Deadline deals — damn, the Regina Pats got Martin Marincin? — have changed the landscape in all three CHL leagues. But a familiar name tops the first Dynamic Dozen of the new year, with the Tri-City Americans sitting No. 1.
The Ams are riding a 13-game win streak, so their placing is no surprise. The big takeaway this week is the rivalries taking form as the real regular season commences. Tri-City should expect greater heat from the Portland Winterhawks and their high-octane offence, while the Moose Jaw Warriors have fortified a veteran lineup this week to challenge the upstart Edmonton Oil Kings in the other half of the WHL. The Ontario league is shaping up as a Plymouth-London two-team race. Down east, most eyes this week should be on the Shawinigan Cataractes-Saint John Sea Dogs tilt on Thursday — a Cats-Dogs matchup that includes star defenceman Brandon Gormley, just in a different uniform.
1. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.574 RPI, +1) — Their 13-game roll goes on the line Wednesday against a streaking Kamloops team. It would almost be nice if Tri-City could drop a game or two, because otherwise you can just yadda-yadda through any discussion of the Western league leaders. Ty Rimmer tops the Dub in goals-against average and save percentage, yadda-yadda-yadda, Zach Yuen‘s first in plus/minus, and so on.
2. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.572, -1) — How long are they going to be this high after Patrick Roy elected to stick with the youth movement? Their Telus East Division rivals in Shawinigan, Victoriaville and even Chicoutimi added tested talent before the deadline. The Remparts will likely be better off in the long run for not touching their young nucleus, but that point might come some time after this spring.
3. Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (.557, +2) — Thursday will be the first test of the wisdom of not going all out to get Gormley from the Moncton Wildcats. Coach Gerard Gallant and associate coach Mike Kelly were not willing to cut their “lifeline,” the entry draft. Meantime, while waiting on Charlie Coyle to arrive, they won their first game after getting their other three world junior stalwarts back in the lineup.
4. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.556, —) — Coach Derek Laxdal‘s team has earned 10-of-14 possible points since the break despite running with only five defencemen for much of that span. The Oil Kings must love that Brandon, Moose Jaw and Regina all loaded up at the deadline to try and knock them off their perch.
5. Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL (.555, +3) — How will it all fit together? Gormley and the other newbie on the revamped back end, Morgan Ellis, are surely used to being the alpha dog with their former teams. But if that’s the only stumbling block one can imagine, then they must be in a good position. Shawinigan GM Martin Mondou paid the price in a bid to help the Cataractes be ready for the MasterCard Memorial Cup in May.
6. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.547, +1) — There are so many ways to go with the ‘Hawks adding centre Cam Reid from the Edmonton Oil Kings by way of St. Cloud State. There’s the Paul Kelly angle of Portland putting a player on the spot about leaving school (Reid in the St. Cloud paper: “They offered to have me play center on the first line with their top two players. “I talked it over with my parents, and it was something I couldn’t pass up or say no to.”) There is the spectre of an Edmonton-Portland final. One can also throw in the fact that the team of Sven Bärtschi and Ty Rattie is putting all its eggs in the outscore- everybody basket.
7 (tied). London Knights, OHL (.547, -4) — They got one 19-year-old standout, Greg McKegg, to do something about a power play that is only eighth-best in the league. It would follow, then, that the other big add, Austin Watson, will help shore up that ninth-ranked penalty kill. Getting those two without sacrificing too much of the 1994- and ’95-born age cohort is a huge coup for GM-coach Mark Hunter. The Knights also have a run of games vs. mid-pack or lower teams coming up, which buys time for world junior defenceman Scott Harrington to heal up the shoulder he injured on Dec. 31.
7 (tied). Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.547, -1) — Coach-GM Mike Vellucci‘s choice not to add players at the deadline will be road-tested since the Whalers have only three home games left this month. It says here it was a good call for a team that is 11-1-0-0 dating to Dec. 1 despite the fact (de facto?) No. 1 goaltender Scott Wedgewood played in only four of those games and teammates J.T. Miller, Rickard Rakell and Dario Trutmann were also away at the world junior. Wedgewood had a very nice 28-save return Sunday in a 2-1 win at Sarnia.
9. Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL (.543, —) — Like London, they seized the moment by adding the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ Cam Braes and Vancouver Giants’ James Henry, captains of their now former teams. Moose Jaw had a bit of a lull during its extended road trip over the holidays, losing four in a row at one point, but that included some close games. Left wing Tanner Eberle should have a good 18th birthday this week, since he had a career game last Saturday by figuring into all goals in a 3-2 win at Kootenay.
10. Chicoutimi Saguenéens, QMJHL (.528, +3) — They’re hanging in with a young lineup that includes NHL draft prospects Charles Hudon and Dominic Poulin. The Sags are good enough to be in the conversation about the league’s elite after bringing in Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Gatineau. Their deal-breaker is whether Finland world junior goalie Chris Gibson can find the form he showed last season (2.42 average, .920 average) instead of what he has shown so far this season (3.80, .889).
11. Victoriaville Tigres, WHL (.528, -1) — Make it four teams from one division in the Quebec league on this week’s list, with Baie-Comeau not far off. It’s that deep a group and the Tigres stack up its the best offensive team, especially after adding puck-moving defender Daniel Milan from Moncton. Incidentally, centre Phillip Danault had three goals in as many games last week right after signing his contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
12. Regina Pats, WHL (.525, +7) — Martin Marincin? Martin Marincin? The surging Pats got the best defenceman available on the trade market. It only cost them their first two choices in this spring’s bantam draft. With Jordan Weal entering his final few months as a junior and goalie Matt Hewitt (2.66 average, .910 save percentage) having a standout season, apparently GM Chad Lang chose to strike while the iron his hot. Regina’s ranking might be a reflection of having defeated Edmonton twice while the Oil Kings were without their best defenceman, Team Canada’s Mark Pysyk.
The next dozen — 13. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.525, +5); 14. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (.522, +6); 15. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.522, -3); 16. Niagara IceDogs, OHL (.520, —); 17. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (.520, -3); 18. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.519, -1); 19. Brampton Battalion, OHL (.518, -8); 20. Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL (.518, +2); 21. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.515, +6); 22. Kootenay Ice, WHL (.514, +1); 23. Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL (.513, -2); 24. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.513, -9).
Hot team — Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (40th to 29th) and Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL (53rd to 42nd), each up 11 spots.
Cold team — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL, down 12 (34th to 46th).
Looking (nowhere but) up — Erie Otters, OHL (.410 RPI).
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.
Changes in each team’s ranking date from their spot on Jan. 1.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: John Allen, Tri-City Americans).