January 07, 2014
If the OHL picked all-stars for the span where teams are short-staffed due to the world junior championship — and if the league had a keener sense of irony, it would — Robby Fabbri would be on it.
The Guelph Storm's 17-year-old picked up the slack in the absence of older forwards Kerby Rychel (Team Canada), Tyler Bertuzzi (head/neck) and Brock McGinn (wrist surgery) . Fabbri's 15 goals and 21 points over the 13 games since his return from a 10-game suspension for checking to the head has helped the Storm keep up with the Ontario league's big three.
Every team across the CHL will have a different look by the end of the week, when the trade deadlines in Ontario and the Western leagues pass on Friday. Until then, here's the traditional Dynamic Dozen.
1. Guelph Storm, OHL (.592 RPI, +2.2 SRS, +3) — Guelph was tuckered out when its win streak was snapped in Saginaw last weekend, but that hardly takes the shine off an impressive run over the get-through-this-somehow stage of the season. Five of the wins during their streak, it should be noted, came over teams whose best defenceman was away with Team Canada. The other two were over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Darnell Nurse, who according to the Don Cherry lemmings was the difference between Canada being fourth and first.
(Nurse is a fantastic prospect, but no 18-year-old defenceman is that catalytic.)
2. London Knights, OHL (.590 RPI, +1.8 SRS, -1) — So London waived German defender Tim Bender to clear an import spot? It knows that two-time world junior competition Ryan Hartman, the Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder from last June, is American, right? The Hartman-to-London talk makes sense; former Knights assistant GM Jim McKellar scouts for the reigning Stanley Cup champions. That does not mean it will happen.
As for the import spot, yeah, something is up. Meantime, London took 12-of-16 possible points while Josh Anderson, Bo Horvat, Anthony Stolarz and Nikita Zadorov were off at the world junior, scoring 41 goals over those eight games. The only regulation loss came in the outdoor game vs. Plymouth.
3. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.588 RPI, +1.9 SRS, +2) — Rockets personnel guru Lorne Frey is early contender for CHL quote of the year for his explanation for why 16-year-old Nick Merkley won't be moved for a veteran: "There aren’t too many places where you can trade yachts for canoes." Merkley helped Team Pacific win the silver medal last weekend at the last world under-17 challenge before its revamp starting next season — three Canadian entries selected at large instead of regionally, plus the tourney will be in November.
What more does a team that has lost only six games need? Vancouver might have provided a preview for how opponents will play the Rockets when it pushed Kelowna around somewhat while snapping its 16-game win streak last Friday. Kelowna won the second leg of the weekend set; it will also get some more experience with facing tough teams during this week's Alberta swing, with stops at Edmonton and Eastern Conference-leading Calgary.
4. Erie Otters, OHL (.575 RPI, +2.0 SRS, -2) — What defenceman will be crossing the border at some point in the next 72 hours? Erie was built to win this season, since most of its frontline players are likely to move onward and upward from junior next season. The question boils down to whether managing partner Sherry Bassin swings for the fences by getting puck-mover — think Mississauga's Trevor Carrick — or opts for hitting a solid liner by adding a stay-at-home defender.
5. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.568 RPI, +1.2 SRS, +2) — As befits a league-leading team, B-B general manager Joël Bouchard didn't have to make major tweaks to his team at the deadline. Adding 19-year-old Dominic Talbot-Tassi from Sherbrooke was a sage move to provide another set of steady hands on the blueline. The Armada surely did its homework since Talbot-Tassi was playing within their division with Sherbrooke.
6. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.565 RPI, +1.2 SRS, -3) — So Mathew Dumba is going to be a 'Hawk. The best part for Dumba, and the Minnesota Wild, not that they need it pointed out, is that there's a security in letting Dumba take some time to heal any minor injuries he incurred during the WJC. The Winterhawks are a good bet to play at least two rounds, quite possibly three, so he'll get the ice time he needs.
Minnesota sends Canada World Junior D Matt Dumba to Portland #WHL. You might have heard during tourney 100x his rights traded.
