The top three stayed the same last week, but the Dynamic Dozen does welcome a new entry from the OHL.
It should not be any surprise to see the Plymouth Whalers, who are leading their division, crack the list. It just took a while for coach-GM Mike Vellucci‘s team to find its form once its core players trickled back from their engagements with NHL organizations. Led by two NHL first-round picks who should play in the world junior, J.T. Miller and Rickard Rakell, they have gone 18-4-1-1 in the past two months.
1. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.594 RPI, no change) — Hotshot centre Mikhail Grigorenko shook off a string of so-so games with a three-point effort in a win Sunday. According to coach, GM and part-owner Patrick Roy, one shouldn’t read anything into that since Grigo might be thinking ahead to the world junior. It’s no big deal since Roy says he did the same before representing Canada in the Winter Olympics.
Quebec has been on a roll that’s included a lot of six- and seven-goal nights. It should be interesting to see how they hold up while Grigorenko, presuming Russia adds him for the world junior, and rookies Anthony Duclair and Adam Erne play internationally after the break.
2. Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (.560, —) — Even Roy is downplaying his team being tied in the standings with the Sea Dogs, since they have had so many injuries. Saint John has stayed strong thanks in part to playing it so well with their overage spots. It is rare for a team to have two 20-year-olds who know they’re in a NHl organization’s plans and Columbus Blue Jackets-drafted goalie Mathieu Corbeil (league-best 2.32 goals-against average) and Nashville Predators-drafted defenceman Charles-Olivier Roussel (24 points, plus-23 in 28 games) have delivered. All the third overage, Danick Gauthier, is doing is sharing the league lead with 31 goals.
3. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.557, —) — It is time to mention the Ams could be a potential 50-win team. The Western league leaders, backed by veteran goalie Ty Rimmer, are a deserving 25-7-0-0, including a league-best 12-5 on the road. That includes five wins in as many tries against a Portland Winterhawks team that includes much more high-end talent. (Before anyone cites the absence of three Winterhawks trying out for Team Canada as a cause for a 3-0 Tri-City win last weekend, well, the Americans had 19-year-old winger Justin Feser playing defence due to injuries.)
Another question: does a team want to win 50 games? Remember what happened to Saskatoon last year?
4. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.550, +2) — They stay up despite letting their gardien de but down in a read-the-riot-act 8-7 shootout loss to Rouyn-Noranda last weekend. So much for overage centre Yanni Gourde getting to enjoy his player-of-the-week honour or taking over the league scoring lead. Well, at least he shouldn’t get caught savouring it. That game had to be a huge letdown considering the Tigres polished off then-surging Rimouski one night earlier.
Victo gets a big test Wednesday against Dynamic Dozen debutants Chicoutimi.
5. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.549, +2) — Not to speak for everyone, but aren’t you eager to see what the new and improved Oil Kings do when they have to venture outside Wild Rose Country? The leaders of the Dub’s stacked Eastern Conference have been taking care of business an extended world junior-induced homestand. They’ve won nine in a row, with New York Rangers fourth-rounder Michael St. Croix moving into the top 10 in league scoring and Dylan Wruck joining him among the top 20 and Tyler Maxwell producing as expected. They held their own earlier in the season when they were on the road quite a bit, but there’s no ignoring their huge rise has come during a stretch when they haven’t journeyed outside Alberta since Nov. 12.
6. Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL (.545, +2) — The MasterCard Memorial Cup hosts had successive shutout wins last weekend with both No. 1 ‘tender Gabriel Girard and understudy Alex Dubeau collecting a bagel. The burning question is how a team with drafted veterans such as Michael Chaput, Kirill Kabanov and Team Canada hopeful Michaël Bournival is only 11th in a 17-team league in power-play efficiency. That’s a leak that needs to be plugged.
7. London Knights, OHL (.545, +2) — Subtract the power-play goals and the Knights are outscoring opponents 2:1. That puts them in the range of being so dominant that they have to, as hockey teams have done time immemorial, ward off complacency. Suffice to say, going by what coach-GM Mark Hunter said on Sunday (“We have to have more intensity in the game. We didn’t have that especially defensively. We didn’t win the one-on-one battles, the whole lot of them; I’m not just picking a few here”) it’s probably going to be pretty grim week of practice in the Forest City.
Meantime, what about Seth Griffith? The undrafted 18-year-old has 11 goals and 17 points during his current 10-game scoring skein.
8. Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL (.543, -3) — It’s a good sign that coach Mike Stothers‘ Warriors had a strong outing in their first game after team leader Quinton Howden headed to Team Canada’s selection camp. Something to watch out for is that Moose Jaw has had the most home-friendly schedule in the league, playing 21 times already at the new Mosaic Centre. They are headed into a measuring-stick stretch of the season: nine road games in the next 11, including three weekends in a row on the road to start the post-Christmas break schedule. Warriors goalie Luke Siemens, meantime, boasts the league’s fifth-best goals-against average.
9. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.541, -5) — That’s right, Moose Jaw and Mooseheads back-to-back. If you had told the Mooseheads they would end a 15-game losing streak vs. Saint John while dressing only five defenders but end up batting only .333 for the week, would they have taken it? Well, what if the propositioned was sweetened by throwing in the return of scoring winger Martin Frk and addition of highly touted rookie Jonathan Drouin? You’d take that action.
10. Chicoutimi Saguenéens, WHL (.536, +7) — The Sags appear for the first time after winning their past three games by a combined score of 17-5. Two big reasons for their surge are that NHL draft prospect Charles Hudon is on a roll and goalie Chris Gibson has been sharp. The centre has eight goals and 18 points in a dozen games dating to the start of November and has gone pointless just twice. Gibson, the Los Angeles Kings-drafted ‘tender, is off to a superb start this month with a 2.21 average and .911 save percentage in four starts.
11. Plymouth Whalers, WHL (.534, +7) — They made it in just in time to have five core players go ever which way for world junior team camps. With eight players who have at least 25 points — a group that includes neither Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Jamie Devane not Tom Wilson, a potential high NHL pick in June — and No. 2 goalie Matt Mahalak being second in the league in GAA, they should handle the absences well enough. Stay-at-home defenceman Colin MacDonald, meanwhile, is keeping his own end tidy, as evidenced by his team-best +20 plus/minus.
12. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (.533, +2) — Score one for a little concept called downtime. Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken, himself a member of the goaltenders’ union (membership is permanent), gave Andrey Makarov three days off after the Russian workhorse goalie fell into a slump. Makarov responded by helping the Blades pull out big win last weekend despite the absence of three top-six forwards. That includes Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Josh Nicholls, who’s out until the new year with an injured MCL.
The next dozen — 13. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (.526, -2); 14. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.525, +8); 15. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.523, -5); 16. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.523, -3); 17. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.521, -2); 18. Niagara IceDogs, OHL (.519, -2); 19. Kootenay Ice, WHL (.519, -7); 20. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.512, -1); 21. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.511, +5); 22. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.511, -1); 23. Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL (.511, +6); 24. Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL (.509, -1).
Hot team — Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL, up 10 spots (46th to 36th).
Cold team — Red Deer Rebels, WHL, down 15 (36th to 51st).
Looking (nowhere but) up — Erie Otters, OHL (.414 RPI). The Otters (4-25-1-1) had a three-point weekend.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).