Two games does not a trouble trend, much less a narrative make.
The ripple of Connor McDavid's absence stemming from a voluntary fight affected the Erie Otters, whose have subsequently scored only three goals on 71 shots in the two games since. Part of that is attribute to normal regression, since Erie has had a bordering-on-unsustainable shooting percentage. Erie's five-spot dip in the Double D also affected their Midwest Division counterparts in the OHL, with Kitchener being bumped down despite defeating the Otters and London stepping out entirely.
The top five in the new Double D is Kelowna-Oshawa-Brandon-Ottawa-Medicine Hat.
1. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.628 RPI, +2.8 SRS, —) — The regression has to come at some point, like maybe around the time the CFL finds a long-term solution for the Toronto Argonauts. Kelowna is running hot in terms of PDO (108.2, highest in the WHL ahead of Brandon's 103.7). They are also a crackling 31.5 per cent (35-for-111) on the power play, where co-scoring leader Nick Merkley have gathered exactly half of his 40 points. The rub is that the Rockets keep doing the work to get extra premium chances and nearly an extra power play per night (17 more than their foes across the first 22 games). They've also had the depth to make up Detroit Red Wings-drafted defender Mitch Wheaton only play four games thus far.
Scoring just one goal on Tuesday vs. Victoria will make it 100 consecutive games without a shutout for Kelowna.
2. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.597 RPI, +1.9 SRS, +2) — All hail Anthony Cirelli, the undrafted rookie and alumnus of AA-calibre minor hockey who had his first multi-goal game during a win over the Saginaw Spirit. The 6-foot, 165-pound centre made himself indispensable to coach D.J. Smith in training camp and is already plus-10 through 19 games. Finding the unplucked gems goes a long way toward being to restock at a level that has such high turnover. Meantime, this might be the first time in about two seasons that an Eastern club has been the first OHL team on the list.
Also, goalie Ken Appleby now has a sub-2.00 average. Who was worried about him taking over, again?
3. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (.571 RPI, +1.6 SRS, —) — 'Tying' Medicine Hat keeps the Wheat Kings flush as far as thriving vs. top teams is concerned. The who-blinks-first drama in the breakaway relay between Brandon's Jordan Papirny and Medicine Hat's Marek Langhamer did overshadow how Brandon dug in just to get through 65 minutes. Their 21st-ranked penalty kill was 5-for-5 and weathered consecutive man-downs in the third against arguably the most potent attack in the league.
Also, not only should the Wheat Kings be praised for wearing special military-themed jerseys to raise money for Westman military families, but using yellow numerals on a khaki jersey was a design masterstroke. Too many special jerseys have barely distinguishable numerals. Fans need to be able to identify who's playing.
4. Ottawa 67's, OHL (.566 RPI, -0.1 SRS, +7) — The 67's opponents' winning percentage (.557) is fourth-highest in all of major junior, which pumps up their ranking. It is also a hint that a sleeping giant has started to stir under coach Jeff Brown, assistant coach Mike Eastwood and GM Pat Higgins. Ottawa's additions since the start of the year, hard-working wing Trent Mallette and quick-thinking defenceman Evan de Haan, also seem to have fortified the lineup. Ottawa has a challenging 3-in-4 homestand coming up that begins with a visit from Darnell Nurse and Sault Ste. Marie.
5. Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL (.562 RPI, +1.3 SRS, +1) — If a player with a lot of goals and nearly no assists is Cy Young, shouldn't someone with a couple goals and a lot of assists be called Anthony Young after the New York Mets pitcher who had 2-14 and 1-16 records in successive seasons in the early '90s? It's still a compliment; Young kept getting the ball since he was the best man for the job. It's worth mentioning this since the Tigers' Trevor Cox has two goals and 24 assists (second in the Dub), making him an Anthony Young. That label might also make Cox shoot a little more as the Tigers try to break a two-game slide this week.
6. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.560 RPI, +1.1 SRS, +1) — When the other three goalies at Hockey Canada's summer camp include two Memorial Cup winners and the younger brother of a former NHL forward, it's hard to get attention. Yet one shouldn't ignore Philippe Desrosiers ahead of the annual December debate over Team Canada goalies. The 19-year-old ended up being the starter for that gold-medal-winning U18 team in April 2013, which should keep him in good stead with Hockey Canada. He's also survived a lot of pressure cooker games while playing for Rimouski, such as Sunday's emotionally charged divison-leaders showdown with Blainville-Boisbriand. Desrosiers simply would not let Rimouski lose that game.
7. Erie Otters, OHL (.551 RPI, +2.1 SRS, -5) — It is not like the wheels completely came off without a certain centre. The Double D makes no allowances for acts of hot goalie. Erie peppered Niagara's Brandon Hope with 46 shots in a 2-1 loss in its first game without McDavid. Dylan Strome and Co. (get used to typing that for a bit) have a two-game Sarnia/Saginaw trek this weekend; oftentimes those longer rides are good for a team's overall state.
8. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.547 RPI, +0.9 SRS, -3) — The Otters' drop affects the Rangers' ranking since they have already played three times. However, Kitchener validated its placing with a good-and-thorough win over Erie last Saturday, getting goals from five players. Fourth-year left wing Brent Pedersen has also come on, with eight points over the last six as Kitchener has stretched its point streak to 15 (eight regulation wins, seven regulation ties). That 55.2% Est. Fenwick Close also looks really nice. They've managed to keep winning despite an injury to Colorado Avalanche draftee Nick Magyar, too.
9. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.546 RPI, +1.6 SRS, +4) — The 'Hounds are an 'inside dog' again thanks to running off five wins in a row, including thorough road victories at Plymouth and Windsor. The David Miller-Bryan Moore-Keigan Goetz line had an eight-point field day in a win over Plymouth, showing they can be a go-to unit. The 'Hounds have also been able to absorb the absence of Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Jared McCann, who had mononucleosis in September and, more recently, missed four games due to a viral infection.
10. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.546 RPI, +0.5 SRS, +5) — Add Richard Nejezchleb and stir, apparently. Tri-City is 5-0 since the trade with Brandon for the overage New York Rangers prospect. The Ams have a nice blend age-wise, with two seasoned lines centred by Brian Williams and Justin Gutierrez while 17-year-olds Ty Comrie and Braden Purtill get their feet wet. Tri-City might not be devastating 5-on-5, but both specialty units are top-5 in the Dub.
11. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.545 RPI, +0.8 SRS, -3) — To paraphrase Gil Gunderson, "Damn, that felt like a win over Rimouski!" The Armada took the last three penalties of the game after taking a lead on the road vs. the Océanic, and gave up game-tying and overtime goals on the power play to fall to 0-1-1-1 vs. a team they could meet late in the spring. Consider that a lesson learned for Joel Bouchard's team. Daniel Walcott was called for the overtime penalty, so he'll have the bee in his bonnet for this weekend's homestand.
12. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.543 RPI, +0.4 SRS, -2) — Does it matter that the team given the hand-up of a host team berth at the Memorial Cup has won just 4-of-11 away from Le Colisée after an oh-fer in the Abitibi? Shutdown defenceman Ryan Graves has only had five games to settle in with his new team and there will be an airlift coming at Christmastime. Quebec's had an impressive start after losing Anthony Duclair, but that road record is an Achilles heel that will have to heal up by March.
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.542, +1); 14. Everett Silvertips, WHL (.540, -5); 15. Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (.536, +3); 16. London Knights, OHL (.534, -4); 17. Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL (.520, —); 18. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.518, +2); 19. Swift Current Broncos, WHL (.517, +7); 20. Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (.517, +12); 21. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.516, -5); 22. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.515, +12); 23. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.513, +6); 24. Victoria Royals, WHL (.513, +3).
Hot team — Moncton Wildcats, up 12 (32nd to 20th).
Cold team — Drummondville Voltigeurs, down 17 (23rd to 40th).
Nowhere to go but up — Prince Albert (.381).
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.