Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Portland Winterhawks, Kelowna Rockets top BTN Dynamic Dozen ahead of first-place showdown

Just like it was planned or something, it's a No. 1 vs. No. 2 two-fer this week.

Once again, the Portland Winterhawks top the Buzzing The Net Dynamic Dozen thanks to the six-game win streak they carry into this week's action, which includes a Friday/Saturday set against the No. 2-ranked Kelowna Rockets.

Portland has shut out four of its last six opponents, while the Rockets average more than five goals on home ice, where they haven't lost in about an eternity. Goalie Mac Carruth and the Winterhawks do own the only shutout this season against Kelowna, so there's that, especially since it came when top draft prospect Seth Jones had just three WHL games under his belt. Would that this was the Sportsnet Friday Night Hockey game, but a Moncton Wildcats-Halifax Mooseheads matchup is pretty good, too.

1. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.586 RPI, 2.0 SRS, —) — The drama surrounding this franchise never ends, eh? There doesn't seem to be much that's concrete about the latest NHL-to-Portland rumour, so Winterhawks loyalists should probably not lose any sleep over it. (You know junior hockey fans, they/we are the sport's answer to indie rock-loving hipsters.)

Now that Portland's rolling again, any commentary seems redundant and forced. You probably already know they have three of the Dub's top four scorers, with the 17-year-old Nic Petan followed by 18-year-old Brendan Leipsic and the 19-year-old Ty Rattie. Unlike the latter two, at least Petan won't have an anxious night if he doesn't get drafted in the first round, which is a cheeky way of passing on that the NHL is going to do the draft in one go on June 30.

2. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.574 RPI, 1.7 SRS, —) — Omens — or coincidences, maybe — abound in the Okanagan. The Rockets are on the verge of having multiple 30-goal marksmen for the first time since their last championship season in 2009, since 18-year-old Ryan Olsen is three way from joining Myles Bell. Forward Dylen McKinlay, at +47, is also the first Rocket to hit the 40 or higher club since Jesse Schultz in 2003. Kelowna raised the Ed Chynoweth Cup that season, too.

3. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.571 RPI, 1.8 SRS, +1) — This week might represents more to the Mooseheads than 2.9 per cent of the schedule. Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Zachary Fucale and confrères passed their test last week by shutting down Baie-Comeau in its own barn. This week's slate seems semi-important, with home matchups against the Rimouski Océanic and Moncton Wildcats, who are each veteran teams built for the playoffs. The Quebec League schedulemaker got it right with the Halifax-Moncton scheduling, since the two Maritimes heavyweights play three more times after this week.

4. London Knights, OHL (.569 RPI, 1.2 SRS, -1) — It has been a month since the Ontario League's highest-scoring team scored four goals in a game against a team which is not the Ottawa 67's. That might be a troubling thing unless they plan on earning two shutouts wins per week for the duration. The Knights, with leading scorer Max Domi out of sick bay, has a big week ahead against fellow division leader Sarnia and Owen Sound, whom they are 4-0 against. Goalie Jake Patterson is 4-0 against Owen Sound. So does net partner Anthony Stolarz get either of the remaining two starts vs. the Attack, just to have some experience against them in case of a playoff meeting?

5. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.561 RPI, 1.5 SRS, —) — Call Reuters, since the Oil Kings finally slew the Prince Albert Raiders — on their fourth try! — with a 4-3 come-from-behind overtime win. It was, apart from some sporadic shakiness from Laurent Brossoit, a signature win insofar as Edmonton won thanks to having three different lines score goals after the end of the second period and levelled nemesis Luke Siemens with 52 shots. Eighteen-year-old wing Mitch Moroz, along the way, ended his 12-game goalless drought with a power move that snapped Siemens' string of scoreless 'tending, so that might buoy the big guy's confidence.

6. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.550 RPI, 0.9 SRS, +1) — Their game against Halifax is a big test, but should be graded on a curve with Rimouski's myriad of injuries to right wing Michael Joly, defencemen Maxime Gravel and Samuel Morin and goalie Philippe Desrosiers — all 17-year-olds, oddly enough. That makes it all the more impressive that coach Serge Beausoleil's gang has won 10 in a row; new goalie Robin Gusse is unbeaten with a 2.18 average and .918 save percentage since arriving via trade with Rouyn-Noranda.

Incidentally, for all the talk about Halifax being a good young team, the Océanic (12) actually carry more underagers than the Mooseheads (7).

7. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.544 RPI, 0.9 SRS, -1) — Inability to do a memory wipe after an emotional home loss to the Mooseheads led to the Drakkar having an 0-2 week that threw them out of the division lead. The good news for Éric Veilleux's team is it should not have a problem with motivation for Wednesday's return visit vs. the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, who beat them in a shootout last weekend. Baie-Comeau also has a favourable schedule over the next three weeks, so there is a chance to make up for the lost ground.

8. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.540 RPI, 0.6 SRS, +1) — There is some Feser/unfazed wordplay that's just not coming together, sorry about that, eh? Captain Justin Feser had six points last week, which was exactly as many as Tri-City picked up in the standings as it continues to win without star goalie Eric Comrie. Eighteen-year-old Swede Malte Strömwall also helped out the ailing Ams with five counters last week and a shootout winner. Remember when some dim-bulb spent part of his Easter weekend writing up a Draft Tracker on Strömwall, who then wasn't drafted? Well, he has nearly a point a game, so there.

9. Guelph Storm, OHL (.539 RPI, 0.6 SRS, -1) — Their consecutive home-and-homes with Kitchener and Owen Sound are all the more important since none of the OHL Western Conference heavies seem to be throwing away winnable games very often. The big takeaway from Guelph's current roll — 8-2 across its past 10 games to keep pace with the Rangers — is that it's been very balanced. Tampa Bay Lightning-drafted centre Tanner Richard has had the hot stick with 13 points in his past eight games, but the Storm put a six-spot on the scoreboard last weekend when he was laid up with the flu.

10. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.539 RPI, 0.7 SRS, —) — Cagey centre Gemel Smith, a Dallas Stars draftee, will be out for a bounce-back week after missing part of last weekend after taking a heavy check during a road win at Kitchener. Smith has posted only two points in his past nine games while Owen Sound goes through the post-deadline line tweaking, so keep an eye peeled for how he gets along during the upcoming London-Plymouth-Guelph-Guelph gauntlet the Attack face over the next two weeks.

11. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.535 RPI, 0.6 SRS, —) — First-string right wing JC Lipon was singled out for praise at the end of last week, which might be a good sign when you consider that some coaches (not necessarily Guy Charron) throw individual compliments around like manhole covers once the stretch drive begins. The 19-year-old has had 12 points in his last eight games, good second-half numbers. The Blazers, on the whole, have a favourable setup with just two home games this week and a midweek game against lowly Vancouver ahead of their Feb. 15-16 measuring-stick matchups against Kelowna.

12. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.535 RPI, 1.0 SRS, +3) — B-B reappears by virtue of one-goal wins over Victoriaville and Quebec from the Q's tougher Telus East division, along with having a recent date with Halifax in their history. All that has boosted their strength of schedule, but the Armada are beating the teams they should beat and goalie Étienne Marcoux has turned in some encouraging outings after having his season interrupted two months ago by a shoulder injury.

The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.533, +4); 14. Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (.529, +2); 15. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.528, -1); 16. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.524, -4); 17. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.523, -4); 18. Barrie Colts, OHL (.518, +3); 19. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.518, -1); 20. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.517, —); 21. P.E.I. Rocket, QMJHL (.515, +1); 22. Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (.514, +2); 23. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.512, -4); 24. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.511, +7).

Hot team — Saskatoon Blades, up 9 (37th to 28th).

Cold team — Medicine Hat Tigers, down 10 (30th to 40th).

Nowhere to go but up — Vancouver Giants (.429).

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 Feb. 4.)

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to

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