It is not unheard of for an overly hyped junior hockey team to lay a few eggs early in the season, particularly following two seasons with long playoff runs. The 2011-12 Saint John Sea Dogs team, coming off consecutive long springs, laid a few eggs before their lush with prospects lineup slowly regenerated after having players away at NHL camps. That being said, Memorial Cup-host London being 7-3-1-0 without looking overly formidable up front or on the blue line is a talker.
There is a post-hoc argument the cracks in the foundation started appearing last season. Whether it was during the 24-game win streak or during the playoffs, London was sneaky good at outscoring teams after giving up third-period leads. In any event, this state of affairs probably won't stand for too long in the Forest City. The Knights have a big weekend ahead with games against rival Kitchener, upstart Erie and Western Conference challenger Guelph.
Hot: Erie Otters
The true gauge for Erie (.792 point pct. through 12 games to lead the Western Conference) might be whether it avoids getting sucked into its own siren song. Coach Kris Knoblauch said following their seventh consecutive win that his team isn't cheating to cherry-pick scoring opportunities, which must mean the Otters averaging 4.5 per game is all organic.
Connor McDavid, Connor Brown, Andre Burakovsky and cohorts have a challenging pair of back-to-backs ahead. They welcome Plymouth in Wednesday, likely with defenceman Cory Genovese sitting out a suspension incurred for getting a match penalty, then have the short turnaround to face London.
Cold: London Knights
The Knights (.682 point pct., fourth in the Western) have six players scoring at a point-a-game rate, but not one player in the league's top 40. Phoenix Coyotes first-rounder Max Domi is only beginning to build up to speed and it's worth noting he was on the scoresheet in all three games while London picked up only one point over the weekend.
Other teams are struggling, too, but given the build-up to this season, London having a winless weekend takes the prize.
Canadian NHL team prospects —
Scott Kosmachuk, Guelph (No. 70 by Winnipeg in '12) — Remember that uber-1980s football comedy, Wildcats? Goldie Hawn coaches at an inner-city Chicago high school to spite her ex-husband? Of course you don't. But there is line where one player, the token oddball white kid on the team played by Woody Harrelson, explains why he shouldn't play quarterback by saying, "I can run and throw but I can't run and throw." The progression for a forward with speed and skill, going from being able to beat defenders with speed to also finishing off plays, is a little like that.
Kosmachuk's mortarboard trick on Sunday vs. the Ottawa 67's gave him 21 points over 12 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Matt Finn's plus-12 tops Guelph's defence corps (as it should, since he plays the most). Ottawa Senators selection Ben Harpur is plus-10, good for a shutdown type.
Carter Verhaeghe, Niagara (No. 82 by Toronto in '13) — Are home/road splits a thing in hockey? Verhaeghe is factoring into 54 per cent of the scoring for Niagara, with 25 points in his 12 games. The quibbles here are that the Central Division is not, ahem, very good. Verhaeghe's also had 15 points in five home contests on the small ice surface in Niagara, which should be a hint with a player whose biggest area for improvement was his skating.
Connor Brown, Erie (No. 156 by Toronto in '12) — There should be a Royal Commission called if Hockey Canada and the OHL do not at least give Brown and McDavid a chance to play together during the upcoming Subway Super Series. Brown has already had five games with at least three points while using his quickness and fast-twitch hands to convert McDavid's feeds.
Hot: Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Either coach Éric Veilleux has a juggernaut or rumours of the Q being a diluted league are even truer than feared. The aggregate score during the North Shore crew's five-game win streak, 29-3, looks like a Laval Rouge et Or halftime score. Bringing in 19-year-old Russian Denis Gorbunov (nine goals, 15 points over 13 games) has been a masterstroke for a club which is averaging 4.38 goals, the league's best.
Cold: Saint John Sea Dogs
Where have you gone, Jonathan Huberdeau, the readers of Station Nation turn their lonely eyes to you. Saint John (.393 point pct. through 14 games, 16th overall). The Sea Dogs are mired offensively with only five goals during their five-game losing streak. At least there was the sideshow of No. 3 overall pick Nathan Noel fighting No. 1 pick Nicolas Roy on Sunday against Chicoutimi.
Canadian NHL team prospects
Emile Poirier, Gatineau (No. 22 by Calgary in '13) — Poirier was a semi-reach at 22nd for the Flames, he's displayed his excellent offensive potential on a loaded 'Piques top line alongside sophomore import Martin Reway and Ottawa Senators fifth-rounder Vincent Dunn. Poirier's nine-game point streak has helped him push into a tie for (distant) second in in Q-league scoring with 10 goals and 22 points over 13 games. Poirier's been pointless in only two games thus far.
Jérémy Grégoire, Baie Comeau (No. 176 by Montreal in '13) — Grégoire, who incidentally gave one of BTN's most enjoyable Draft Tracker interviews last spring, is on a well-worn track in junior. He was drafted high out of minor hockey, had a promising first year, then plateaued early on his age-17 year before being sent from the Chicoutimi Saguenéens to the Drakkar. He's now producing in a scoring role, also standing tied for second in scoring with 12 goals and 22 points in 13 games.
François Brassard, Quebec (No. 166 by Ottawa in '12) — The Remparts are on a six-game point streak when Brassard has been in goal, which might be a good omen for turning around their season. The 19-year-old 'tender had a nice weekend in New Brunswick with a 30-save shutout at Moncton, followed by a 36-of-39 effort during a shootout loss at Acadie-Bathurst where he allowed the lone conversion.
Hot: Regina Pats
Regina is on its longest win streak since 2007-08, when Jordan Eberle was just a 17-year-old hoping to go high in the first round. Probably not coincidentally, it started to pick up for Regina right around the time overage wing Boston Leier came over via Medicine Hat in a trade at the beginning of this month. Leier has counted in all but one game during the streak, buoying a Pat attack that cannot fully revolve around Morgan Klimchuk, Chandler Stephenson and Dyson Stevenson. The run includes a 3-2 verdict over Medicine Hat last week when the Pats limited Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Hunter Shinkaruk to one assist.
Cold: Lethbridge Hurricanes
It would be a triumph for truth in advertising if the 'Canes hung a 'bless this mess' sign at the Enmax Centre. The Central Division struggler (.192 point pct. through 13 games) is going through a break-up with 19-year-old wings Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski.
The 12-team Eastern Conference is the only precinct in the CHL where merely making the post-season is an accomplishment. Lethbridge is looking at a fifth early spring in a row without a turnaround under new coach Drake Berehowsky.
Canadian NHL team prospects
Curtis Lazar and Mitch Moroz, Edmonton (No. 17 by Ottawa in '13, No. 32 by Edmonton Oilers in '12) — Lazar was in the more goals than assists club in his underage seasons, so seeing whether that changes can stand in for proof of how he's learning to involve his teammates. The 18-year-old has nine goals and 17 points thus far, including a 2-and-2 night during a win at Red Deer. It helps to have Moroz, a Milan Lucic-type, on his wing. Moroz has been on the receiving end on three of Lazar's eight helpers.
Morgan Klimchuk, Regina (No. 28 by Calgary in '13) — It is early yet but the Flames' three first-round selections are getting along well. Sean Monahan remains up with the big club, Poirier is piling up points in the QMJHL and Klimchuk is on an 11-game point streak.
Nic Petan, Portland (No. 43 by Winnipeg in '13) — To the shock of no one, Petan has 10 points in his past four games and 23 overall, second in the Dub. He is not missing having star Ty Rattie on his line, apparently.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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