)

    Our own Kelly Friesen expounds on the MasterCard Memorial Cup-host Saskatoon Blades being four points out of a playoff berth, the David Musil trade to the Edmonton Oil Kings and the chalupa. (The Pipeline Show)

    The Prince Albert Raiders are having trouble winning away from home. (Prince Albert Daily Herald)

    OHL

    Prospective Team Canada defenceman Ryan Murphy made critical mistakes the cost the Kitchener Rangers a regulation win over Owen Sound on Sunday, but he made up for it in overtime. (Rangers Report, Waterloo Record)

    Is anyone surprised Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Scott Harrington is shepherding the young London Knights through a valley of darkness? (London Free Press)

    Read More »from Nail Yakupov makes North American return: Monday’s coast-to-coast
  • Shea Theodore's 12 points is third among WHL draft-year defencemen (Derek Leung, Getty Images)

    Standing 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Shea Theodore definitely doesn't have any trouble getting on any amusement park rides. He does, however, look vertically challenged next to his defensive teammates such as 6-foot-6 Jared Hauf and 6-foot-7 Taylor Green.

    "It's great playing with guys with that size," says the 17-year-old Theodore. "I'm not sure if they make me look small, but I definitely don't look big next to them."

    Playing alongside towering blueliners has been to Theodore's benefit. His lanky linemates have opened up space and garnered some attention away from him.

    "They make my job a bit easier," says Theodore. "Guys like The Twin Towers (Hauf and Green) are very big and physical. So they can throw bodies around and make big hits to pop out loose pucks. I think it gives me a bit more time to make offensive plays."

    Theodore is poised for a breakout sophomore season in the Western Hockey League. He has already potted as many goals, four, in 16 games this year as he did in his entire 69-game season last year. He has added eight helpers to boot, putting him close to the top 10 in defenceman scoring.

    "I didn't go into the season with a point that total I'd like to reach," says Theodore. "I decided I'm just going to play my game and take it one game at a time. I know the points will come as long as I keep on working hard."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Shea Theodore, Seattle Thunderbirds
  • Dallas Stars second-rounder Brett Ritchie (OHL Images)No. 1 star: Brett Ritchie, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

    To say Ritchie has a hot stick would be an understatement. The Dallas Stars prospect followed up his outstanding four-goal, six-point effort against the Guelph Storm on Saturday by potting five goals in the IceDogs' 6-4 win over the Peterborough Petes. This outstanding effort earned him BTN's No. 1 star in back-to-back nights.

    Ritchie's nine goals in his last two games almost doubles the five goals he scored throughout the first 17 games of the year. Although he is not really a hot-and-cold player, it is safe to say he has hit his peak for the season.

    Similar to last night when Ritchie overshadowed Boston Bruins first-round pick Dougie Hamilton's career four-assist night,  the 6-foot-4, 215-pound winger took the spotlight away from New York Islanders first-round pick Ryan Strome, who is listed as an honourable mention after notching a goal and four helpers.

    Ritchie didn't get on the boards until 15 minutes into the first period when he

    Read More »from Niagara IceDogs’ Brett Ritchie pots 5 past the Petes: Sunday’s 3 stars
  • Brett Ritchie doubled his career high with six points Saturday (photo: NHL.com)No. 1 star: Brett Ritchie, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

    Poor Dougie Hamilton. The defenceman matched his OHL career high with four assists Saturday night, and wasn't even one of the three stars in his own building. Teammates Ryan Strome and Mitchell Theoret posted five points each, and even they weren't the biggest story of the night.

    That would be Ritchie. The Dallas Stars prospect scored four times and added two assists in Niagara's 9-4 rout of Guelph.  Ritchie figured in all four first-period goals for the IceDogs (2G-2A), then polished off his hat trick at the 14:12 mark of the second period to put Niagara up 6-3. Ritchie's fourth of the night, and ninth of the season, came with 5:10 left in regulation on the power play.

    Ritchie doubled his previous OHL career bets of three points in a single game.

    Meanwhile, Strome had a goal and four assists and Theoret added two goals and three helpers as he also set a single-game personal best.

    On the other side of things, 16-year-old center Robby Fabbri scored the first three goals of his OHL career for the Storm, after not finding the net in his first 16 games.

    No. 2 star: Matt Hewitt, Regina Pats (WHL)

    The Pats have been sliding as of late, and came into play Saturday in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. And with the division-leading Prince Albert Raiders coming to the Brandt Centre, Regina needed a spark to turn its season around.

    Enter Matt Hewitt, who backstopped the Pats to a 4-1 win over the Raiders with a 36-save performance. Despite being outshot 14-3 in the first period, the Pats went to intermission in a 1-1 tie thanks to Hewitt. The Pats scored three more times over the last 40 minutes as Hewitt shut the door the rest of the way.

    An overager from New Westminster, B.C., Hewitt has been steady in net this season for Regina, stopping at least 90% of the shots he's faced in 12 of 14 starts. He played in 60 games last season, and likely faces a similar workload this year as the Pats try to get back into playoff position.

    No. 3 star: Simon Fortier, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

    The rookie from Trois-Rivières came in with just one goal in 11 games, but scored twice in less than six minutes in the third period Saturday to lift the Oceanic to a 4-1 upset win over the Quebec Remparts.

    Fortier broke a 1-1 tie 7:54 into the final frame, then added an insurance goal at the 13:37 mark. Jan Kostalek's empty-netter iced it in the final minute.

