Ignore NHL with McDavid, MacKinnon and more

Who needs the NHL?

As the world’s top professional league continues to treat its fans with disdain and hold them hostage, the world’s best junior circuit is providing plenty of excitement.

Nathan MacKinnon, the top-rated prospect for the lockout league’s 2013 draft, has earned plenty of attention, but how about that Connor McDavid kid in Erie? Pretty good, eh?

The 1997-born prospect has been electric for one of the OHL’s worst teams, which makes his achievements all the more impressive. And while it’s very difficult to compare him with Halifax’s Nathan MacKinnon across leagues and age differences, one coach who has worked a little with both believes the gap between McDavid and the rest of the prospects in his draft year (2015) is much wider than the gap between MacKinnon and his rivals.

Take that for what you will. No matter which one ends up being the better player in the long run, both of them are great reasons to check out major junior hockey in the NHL’s time of dying.

But they are far from the only players worth watching. Below are 10 of the best teams across Canada that are providing great theater for those seeking it out.


Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

OVERALL: 20-2-0-1 LW: 1

Wednesday’s game against Baie-Comeau was Halifax’s first against any of the QMJHL teams on this list and they destroyed the Drakkar 6-2. It’s kind of silly that the last time Halifax scored fewer than four goals in a game was back on Sept. 29.

Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
OVERALL: 19-5-1-1 LW: 4

As expected, the Blazers return home remedied their cold streak as they pulled out five points in three games on the week, including a hard-fought, back-and-forth game with the tough Portland Winterhawks. The Blazers should keep it going with two home games against soft touches Vancouver and Saskatoon this week.

Portland Winterhawks (WHL) OVERALL: 18-4-1-0 LW: 2

Losing the barnburner in Kamloops was a disappointment, but it was their first loss since Oct. 9, so they get a pass. The team’s top four defenders (Derrick Pouliot, Troy Rutkowski, Tyler Wotherspoon and Seth Jones) have been beastly and all sit in the top 20 of WHL defensemen scoring. Pouliot is making a strong case to make Canada’s WJC squad and Jones, as expected, topped Central Scouting’s list for draft eligible WHL players.

Owen Sound Attack (OHL) OVERALL: 17-4-1-2
LW: 3

We’ve talked about how good goalie Jordan Binnington is in this space a few times, but his current run of unconsciousness is out of control. Binnington, a St. Louis draft pick, set an Owen Sound wins record (68) last week and has registered three shutouts in a row. They weren’t soft touches, either, as he did it against division rivals Kitchener and Windsor, plus the Barrie Colts.

Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL) OVERALL: 18-5-0-2 LW: 6

A rather light home-and-home with Gatineau makes up the Armada’s schedule for this week. Etienne Marcoux, a late 1993 birthday undrafted last season, now has a GAA that’s a half-goal better than anyone else in the Q.

Barrie Colts
Barrie Colts (OHL)
OVERALL: 17-6-0-1 LW: 7

Down two goals to Windsor with less than three minutes to play, the Colts took advantage of two bad Spitfires penalties to tie the game they’d eventually win in overtime. The close road loss to Owen Sound was frustrating, but the Colts continue to hang tough with the OHL’s better conference.

Belleville Bulls
Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
OVERALL: 16-5-1-2 LW: 8

They scored the first and last goals in their big game against Halifax last week – problem is they allowed six in between. As if the Minnesota Wild’s pipeline wasn’t highly touted enough, 2012 second-rounder Raphael Bussieres is on fire, scoring nine goals and 23 points in his current 10-game point streak. He was named CHL player of the week.

Barrie Colts
London Knights (OHL)
OVERALL: 16-5-0-2

Initially in the No. 3 position in our Power Rankings, the Knights return to the list for the first time since Oct. 11. In the OHL’s deepest division by a country mile, the Knights have surged after a slow start and haven’t lost since Nov. 1. They played division rivals Owen Sound and Kitchener last week, beating both by a combined 9-5 score. London will play both teams again this week in some must-watch hockey.

Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) OVERALL: 18-5-0-0
LW: 5

Finally solved their problem of having too many imports, but Dane Nick Sorensen wasn’t the one to be traded, as was thought would be the case. Russian Nikita Kucherov was moved to Rouyn-Noranda instead.

Barrie Colts

Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

OVERALL: 16-5-1-2

Perhaps the biggest snub from any of the CHL Super Series rosters was to Hitmen netminder Chris Driedger, an Ottawa Senators third round pick in 2012. He’s found great consistency and sits second with a 2.31 GAA and fifth with a .921 SP. Calgary has allowed more than two goals only once this month, their sole loss, and Driedger wasn’t even playing.