Halifax and Darcy Ashley tied QMJHL record with 58 wins in 68 games (Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images)
The final Dynamic Dozen ended up being a good snapshot of all three major junior leagues.
In short, that means the WHL banner was waved strongest by its Portland-Kelowna-Edmonton triple threat. The OHL was led by its three pick-'em playoff contenders in the Western Conference, London, Plymouth and Owen Sound. Farther to the east, the Halifax Mooseheads seem to stand head-and-shoulders above the Quebec league pack at the dawn of the playoffs, the only proving ground that matters.
1. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.576 RPI, 1.8 SRS, —) — Some quick and facile comparisons between the 58-win Mooseheads of 2012-13 and the 58-win Saint John Sea Dogs of 2010-11.
Halifax had 53 of its wins in regulation time. Saint John had 48. Halifax had a goal differential of +168. Saint John had a goal differential of +158. Halifax's accomplishments came with its top two draft prospects, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, appearing in 44 and 47 games respectively. During Saint John's Memorial Cup season, their four high draft choices, Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, Tomas Jurco and Nathan Beaulieu, all played at least 60 of the 68 games. And both had Stephan MacAulay!
To sum up, either Halifax is better or the competition across the league is worse. If the Mooseheads go to the Memorial Cup, they are likely to face stiffer competition than Saint John did two seasons ago in Mississauga, though.
2. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.567 RPI, 1.8 SRS, —) — Coach-GM turned cause célèbre Mike Johnston is around the Winterhawks organization during his banishment, if not around the players. The suspended bench boss gave a rare interview this week where he couldn't say much as per the league's gag order, but it included an update on what a coach who cannot coach does.
"We're very pleased with Mike's professionalism throughout the entire incident," 'Hawks president Doug Piper told Oregon Live. "He's used his time really wisely, helping a lot of our charitable efforts and participating in our youth programs, which means a lot to us. ... He's continued to be an inspiration to everybody in the organization. ... The fact Travis [Green] has been able to step in and do a phenomenal job is as much a tribute to Mike as it is to Travis."
3. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.563 RPI, 1.4 SRS, —) — The sequel was not exactly like the original. The WHL champs' title defence has involved playing a much tighter-checking game, going from 308 goals scored to 277 and from 189 allowed to 151. Derek Laxdal's club pulled that off despite graduating their captain on the blueline, Mark Pysyk, who recently made his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres. They also managed to give Laurent Brossoit a dozen more nights off thanks to heir apparent Tristan Jarry emerging as an understudy who's good enough to start.
The emphasis on the shutdown game might explain away New York Rangers selection Michael St. Croix going from 104 points as an 18-year-old to 92. He was still involved in about exactly one-third of the scoring on a deep team which doesn't have to play the hell out of its top-enders.
4. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.559 RPI, 1.5 SRS, —) — There is a history lesson in the wake of the Rockets losing captain Colton Sissons. The Kelowna franchise, as Regan Bartel notes, has a history of surviving and advancing in the playoffs after losing a vital forward. It was practically an annual rite during their glory years in the first half of the aughties. The counterpoint is that might not be pertinent to this post-season. The Rockets and their emerging defensive leader Damon Severson (52 points in his age-18 season) can give that storyline life with a deep run.
5. London Knights, OHL (.557 RPI, 1.1 SRS, +1) — No kidding around, London is a favourite to make the OHL championship series even though it was semi-halfway on autopilot while it cruised home in first overall. Philadelphia Flyers goalie of the future (don't worry, that phrase was used with a heaping hint of irony) Anthony Stolarz seems to be past the feeling-out process. The 6-foot-6 'tender has allowed fewer than three goals in 8-of-12 starts across the past month. The only ugly statline came in a loss when the entire Knights team didn't show up.
London Knights winger Seth Griffith will play Friday in Game 1 vs. Saginaw.
— John Matisz (@Metro_JMatisz) March 19, 2013
London Knights captain Scott Harrington “questionable” for Friday’s Game 1. He’s day-to-day still with upper body injury.