    Read More »from Niagara’s Ritchie silences the Storm with four-goal, six-point effort: Saturday’s 3 Stars
  • Former NHLer Scott Walker is in his third season in Guelph (OHL Images)

    GUELPH, Ont. — The medium was the message for Scott Walker.

    On Friday, when the Guelph Storm ran off four unanswered third-period goals to beat the Oshawa Generals 4-1, Walker and his coaches obviously discussed more during the intermission than the fact a coast-to-coast Sportsnet (and NHL Network USA) audience was seeing the Storm play for the first time. But being reminded they were leaving a less than indelible first impression on a broader audience of hockey fans — at that point, Guelph's saving grace was goalie Garret Sparks, who had made 31 of his 44 saves — lit a fire.

    "They weren't saying glowing things about us on TV and I let the some guys hear what they were saying between the second and third," Walker said. "It was, 'This is what they're saying about us.' That a couple a few guys were nonexistent. I said, 'Don't worry, I taped the game, I'll let you know what they said in the third because it's going to be a big difference.'

    "It wasn't like I said it in a negative way; it was 'you have a chance to redeem yourselves here, you don't want people thinking this. You guys are skaters, fast and quick.' "

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Scott Walker finds cure for ‘stage fright’ by using national TV coverage as a motivator
  • Blainville-Boisbriand Armada captain Xavier Ouellet (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)

    Recently, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada general manager Joël Bouchard suspended one of his own players for one game for a dangerous check from behind, believing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's one-game suspension was too light.

    That message might have got through, but it was apparently misplaced momentarily on Friday when Armada captain Xavier Ouellet hammered league scoring leader Josh Currie of the P.E.I. Rocket from behind into the boards. The Twitterati watching the broadcast were quick to predict a suspension for the 19-year-old Ouellet, who's a Detroit Red Wings second-round pick, but keep in mind the QMJHL has yet to give out a multi-game suspension this season for checking from behind. (Remember Moncton's Ivan Barbashev got nothing for this play.)

    Read More »from Red Wings prospect Xavier Ouellet ejected for check from behind (VIDEO)
  • Leafs prospect Garret Sparks is likely in Team USA's mix

    GUELPH, Ont. — Garret Sparks hopes all roads lead to a role for him with the Toronto Maple Leafs one day. On Friday, the front of his net was as snarled as the roads out of the GTA are at rush hour — which is exactly how the 19-year-old likes it.

    From a team perspective, the Guelph Storm prefer it when their workhorse goalie does not have to make 44 saves like he did in the nationally televised 4-1 win over the Oshawa Generals. In the grand scheme, though, facing a torrent of vulcanized rubber isn't the worst fate for a goalie with world junior tournament aspirations. Playing on a defensively taut team that typically allows only 20 to 25, mostly from the outskirts of the offensive zone, might make it look too easy. Performances such as Friday's indicate Sparks, when he's on, could give Team USA an alternative to returning goalie John Gibson next month at the WJC in Ufa, Russia.

    So please, clog the crease and keep firing, OHL opponents.

    "World juniors is the best of the best and I've love to play in it," Sparks said. "It's games like these matter, the ones you're probably not supposed to win.

    You look at last year and at that Czech [Republic team] with [Detroit Red Wings prospect] Petr Mrazek, they won games they probably shouldn't have. This was a good test and the tournament would be another step up."

    Read More »from Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Garret Sparks eyes Team USA
  • Garret Sparks has been the game's first star in 2 of his past 4 games (OHL Images)

    No. 1 star: Garret Sparks, Guelph Storm (OHL)

    The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect played traffic cop and thief concurrently for Guelph, stopping 44-of-45 shots in an internationally televised 4-1 win over the Oshawa Generals. In one of his best performances of the season, Sparks was the main reason the Storm had a chance to come back in the final period. He stoned fellow Leafs pick (and fellow Team USA hopeful) Tyler Biggs from point-blank range and stopped at least a dozen redirected shots. The 19-year-old also made a sprawling save on Chris Carlisle with two minutes left that kept Oshawa from pulling within a goal.

    "Oshawa threw a lot of people in front on those power plays, but I like to be physical in front and keep my area under control," Sparks said afterward at the Sleeman Centre. "The last two games I've had here at home, I've got pulled ... It was nice to come here and put the best game I could out there."

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Garret Sparks stirs up General frustration: Friday’s 3 Stars
  • Connor Honey is tied for first in points on his team (Kyle Scholzen, Seattle Thunderbirds)Curtis Honey and Connor Honey live up to the popular belief twins can read each other's thoughts.

    It is rare enough for the Brandon Wheat Kings get a visit from the Seattle Thunderbirds, since each team only makes the long trek to the other's rink every second season. Their game on Tuesday could be a double feature — Brandon's Curtis Honey trying to stop his sibling, who's tied for the Thunderbirds' team lead in points.

    So, Connor Honey, if you get a break against your brother, what's your likely go-to move?

    "I'd probably go to the backhand," the 18-year-old right wing says from Swift Current, where the T-Birds play the Broncos on Friday. "I would probably go backhand because he had a shootout the other day [Oct. 27] against Prince George and they went there a couple times. That's also my move in the shootout. It worked for me against Kamloops a couple weeks ago.

    "But it's been so long," he adds.  "I'd have to be there to see what happens."

    What does Curtis Honey — the older of the two by 20 minutes — think his brother would try?

    "He'd do one of two things, quick shot five-hole or else go backhand roof. Of course, it's not going to go in, but that's what he'll attempt."

    Read More »from WHL twins Connor Honey, Curtis Honey hopeful they’ll go head-to-head next week

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