— Loosepucks.com (@loosepucks) January 7, 2014
Unfortunately for the Winterhawks, there is no quantifiable way to give less weight to games that coincide with the world junior. They have lost four in a row and seven of 10 while short-staffed. This weekend's two-game trip to Victoria could decide who finishes second in the WHL.
7. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.553 RPI, +1.0 SRS, +1) — It's not hockey news, but Chiefs owner Bobby Brett's minor league ball team, the Spokane Indians, has shown how to do an aboriginal sports nickname right by spelling the team name in the Salish language. That's how you do it. Meantime, coach Don Nachbaur's gang will get plenty of prep for a possible playoff matchup over these final 2½ months. The Chiefs have five games each remaining against potential first-round opponents Everett and Seattle. It is also 3-1-0-0 vs. the Victoria Royals.
8. Victoria Royals, WHL (.545 RPI, +0.7 SRS, +4) — Adding offensive defenceman Travis Brown is exactly what the Royals need, considering that their entire blueline has scored only 11 goals all season, or two more than the Chicago Blackhawks choice had with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Granted, that tally would have been higher if sophomore Joe Hicketts hadn't gone down with an injury after 15 games. Brown will dive right into the Royals' back-to-back two-game home series vs. Portland and Kelowna, the Double-D's top two teams from the Dub. Victoria won at Portland last weekend while the 'Hawks were short-staffed due to the world junior.
9. Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (.543 RPI, +1.1 SRS, —) — Eight teams in the Q are between .622 and .662 in point percentage so, yeah, this is a deep league. Val-d'Or's 19-year-old goalie switcheroo, with Toronto Maple Leafs pick Antoine Bibeau coming in via the Charlottetown fire sale while St. Louis Blues selection François Tremblay was sent to Victoriaville, seems a little curious at first glance. Val-d'Or coughed up a 2014 first-rounder for Bibeau while Trembaly only netted a fourth and eighth. However, last spring in the playoffs Tremblay was Val-d'Or's backup behind Philippe Trudeau. Clearly, Bibeau was considered a more viable playoff netmnder.
10. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.542 RPI, +0.8 SRS, —) — The Volts landed St. Louis Blues late second-rounder William Carrier and Calgary Flames third Ryan Culkin at Tuesday's trade deadline. The talented Carrier never played on a contender in Cape Breton but will now have that 'dare to be great' situation. He had 12 goals and 41 points over 39 games with the Screaming Eagles; the shooting percentage was fewer than 9 per cent, so there's a chance Carrier breaks out in Drummondville. Culkin had a particularly emotional departure from Quebec.
11. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.539 RPI, 0.0 SRS, -5) — The 'Birds are clearly here by virtue of strength-of-schedule. With a skeletal lineup due to injuries and Mathew Barzal being away with Team Pacific, they've gone 0-4-1-0 while being outscored by an aggregate 33-7. Seattle still has a two-game trip to Prince George left before it gets home to the Pacific Northwest with a chance to shoo away the fragility and the bad vibes.
12. Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL (.536 RPI, +0.6 SRS, +3) — Seventeen-year-old wing Alexis Pépin, whose production had stalled in Charlottetown, will get a chance to experience the magic of Benoit Groulx makeover after coming west for two first-rounders and 16-year-old Curtis Scales. That amounts to Gatineau's major move. Groulx decided the going rate for a goalie was far too steep, so the 'Piques are standing by their Robert Steeves-Anthony Brodeur goalie tandem
Groulx: «Ma seule discussion pour un gardien. Un DG m'a proposé son gardien et m'a dit que ça coûtait 2 choix de 1re ronde. J'ai dit merci.» — jf plante (@jfplante_Droit) January 7, 2014
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.535, +1); 14. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.534, -3); 15. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.533, +2); 16. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.530, —); 17. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.530, +1); 18. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.528, +2); 19. Everett Silvertips, WHL (.525, -6); 20. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.524, +1); 21. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.523, -2); 22. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.518, +3); 23. Vancouver Giants, WHL (.516, +3); 24. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.515, —).
Hot team — Brandon Wheat Kings, up 8 (49th to 41st).
Cold team — North Bay Battalion, down 10 (35th to 45th).
Nowhere to go but up — Saint John Sea Dogs (.424).
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), a ranking which combines 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.