— John Matisz (@Metro_JMatisz) March 19, 2013
6. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.555 RPI, 1.4 SRS, -1) — For anyone wondering, the Whalers are 23-4-0-1 with Vince Trocheck compared to 19-13-5-3 before coach-GM Mike Vellucci's deadline deal that brought the centre downstate. That compares favourable with the post-deadline records of their conference's heavyweights, London (16-8-1-1) and Owen Sound (19-6-0-2). Granted, Plymouth's imperative to win was greater since it was in a race for a No. 2 playoff seed, although that's easily forgotten since it finished 15 points ahead of Sault Ste. Marie.
7. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.554 RPI, 0.9 SRS, —) — The Attack allowed about 90 fewer goals, give or take counting the shootout winners, than their first-round opponent, the Soo Greyhounds. That might refute some of the predications that the Greyhounds (15-8-1-2 since the trade deadline) might be primed for the upset. It's hard to picture star goalie Jordan Binnington, with the way he's advanced across four seasons in the OHL, being part of a one-and-done team.
8. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.538 RPI, 0.7 SRS, +1) — If there's a matchup that better captures what major junior hockey is and the mom-and-pop business it still purports to be, it's the Swift Current Broncos-Hitmen matchup in Round 1. The entire population of Swift Current could fit into the Saddledome. Let that rattle around whilst checking the progress of your playoff beard.
9. P.E.I. Rocket, QMJHL (.536 RPI, 0.5 SRS, +2) — The Rocket nearly doubled their point from a league low 44 to 86 even though their division still had a powerhouse. I don't claim to have an ear to the ground in the Q, but that's a coach of the year argument for P.E.I.'s Gordie Dwyer. Baie-Comeau's Éric Veilleux oversaw a 30-point improvement with the Drakkar while, of course, Halifax's Dominique Ducharme only tied the league win record. Starting goaltender Antoine Bibeau played well over the home stretch, will full credit going to the Jimmy Oligny-headed defence corps. The Rocket have the look of a tough out later in the playoffs.
10. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.535 RPI, 0.9 SRS, —) — For both of you who wondered, the Blazers earned points at a .607 clip after their season-opening hot streak ended. That is still very respectable, just not Kelowna awesome, let alone Portland awesome. They could still gum up the works in the playoffs, especially depending on what type of playoff defenceman Joel Edmundson enjoys.
11. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.535 RPI, 0.9 SRS, +1) — The New Jersey Devils burning a season of B-B left wing Stefan Matteau's entry-level deal will remain a mystery for the ages. The Armada did not dip while Matteau was in Newark and finished out the season strongly, although they were only able to nab the No. 3 seed in the Quebec League's playoff field. Their most reliable scorers were all been consistently chipping in down the stretch save for the 17-year-old rookie Philippe Sanche, who might have broken his slump by popping in a goal in the finale.
12. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.534 RPI, 0.5 SRS, +6) — The Rangers' finish validates making them a popular darkhorse pick as the 4 seed in the OHL's Western Conference. It's the 'If not now, when?' principle at play, since next season will be too late. They have seldom played with all hands on deck all season, plus John Gibson is the most certifiable money goalie in the OHL's playoff field, with apologies to Binnington.
Which playoff performance does Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Josh Leivo replicate? His struggle from 2012 when his Sudbury Wolves were swept or his 13-point performance from '11 when he helped the seventh-seeded Wolves sweep Ottawa and push eventual Memorial Cup runner-up Mississauga?
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Guelph Storm, OHL (.532, -5); 14. Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (.532, +2); 15. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.530, +5); 16. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.528, -2); 17. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (.528, -2); 18. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.527, +1); 19. Belleville Bulls, OHL (.522, +7); 20. Barrie Colts, OHL (.522, +2); 21. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.522, —); 22. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.521, +1); 23. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.519, -10); 24. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.516, +6).
Hot team — Belleville Bulls, up 7 (26th to 19th).
Cold team — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, down 10 (13th to 23rd).
Nowhere to go but up — Ottawa 67's (.426).
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.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.
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