The Kamloops Blazers have been so dominant they've raised the tide of all ships around them.
Coach Guy Charron's Western League-leading Kamloops crew top the season's inaugural Dynamic Dozen by so much — 75 percentage points ahead of the closest team in RPI — by so much that it isn't even funny. The Blazers, paced by the Call Upon Line (is this a thing yet?) of JC Lipon, Colin Smith and Tim Bozon, are a terrific team which is also on a roll that should taper off at some point. They've been so good through the season's first six weeks, though, that this exercise has become a WHL Western Conference love-in, with that half of the dub taking the next three spots and five of the top 10. That is typical of the first few editions of the Dynamic Dozen, before teams have a good-sized body of work in the tank; it will correct itself over time, presuming Kamloops (15-0-0-1) actually loses in regulation time or overtime at some point.
1. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.679 RPI, 2.6 SRS) — Kamloops has had four wins already this season where it trailed with fewer than six minutes left in the third period. One of these times, to build off what Cam Charron said, it will not get the bounce and it will lose. You know it's coming because the drive-by media deigned to label Kamloops the "no-name powerhouse" this week. It's been a beautiful ride, though, especially for Sam Grist, the defenceman who's plus-14 in eight games since being acquired from Tri-City. Kamloops, which faces the Everett Silvertips on Tuesday night, has a big test on Thursday at Kelowna. Please remember that they eked out two one-goal wins over the Rockets back on the Dub's opening weekend.
Kamloops' 2.6 score according to Simple Ranking System is also far ahead of anyone else. The Halifax Mooseheads are second-best in the CHL with a 1.8.
2. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.604 RPI, 0.6 SRS) — Wait, what? The T-Birds likely aren't the second-best team in the CHL, but their strength of schedule is higher than the Space Needle since eight of their 13 games have been against either the Blazers, Portland or Spokane (which they face again tonight). That tough schedule makes draft-year defenceman Shea Theodore's good start all the more impressive. Coach Steve Konowalchuk's team has nabbed seven points from those eight games, which is a decent indicator there is a potential playoff team in the Emerald City.
Another breakout has come from 18-year-old team goal scoring leader Connor Honey, who could face his twin, Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey, next week.
t-3. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.589 RPI, 1.5 SRS) — It probably surprises no one to see the Winterhawks, whose .731 point percentage is second in their league, up where they belong. The only change, along with now playing every home game on a NHL-sized ice sheet, is that they are getting it done through their defence. Uber-prospect Seth Jones, veteran Troy Rutkowski, high NHL picks Derrick Pouliot and Tyler Wotherspoon and Alaska native Josh Hanson have kept a tight ship.
t-3. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.589 RPI, 0.8 SRS) — The good news in eastern Washington is the Chiefs are beginning a season-long six-game homestand; the bad news is leading scorer Mitch Holmberg's availability is in question after he received a check to the head last week from St. Louis Blues selection Nick Walters, who will miss Everett's next three games. The Chiefs still boast a cadre of experienced forwards to pick up the slack, including 19-year-old Todd Fiddler, who has five goals in the past four games. Liam Stewart could stand to end his eight-game goalless skein now that Holmberg is hurt.
5. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.584 RPI. 1.8 SRS) — Top draft prospect Nathan MacKinnon and mates, now winners of 13 successively, have four relatively well spaced out road games across these next two weeks. Who cares to place a wager on when the win streak ends? Halifax will have a playoff rematch against the Rimouski Océanic on Sunday in the second of back-to-back games, so that sticks out as a tough contest. Incidentally, defenceman Randy Gazzola, a free-agent find who played for the Junior A Trenton Golden Hawks last season, has been a revelation (13 points in 16 games, plus-11).
6. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.581 RPI, 1.0 SRS) — Team Canada coach-in-waiting Ryan Huska's Rockets have held up well despite playing 11 of their first 16 games on the road. Meantime, 19-year-old Myles Bell's defenceman days might be done at the rate he's putting up points.
7. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.563 RPI, 1.3 SRS) — The Attack are back after GM Dale DeGray's rapid retooling, having yet to lose by a multi-goal margin through 14 games. Coach Greg Ireland did grumble about his team's focus last weekend, but their scoring quartet of Joseph Blandisi, Cameron Brace, Daniel Catenacci and Gemel Smith keep providing sufficient offence.
8. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.554 RPI, 1.2 SRS) — The Remparts had a rough week since No. 2 centre Kurt Etchegary sustained a regular-season-ending hip injury, making Quebec's second promising 17-year-old in as many seasons to incur major injury. Losing Etchegary makes it impossible to persist in having to sit Mikhail Grigorenko because of an excess of Europeans. So how soon until Nick Sorensen has a new address?
9. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.551 RP1, 0.8 SRS) — MasterCard Memorial Cup-winning coach Éric Veilleux has the Drakkar on a seven-game point streak (with two shootout losses). That's in spite of having no one among the Q's top 30 scorers, although imports Valentin Zykov and Petr Straka might change that soon. Veilleux's team is allowing only 25.6 shots per game, which probably spells out why they have been successful.
10. Victoria Royals, WHL (.549 RPI, 0.1 SRS) — The Royals are boosted by having the fourth-strongest schedule in the entire CHL, but they have been farely competitive considering that Florida Panthers pick Steven Hodges has missed half the schedule so far. A five-game road stretch that begins with two games in Portland might take the air out of their tires, however.
11. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.549 RPI, 1.4 SRS) — The Armada will get a better test by playing their next six games against Maritimes teams than they probably get within the Telus West Division, the resurgent Rouyn-Noranda Huskies notwithstanding.
12. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.548 RPI, 0.4 SRS) — Fittingly, it's a toss-up between the Rangers and rival Plymouth Whalers for the last spot after they split a pair of 2-1 games last weekend. Movember should be moving time on East Ave., since Kitchener is home for nine of 13 games this month, where it's playing exceptionally well. Coach-GM Steve Spott also has an avenue to add an overage scorer after sending 20-year-old defenceman Ryan Hanes to Kingston earlier this week. The next point by a Kitchener overager will be the team's first this season.
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Plymouth Whalers (OHL), .547; 14. Tri-City Americans (WHL), .546; 15. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), .539; 16. Guelph Storm (OHL), .537; 17. Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), .536; 18. Sarnia Sting (OHL), .533; 19. Barrie Colts (OHL), .532; 20. Windsor Spitfires (OHL), .529; 21. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), .524; 22. P.E.I. Rocket (QMJHL), .522; 23. Calgary Hitmen (WHL), .517, 24. Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL), .513.
Nowhere to go but up — Kootenay Ice (WHL), .407. The Ice have a two-percentage-point lead, as it were, over the Shawinigan Cataractes. Both teams raised championship trophies not too long ago. Sic transit gloria.
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 Rank System (SRS), an equation which uses goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kamloops Blazers
- Kamloops Blazers