It's a coincidence, sure, but the surging teams this week are all graced by a draft-year dandy. Strange that would happen in a season when the NHL lockout has thrust a greater spotlight on the junior game.
Seth Jones' team and Nathan MacKinnon's team are 1-2 in this week's Buzzing The Net Dynamic Dozen, although that might not follow the pecking order in most NHL draft rankings. Jones and his Portland Winterhawks mates. The MacKinnon-led Halifax Mooseheads suffered their first shutout of the season this past week, but it came against a red-hot team, so they actually benefit.
The London Knights of Max Domi and (don't forget) Nikita Zadorov, of course, surged into first overall in the Ontario Hockey League. Fortunately for us, the rankings reflect it.
1. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.591 RPI, 2.2 SRS, —) — Portland, no offence, but you going into a slump would be a real help with this exercise. Just think about it. The Winterhawks now have three players among the top six WHL point-getters and, more impressively, Nic Petan, Ty Rattie and Brendan Leipsic are all in different age cohorts. That probably does not happen too often.
Portland plays 10 games in the final 19 days before the holiday break. All are against the U.S. Division and only one is against the No. 2 team, Spokane. It looks like clear sailing till Christmas.
2. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.576 RPI. 1.8 SRS, +1) — Well,
that shutout loss to Moncton last weekend showed there is less reason for Bluenosers to worry the Mooseheads will not be challenged within the Maritimes Division. That loss could be good in the long run since it illustrates how MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Zach Fucale, et al., are going to get every team's best effort.
The bottom line is Halifax seems very balanced, like that 2011 Saint John team which won the QMJHL despite not having much divisional competition. Meantime, Detroit Red Wings second-rounder Martin Frk is flourishing on MacKinnon's right flank, with 17 points in nine November games. Frk's roll started before he joined the MacKinnon-Drouin line.
Condolences to everyone in Nova Scotia mourning the loss of Maritimes sports institution Pat Connolly.
3. London Knights, OHL (.569 RPI, 1.4 SRS, +10) — Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers might have nothing on what Knights GM Mark Hunter might pick up. As Kitchener Rangers beat writer Josh Brown noted on Tuesday, "Media from London reiterated that the Hunters are likely to add pieces, big pieces, in the coming weeks." (If only there was a struggling team in the nation's capital which could move either a bona fide No. 1 centre or a frontline defenceman.)
The Knights' 12-game win streak (11 of the victories in the regulation) is their longest since 2005-06. It's quite something that they have been unaffected by Ryan Rupert having a rough post-draft season, having yet to score while being waylaid by injuries.
4. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.569 RPI, 1.5 SRS, +2) — Nine out of 10 Dub diehards could probably identify Portland and Kamloops if asked to name the three WHL teams which have scored at least 100 goals. Kelowna as the third even though defenceman-turned-wing Myles Bell is the only Rocket among in the top 20 in scoring.
Captain Colton Sissons deserves a gold star for being on a five-game assist streak. That probably says something about the strides his teammates have made, but the 19-year-old already has as many assists (15) as he did in his entire draft season.
5. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.564 RPI, 1.0 SRS, -1) — The upcoming six-game, nine-day swing across the Prairies will probably exact some toll on Spokane, which has only been a .500 road team. Goalie Eric Williams and leading scorer Todd Fiddler get to catch up with their old Prince Albert friends on Dec. 4. Attention should also be paid to 18-year-old defenceman Reid Gow, who has 18 points in 21 games after getting 22 as a sophomore.
6. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.560 RPI, 1.4 SRS, +5) — This stat is kind of mind-blowing: seven Armada forwards have at least 10 points since Nov. 1, but none have as many as 15. Overage Tommy Giroux and 5-foot-5, 150-pound rookie Philippe Sanche top B-B with 13 Movember counters, while the likes of New Jersey Devils first-rounder Stefan Matteau and Tampa Bay Lightning fourth-rounder Cédric Paquette each have a dozen. Right wing Danick Martel, who is in his draft season, has also come on of late with 10. The Armada finish the month with a fun Friday trek to play Baie-Comeau. Speaking of which:
7. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.558 RPI, 1.1 SRS, -2) — Coach Éric Veilleux's team had played 10 games in 17 days by the end of their Maritime sojourn, which partially explains away high-scoring setbacks at Moncton (6-5) and Saint John (5-4). It was impressive that even though they were gassed, Baie-Comeau nearly came back from four goals down to cadge a point.
