Two Northern Ontario teams did the ships-passing--in-the-night thing when Sault Ste. Marie blew out North Bay last Friday.
The Greyhounds, even without captain Darnell Nurse, have won seven games in a row to move closer to locking up top spot in the OHL's Western Conference. Meantime, the Battalion have given ground in their division race and are fighting just to earn a favourable playoff matchup after losing four in a row.
Here is the weekly survey of who is flowing and who is fraying, entering the fourth-last week of the regular season.
Hot: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
No looking past the obvious; Sault Ste. Marie has outscored foes by an aggregate 44-12 over its last seven games as it moves closer to gaining home-ice advantage for the first three rounds of the playoffs. The 'Hounds got through a busy phase (10 games in 17 games) with only two losses despite the injuries to Nurse and Tyler Ganly, as the likes of Anthony DeAngelo, Connor Boland and Tyler Hore took on extra duty on the back end.
The Jared McCann-Michael Bunting-Sergey Tolchinsky troika also seemed to be operating at ludicrous speed by times during back-to-back home wins over North Bay and Kitchener, where they tallied 21 points. One of the line's goals against the Rangers involved two no-look passes.
Not: North Bay Battalion
When the Battalion loaded up in January with trades for drafted power wingers Ryan Kujawinski and Nick Moutrey, the thought was that it could nab the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Instead, a a four-loss streak and a .500 record since mid-January (7-7-0-2 since Jan. 16) has lead to North Bay slipping behind a younger Ottawa 67's team.
The letdown has come on defence, where the Battalion yielded 18 goals over course of last week's losses to Kitchener, Sault Ste. Marie and Niagara. With overages Marcus McIvor and Brenden Miller and Colorado Avalanche draft pick Kyle Wood, there is a seasoned group in front of workhorse goalie Jake Smith. Yet of late, teams have been able to pick apart North Bay's coverage. The upshot is that it can be repaired. Still, the difference between third and fourth in the East is the difference between drawing a dangerous Niagara IceDogs or a more pliable sub-.500 club in the first round of playoffs.
Canadian NHL team prospects
Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie (No. 24 by Vancouver in 2014) — As noted, McCann (3G-6A, +6) was right in the trick of Point Week for the 'Hounds. It wasn't just about the quantity but the quality, as he wings Bunting and Tolchinsky were locked in. McCann's nine points also included a sweet cross-seam pass for a DeAngelo power-play goal against Kitchener.
Brendan Lemieux, Barrie (Winnipeg Jets, No. 31 in '14) — Had five points over three games, including a two-goal effort in a divisional home win over Niagara.
Cole Cassels, Oshawa (No. 85 by Vancouver in '13) — Had a short week due to a suspension, but came up with a three-point, plus-3 effort on Sunday when the Generals beat Ottawa to stave off a losing streak.
Kyle Platzer, Owen Sound (No. 96 by Edmonton in '13) — Scored four goals over the course of three Attack wins, including a natural hat trick in the most impressive win of the three, a roadie against Barrie.
Nick Paul, North Bay (Ottawa Senators, No. 101 in '13) — Paul has scored in 6-of-7 games and leads the Battalion with 31 goals in just 47 games. It's not out of the realm to think, given the opportunities for quick advancement in the Senators system, that he could be not that far from a big-league debut.
Hot: Val-d'Or Foreurs
Val-d'Or, which has the unique distinction of having scored the second-most goals in the Q (232) while allowing the most (230, even more than Bathurst's 224), has won five in a row to creep up to 10th overall. The Foreurs might not be much for grinding out 2-1 games, but like their championship team a year ago, they can skate and score like anyone's business, and both Anthony Beauregard (14 points this month) and Philadelphia Flyers second-rounder Nicolas Aubé-Kubel (13) have been productive lately. Val-d'Or is always a pain to draw in the playoffs due to the travel factor, but it could be also be peaking at the right time.
