Kelowna Rockets top season's first BTN Dynamic Dozen

Buzzing The Net
Tyrell Goulbourne has 4 goals in 6 games since rejoining the Rockets (The Canadian Press)
Tyrell Goulbourne has 4 goals in 6 games since rejoining the Rockets (The Canadian Press)

The K-towns — Kelowna, Kitchener and Kamloops — are each at or around the top of the debut Dynamic Dozen.

To no surprise, the 12-1-0-0 Rockets nabbed the No. 1 spot in this blog's annual exercise of using math to rank all 60 teams across the Canadian Hockey League. Sophomore Nick Merkley is off to a boffo start, Madison Bowey has eased back into being captain and goalie Jackson Whistle, a former Vancouver Giant, thus far has held down the No. 1 job.

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The gap between the Rockets and No. 2-ranked Kitchener Rangers is, frankly, ginormous. It's early, though and it should be taken into account that by best estimate, Kelowna's due for some bad puck luck. Still, a 12-1 start under new coach Dan Lambert is quite a feat. 

(All change in rankings is for the period between Oct. 19 and 26.)

1. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.656 RPI, +3.0 SRS, — ) — Philadelphia Flyers selection Tyrell Goulbourne was drafted in 2013 for his ruggedness, but has four goals in six games and hasn't taken a minor penalty since being returned as an overage season. The winger had 14 and 17-goal years at ages 18 and 19. As good a start as Merkley has fashioned with 24 points (and 20 assists) in 13 games, having Goulbourne's "speed through the middle" has worked to each player's mutal benefit.

Kelowna has managed one coaching change well so far. With Lambert is due to miss the next six games to coach in the world under-17 challenge, assistants Travis Crickard and Kris Mallette are running the bench.

2. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.593 RPI, +0.9 SRS, +2) — One of the only two teams to earn a point against the Erie Otters lands up high thanks to having kept its head above water even though its opponents are playing .623 hockey. These Rangers might not have Jeff Skinner/Gabriel Landeskog firepower, but they have viable four-line strength, while 17-year-old import Gustav Fransen is settling in with a point in each of his past two games. Their RPI might be more opponent-based than performance-based, but an eight-game point streak in the Midwest Division is admirable. 

Also, don't be that person who came up with Dawson's Crease in reference to Rangers goalie Dawson Carty. That's a Josh Brown original.

3. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.589 RPI, +1.1 SRS, —) — The Océanic have to like their situation; they have the strongest body of work thus far in the Q even though their two NHL first-rounders have hardly been available. Samuel Morin sustained a jaw fracture in his fifth game, while centre Frédérik Gauthier has essentially played only five periods due to injury (and re-injury?). It's a well-balanced group, with Alexis Loiseau holding the league scoring lead at the quarter-pole while Jan Kostalek has picked up the slack on the back end while Morin recovers.

4. Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL (.583 RPI, +2.9 SRS, +9) — The Western League's parents of the week are Brigitte and Horst Eisenschmid. As the hometown News reported, the mum and dad of centre Markus Eisenschmid spent all day Saturday travelling across eight time zones from Germany to make in time for the Calgary-Medicine Hat puck drop. Their son promptly snapped in two goals in the 7-5 win over Calgary that was part of the Tigers vaulting into the top five.

Medicine Hat hasn't had the stiffest schedule, but it is legit. Drafted defenceman Tommy Vannelli (St. Louis Blues) and Tyler Lewington (Washington Capitals) have anchored a good top-four on the back end.

5. Erie Otters, OHL (.582 RPI, +2.7 SRS, —) — Once again, Connor McDavid and Co. are one part mythical SRS machine and one part a very strong OHL team with a catalytic force at the top of the lineup. McDavid (34 points in 12 games), Dylan Strome (31) and fellow 1997-birthdate Alex DeBrincat (23) are having a field day more often than not. Erie, though, probably isn't going to score on 15.8% of its shots all year long, which will mean its defence and goaltending will have to step up.

6. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.578 RPI, +0.9 SRS, +11) — The Blazers' opponents' winning percentage of .614 is the highest of any non-OHL Midwest Division team ranked this week, but they are legit. Dallas Stars pick Cole Ully seems to have found that role as the No. 1 centre who's known league-wide for being underrated, as he is first in Dub scoring while working with wings Matt Needham and Deven Sideroff. You can't have a top line in the WHL without one guy with unconventional vowels in his given name.

Kamlooops has an early-season home test on Wednesday vs. Everett.

7. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (.577 RPI, +1.8 SRS, +12) — Coach Kelly McCrimmon seemed nonplussed about the loss in Kelowna where the Wheaties allowed five special teams goals, since it was in the middle of an extended out-of-conference trip and it was against the Rockets.

Brandon is a potent team, especially with what defenceman Ivan Provorov has added with 12 points in the first 14 games. If you're a defenceman who wears No. 9, the traditional digit for ace scorers, you better put up points.

The second-last stop of Brandon's trip comes Friday at Lethbridge, former home of centre Reid Duke and defenceman Ryan Pilon. Think that could get testy?

8. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.575 RPI, +0.4 SRS, +1) — The Remparts' ranking is more about who they have faced than how well they have played, but it's an auspicious start nonetheless considering they don't have their prospective No. 1 defenceman (Ryan Graves), scorer (Anthony Duclair) and presumably No. 1 goalie (Zach Fucale).

9. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.573 RPI, +1.7 SRS, -7) — Wait, what, an Eastern Conference team from the OHL? That's parity for you. The Gens have done a very good CTRL+R with Ken Appleby becoming the No. 1 goalie and Ottawa Senators-drafted import Tobias Lindberg helping cover for the loss of leader Scott Laughton. It also helps that defenders Josh Brown and Will Petschenig are forming a shutdown tag team, allowing Mitchell Vande Sompel, Stephen Desrochers and Chris Carlisle to focus more on putting up points.

10. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.568 RPI, +0.7 SRS, -3) — Officials might be on high alert when the Drakkar host Saint John on Nov. 15; emotions ran in the red during the teams' game last Saturday. As much as Rimouski and Quebec seem to be framed as rivals in eastern Quebec, Baie-Comeau is still in the thick of it. The win on Sunday at Acadie-Bathurst also came while the Drakkar's best defender, Alexis Vanier, was beginning a two-game ban for an aggressor penalty against Saint John. Speaking of the blueline, former first-rounder Nicolas Meloche is off to a strong start as an offensive contributor.

11. Everett Silvertips, WHL (.564 RPI, +1.3 SRS, +7) — In the wake of recent events in Canada's capital, it might be illuminating to read Nick Patterson's account of how the 'Tips sensitively handled the aftermath of a school shooting close to home that occurred hours before their game on Friday vs. Tri-City. They went ahead, acknowledged the horrific events, and turned down some of the bells and whistles. Even better for Everett, they went on to win the game despite getting Eric Comrie-ed in the first period (21-3 edge on the shot counter, goose eggs on the scoreboard).

12. London Knights, OHL (.550 RPI, +0.4 SRS, +27) — What is the key clause in "winning hockey team right now," the adjective, the noun, or the modifier? The Knights, with Max Domi and Mitchell Marner skating free and easy, broke out of a funk with their first three-win streak. This might be a bridge season, so to speak, but the Knights will have some say in the order of the OHL's best division.

The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.545, -3); 14. Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL (.543, +6); 15. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.540, —); 16. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.538, -2); 17. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.535, +10); 18. Ottawa 67's, OHL (.528, -2); 19. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.528, +3); 20. Prince George Cougars, WHL (.527, -9); 21. Belleville Bulls, OHL (.526, -15); 22. Vancouver Giants, WHL (.525, -14); 23. Victoria Royals, WHL (.523, +9); 24. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.522, +4).

Hot team — London Knights, up 27 (12 to 39).

Cold team — Belleville Bulls, down 15 (21 to 6).

Nowhere to go but up — Prince Albert (.340).

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.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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