Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

BTN Dynamic Dozen: Remparts on top, Sea Dogs surgeThere is a change at the top for the first time this season, as the Quebec Remparts unseat the Spokane Chiefs at No. 1.

Are the Remparts necessarily better than the Saint John Sea Dogs, who swamped them 6-0 recently? Perhaps not, but they generally get to play better opponents. C'est la vie for Saint John, which climbed from No. 10 to No. 5 this week.

It's unclear what gives with the OHL having only two teams crack the top 18. Are London and Sarnia that dominant? The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (21st) and Belleville Bulls (25th) are the league's next two strongest teams.

1. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.596 RPI, +1) — Taking top spot did not come easily for the Remparts, who had a last-minute win Sunday over the Rimouski Océanic, as coach Patrick Roy bested his buddy, rookie bench boss Serge Beausoleil. Quebec's been awful tough to score on, with Phoenix Coyotes draft pick Louis Domingue and backup François Brassard ranking second and sixth in the Quebec league in goals-against average. How much has Domingue put his shaky playoffs behind him?

2. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.590, +2)— A changing of the guard as far as the Dub's highest ranking team goes. Tri-City fairly dominated the Spokane Chiefs with a 4-1 road win on Saturday.

Curiously, the Americans (12-5-0-0) are winning without any kind of power play (fifth-worst in the Dub). This is odd since their power play was pretty crackling the past two seasons. Eighteen-year-old defencemen Mitch Topping and Zach Yuen, who are both plus-13 on the year, are doing well anchoring a back end that only has one player aged 19 or older.

3. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.580, —) — The Tigres play six of their next eight games on the road, which seems like a pretty good measuring stick of whether they should be this high. Please don't be that guy that jokes that Vancouver Canucks draft pick David Honzik is getting Luongo'd by the younger Brandon Whitney. It is worth noting that this weekend, Honzik played the game against the better team, Shawingan. Whitney faced the abject P.E.I. Rocket as he ran his record to 9-0-0-0.

4. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.570,-3) — A dose of Everett at the end of a nine-game road trip on Sunday was good for whatever ailed the Chiefs 24 hours earlier against their in-state rival. It is fair to say the jury is a bit out on Spokane since it hasn't been overly road-tested, although that will change with a two-game series at Portland this weekend. There might not be a ton of star power on this team, but they keep getting breakouts from undrafted players such as 19-year-old team scorling leader Anthony Bardaro and centre Mike Aviani (eight points in his last six games).

5. Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (.570, +5) — They have won 15-of-17 games since getting most of their core players back from NHL camps. The only losses were one flat performance at Gatineau and a one-goal game at Rimouski where the officials seemed to miss a clear Océanic hooking penalty that led to the game-winner.

Minnesota Wild first-rounder Zack Phillips has pulled into the league's top 10 in scoring. Linemate Jonathan Huberdeau should be there within a week or two.

6. Red Deer Rebels, WHL (.569, +6) — Between Swedish left wing John Persson (six points in two games last weekend) and Turner Elson (back-to-back two-goal games), the Rebels are cobbling together enough offence to win. They make the jump since they knocked off the Kootenay Ice in overtime on Saturday when Persson scored with only seven seconds to go before that contrived exercise that comes after the OT.

You know the oft-used broadcaster cliché that the goalie is the most important penalty killer? Patrik Bartosak has a GAA below 2 and the Rebels have allowed a WHL-low nine power-play goals. Play with that for a while.

7. London Knights, OHL (.567, -2) — The Knights are 15-2-0-1; for sheer superficial comparison, the 2004-05 Memorial Cup championship team was 17-0-1-0 at the same point in the schedule. Goalie Michael Houser, with his 2.38 goals-against average and .933 save percentage while having started every game but one, might be the most important player to his team in the league. For anyone wondering, the last goalie to be named the league's most outstanding player was Andrew Raycroft in 2000.

Blame Greg McKegg for dragging the Knights down two pegs. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect was almost singlehandedly responsible for helping his Erie Otters stay with London on Saturday. Erie is 58th of 59 teams in this week's ranking.

8. Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL (.565, +3) — Quinton Howden, fittingly enough since the Warriors have won every game since he returned on Oct. 26 from a concussion, scored the OT winner on Sunday vs. Calgary.

Moose Jaw's five-game win streak is all the more impressive since New York Rangers first-round choice Dylan McIlrath has missed four of the past five games with an upper-body injury. In fact, McIlrath and another of the draft picks on the back end, Joel Edmundson, have dressed for the same game only once all season

Left wing Justin Kirsch has been a godsend since being added in a trade with Calgary, counting seven points in his first four games since the deal.

9. Kootenay Ice, WHL (.563, —) — The Ice and their division rival, Red Deer, have each managed great records without overwhelming goal differentials. It was appropriate, then, that they split a pair one-goal games last week.

Buffalo Sabres-drafted Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen, with a 1.64 goals-against average, has .01 lead over Tri-City's Ty Rimmer for the league lead. Why bring that up? They go head-to-head on Wednesday.

10. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.562, -4) — This does not happen often: three times on Saturday, the Sting scored against the Guelph Storm only to give up a goal in return within a minute. That added up to an unsettling 6-5 loss. Lost in the shuffle of a .500 week, though, was that Dallas Stars second-round pick Brett Ritchie had back-to-back multi-point games for the first time all season.

11. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.553, -4) — Might have been exposed a bit, given that they've dropped three games in a row at the hands of Quebec and Saint John (twice). Their top two scorers, Carl Gélinas and Alexandre Durette, were each shut out in the two-game sweep by Sea Dogs. And now right wing Raphaël Bussières has an injury that will keep him out of the QMJHL portion of the Subway Super Series; of all the things to happen to him on the weekend he marked his 18th birthday.

12. Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL (.550, -1) — Who knows how long the Emerson Etem Show co-starring Hunter Shinkaruk will last, but it's got a better chance of lasting until January than ABC's disappointing Pan Am. The Tiger tandem, who are 1-2 in the WHL in goal scoring, have 41 of Medicine Hat's 77 goals.

Etem was kept off the scoresheet for the first time this season in Medicine Hat's 4-3 overtime loss on Sunday in Regina.

The next half-dozen — 13. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (.545, —); 14. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (.545, +2); 15. Vancouver Giants, WHL (.543, -1); 16. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.535, +4); 17.  Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL (.532, +5); 18. Kamloops Blazers (.526, -10).

Hot teams — Belleville Bulls, OHL (38th to 25th) and Peterborough Petes, OHL (43rd to 30), both up 13 spots.

Cold team — Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors, OHL, down 15 spots (31st to 46th).

You're not in the bottom quintile, you are the bottom — Kingston Frontenacs, OHL (.365).

The drop-off from second-lowest (Erie Otters, .418 RPI) to lowest is really steep.

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. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).

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