Not: Saint John Sea Dogs
Saint John stanched the bleeding with a win on Sunday over basement-dwelling Acadie-Bathurst, but overall it has lost 4-of-5 and only has a five-point lead in the race for first-round home-ice advantage. The demands imposed on the players by the brutal winter on the East Coast probably has exacted a toll, especially since this a relatively young team with draft prospects such as Thomas Chabot, Jakub Zboril, Adam Marsh and Nathan Noel.
The Sea Dogs' final 10 games include a pair of meetings apiece against Charlottetown and Halifax, which are right behind them in the standings.
Canadian NHL team prospects
Nikolaj Ehlers, Halifax (No. 9 by Winnipeg in '14) — Now has a 32-game point streak after three two-assist games. At some point Timo Meier will return the favour and set him up for a goal; Ehlers has actually gone two weeks without one.
Mason McDonald, Charlottetown (No. 34 by Calgary in '14) — Had a busy week that included 52 saves in a win against Saint John and 30 in a hard-luck 2-1 loss to Halifax (both goals coming on Ehlers set-ups). Has a 2.97 average and .908 save percentage on the year, which rates well for an 18-year-old.
Keven Bouchard, Val-d'Or (No. 183 by Edmonton in '14) — Even grading on Things The Oilers Do scale, it did seem to come out of left field when Edmonton threw a seventh-round dart at Bouchard last June. The 18-year-old had a 29-save shutout against Quebec (and fellow Oilers pick Marc-Olivier Roy) on Sunday, but as the backup on a defensively suspect team, he's sporting a 4.15 average and .861 save percentage.
Hot: Calgary Hitmen
The Hitmen have taken care of business with a four-win streak and 9-1-0-0 past-10 record as they begin an 11-game stretch of road games thanks to the Saddledome being taken over by The Brier. One should anticipate that the 25 days between home games (last Tuesday's win over Medicine Hat and a March 15 fixture vs. Lethbridge) is eventually going to catch up to Mark French's team, but they won the first two on the weekend by winning at Spokane and Tri-City. Calgary, with the likes of Adam Tambellini and Jake Virtanen up front and defencemen such as Flyers first-rounder Travis Sanheim and rookie Jake Bean, have the qualities to play high-octane hockey. It will bear watching to see how long they can keep it up, as they have pulled into a dead heat with Medicine Hat for the Central Division lead.
Not: Spokane Chiefs
Spokane is perilously close to falling into the dreaded first-round matchup against powerhouse Kelowna after losing three in a row, including a shutout loss on Saturday against Kootenay. Coach Don Nachbaur has coaxed a lot of out of a youthful and injury-riddled lineup, but with the likes of overage Calder Brooks and 19-year-old Blair Oneschuk getting back up to speed due to long-term injuries, the Chiefs can only muster so much firepower. Even a potential feel-good story went for naught on Friday in a loss to Calgary. Oneschuk, who missed more two months, scored his first goal since returning, but the Hitmen struck for three goals in six minutes in the third.
Canadian NHL team prospects
Josh Morrissey, Kelowna (No. 13 by Winnipeg in '13) — Morrissey has found a groove with the Rockets, taking an 11-game point streak into the week. That's right in line with what was expected once Kelowna really began to feel like his home base.
Nic Petan, Portland (No. 43 by Winnipeg in '13) — Sandwiched three- and four-point games around a rare goose egg, which came in a 5-2 win where the Winterhawks had 46 shots on goal. As far as the process is concerned, he's fine. Petan's 1.5 points per game rate is near the top of the Dub, even if it might seem like he's having a modest year by his standard.
Brett Lernout, Swift Current (No. 73 by Montreal in '14) — Lernout has been picking his spots to get involved, with seven points in eight games this month. That included a two-point night in a Broncos win over Prince Albert.
Axel Blomqvist, Moose Jaw (Winnipeg, free-agent signing) — The 6-foot-6 wing played his role well during a B.C. road trip, collecting four assists over three games. Moose Jaw is seven points out of a playoff berth with 12 games left, so Blomqvist could get an earlier-than-expected opportunity to get some time in the AHL.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.