Also, Raphaël Bussières might have delivered the check of the season in the QMJHL.
The upshot for the Drakkar is they will have four full days to practise — something they probably have not done much this month — ahead of Friday's showdown with the B-B Armada.
8. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.555 RPI, 1.2 SRS, +1) — Have mostly survived a tough month schedule-wise, going 8-4 with the losses all coming to teams who are ranked this week. The Attack had a impressive bounce-back road win in Sunday, when they had five goal scorers in a 6-1 win at Mississauga despite a quick turnaround following a home shutout loss to London.
Standout goalie Jordan Binnington can probably also squeeze in five more starts before Team Canada's selection camp. As it happens, the Attack face Belleville on the last Saturday before the camp. Now watch Brandon Hope and Charlie Graham form the goalie matchup instead of Binnington-Malcolm Subban matchup one would love to see, since it's a non-conference game.
9. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.554 RPI, 1.0 SRS, -7) — Remain calm! All is well! The Blazers lost a pair of one-goal games at home last week where they had 41-13 and 43-22 edges in shots against Regina and Saskatoon respectively. The lack of a point threat that coach Guy Charron bemoaned in mid-November might still be an issue. The Blazers had a power-play goal in all three of their games last week, but on only one did a defenceman notch a point. And that came from 16-year-old Jordan Thomson, so now you know the rest of the story.
10. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.551 RPI, 0.7 SRS, -3) — Not dominant, but still making ends meet in the high-rent neighbourhood thanks to defence and the John Gibson-Franky Palazzese goaltending. With their need to add an old, old wooden ship to their offensive fleet, one has to think Palazzese could go in a trade, but only after Gibson returns from tending net for Team USA in January. At least the injury that put 21-goal man Matt Puempel out of Tuesday's rivalry game with London seems relatively minor.
Kitchener Rangers winger Matt Puempel (OTT) day to day with a stinger in his shoulder. #OHL
— Josh Brown (@BrownRecord) November 28, 2012
Matt Puempel (OTT) will not return tonight, but injury does not appear serious and he should be fine for Friday. #OHL
— Josh Brown (@BrownRecord) November 28, 2012
A high strength of schedule accounts for the Rangers having a comparable RPI with London, even though the difference between them seems vast.
11. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.551, 0.6 SRS, -3) — They finally have a win against the aforementioned Chiefs in five tries this season, thanks to a Malte Strömwall overtime winner last Saturday. The good news for the Ams is they have only seven games left against their rivals so, hey, the law of averages must be on their side.
Tri-City captain Justin Feser achieved a milestone last weekend by playing in his 275th consecutive game dating back to January 2009. Many Western League players would be happy to have one season where they played every game.
12. Guelph Storm, OHL (.540 RPI, 0.7 SRS, +3) — The Storm and Winnipeg Jets prospect Scott Kosmachuk, whose six-goal, two-assist week earned him league recognition, have broken into the rankings in rather timely fashion. It means one can point out that one of junior hockey's most exciting offensive shows has an itinerary of defensively responsible clubs coming up with games against Brampton, London, Guelph and Owen Sound. The latter three are among the four stingiest teams in the OHL and the other one has Subban.
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.538, +4); 14. Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (.537, +17); 15. Prince Albert Raiders, WHL (.535, +10); 16. Barrie Colts, OHL (.530, -6); 17. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.529, -3); 18. Mississauga Steelheads, OHL (.524, -6); 19. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.524, +9); 20. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.522, —); 21. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.520, +9); 22. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.520, -4); 23. Brampton Battalion, OHL (.520, -4); 24. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.519, —).
Hot team — Moncton Wildcats, up 17 (31st to 14th).
Cold team — Victoriaville Tigres, down 11 (23rd to 34th). Victoria and Victoriaville in consecutive weeks. Any team from a city named for a British royal should watch its back.
Nowhere to go but up — Shawinigan Cataractes (.409). The Cats have scored 43 goals in 26 games.
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), an equation which uses goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.
(All rankings through play on Nov. 25.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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