There has been a change at the top.
The Kamloops Blazers beat the Portland Winterhawks last week, but that was not enough to maintain a tissue-thin lead in the Buzzing The Net Dynamic Dozen. The Winterhawks are a WHL-best 9-1 across their past 10 games compared to the Blazers' 5-5 in the same span, which tilts the scales just enough.
It proved to be a volatile week in the CHL's top quintile, with Quebec and Sarnia (9-1 losers in Sault Ste. Marie last Sunday) dropping out of the DynDoz. Say hello to Barrie and Tri-City.
The week ahead could have a shakeup in the QMJHL pecking order, since its two best teams, Baie-Comeau and Halifax, face off on Wednesday. Was it not the Drakkar who drafted Nathan MacKinnon in 2011?
1. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.597 RPI, 2.2 SRS, +1) — So there was never anything off with Ty Rattie rather than finding the right fit. He and Nashville Predators late third-rounder Brendan Leipsic have combined for 31 points in eight games this month, with Leipsic tallying a whopping 19. Portland got into a track meet with Kamloops in their loss on Friday, but otherwise, it's been fairly clear sailing.
Overage goalie Mac Carruth has a 1.41 goals-against average after 10 games while platooning with Brendan Burke. It's very early yet, but only one WHL 'tender has had a sub-2.00 average in the past three years. The Winterhawks aren't going to be let down by their goaltending, unlike the Oregon Ducks with their placekickers.
2. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.586 RPI, 1.3 SRS, -1) — Perhaps well-travelled newcomer Charles Inglis, along with helming the second line, can come up with a regal sobriquet for the first line. Blazers beat writer Gregg Drinnan is running a contest to nickname the Colin Smith-Tim Bozon-JC Lipon troika. Inglis seems like a bit of a free spirit; those types usually have more fertile imaginations.
Picking up the overage Inglis for a song seems worth it for Kamloops, which has until Jan. 10 to finalize its overage spots. It learned last week neither Jordan DePape nor defenceman Austin Madaisky will play a game in blue-and-orange again.
3. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.577 RPI. 1.8 SRS, +3) — Bragging rights will be on the line Wednesday when Halifax hosts Baie-Comeau in the unofficial MacKinnon Derby.
The hoopla to the nth degree over MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin has overshadowed Detroit Red Wings second-rounder Martin Frk's breakout. The one-time No. 2 overall import pick has 13 points in six games this month as the occasional trigger man alongside the two 17-year-olds. Please keep in mind Frk missed half of last season with injuries and was also adapting to a new game when he put up 50 points on a bad team two years ago. Now he looks like a player.
4. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.556 RPI, 0.9 SRS, -2) — Granted, it's an obvious point since he had a hat trick in the lone Chiefs game last week, but 19-year-old Todd Fiddler (15 goals, 26 points) has already surpassed his totals from a season ago. The forward had 23 goals in his age-17 year with Prince Albert, but dropped off to 12 during a transition season. Spokane can surely that kind of offensive variety.
5. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.563 RPI, 1.6 SRS, —) — Centre Valentin Zykov has laid claim to being the Q's best NHL draft prospect who does not have a green H on his jersey, according to Central Scouting. Fellow 17-year-old Philippe Cadorette did not get any love from the scouting service despite his 2.70 average and .895 save percentage. One noticeable distinction is Cadorette is 5-foot-11, while the six ranked Q 'tenders are all at least 6-foot.
Fun fact: all three of the teams with a big-time 'tender — Zach Fucale with Halifax, Eric Comrie with Tri-City and Spencer Martin with Mississauga — are ranked this week. Cadorette makes it a fab four of 17-year-old starting netminders.
6. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.563 RPI, 1.2 SRS, -3) — The Rockets, who dropped two 3-2 decisions to surging Tri-City last week, could be on the precipice of busting out offensively. That often happens after a hard-luck weekend. A rudimentary understanding of the law of averages tells us that Colton Sissons is due to snap his six-game goal drought. Overage Dylen McKinlay is also in a dry spell, so look out.
7. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.556 RPI, 0.5 SRS, -3) — A 1-for-3 weekend pointed out the self-evident; what will the Rangers look like when they lose up to five players and their coach for a stretch due to the world junior championship? Kitchener's goaltending and defence has kept it up with the OHL Western Conference leaders, but a good amount of its ranking is due to having the league's second-toughest schedule after only the Windsor Spitfires. A tight trade market is still limiting coach-GM Steve Spott's chances to bring in another forward.
8. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.552, 0.6 SRS, +7) — Is this not always the way? Eric Comrie had a nice little week and then came down with a flu bug that cost him a chance to work out with Ams alum Carey Price. D'oh!
This is Tri-City's first appearance this season and they'll be tested with a home-and-home vs. rival Spokane this weekend. Justin Feser, with 30 points, has more than any two of his teammates, so evidently they are very dependent on Comrie and their defence corps, which includes Winnipeg Jets prospect Zachary Yuen.
9. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.552 RPI, 1.1 SRS, —) — Last week's Attack talking point revolved around a difficult stretch in the schedule. Jordan Binnington, et al., got through a London-Kitchener-Windsor gauntlet with flying colours, taking 4-of-6 points while the rangy goalie allowed only two even-strength goals across three games.
Binnington's 2.18 average and .932 save percentage rate well with Kitchener's John Gibson's 2.16 and .933 when you factor in that the Attack have had 47 more penalty kills than the Rangers.
10. Barrie Colts, OHL (.551 RPI, 0.8 SRS, +8) — The Mark Scheifele-led Colts finally break in, which seems fitting since they are in first overall. Barrie, with six point-a-game scorers and Aaron Ekblad (16 points, plus-8 through 23 games) having a superb sophomore year, has marked itself as a contender. They one Achilles heel is having the league's second-ranked power play and third-worst penalty kill, which probably tells you about their priorities for the trade deadline (a big, zone-clearing defenceman?). Big Brendan Lemieux got his first two OHL goals on Sunday, incidentally.
11. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.549 RPI, 1.2 SRS, -3) — Read very little into the three-spot slip. The Armada sailed through weak Telus West Division competition to stay second overall in the Q. Meantime, at least from this vantage point, their defence corps with Team Canada candidate Xavier Ouellet, overage Samuel Carrier and Christian Marti and Oliver Picard, each 19, is one of their league's deepest. The Armada have one more weekend of facing a ham-and-egger with a home-and-home vs. struggling Gatineau.
12. Mississauga Steelheads, OHL (.548 RPI, +0.4 SRS, -1) — 'Sauga is getting a hand up from its division (four Central Division clubs are among the CHL's top 22), so there's a chance it could drop out next week. So there might not be a better time to point out the job they did in the 2011 draft, held during the same month when the-then Majors were focused on the Memorial Cup. They had only four of the first 122 picks, but all of them are now playing. Forward Josh Burnside (seven points in nine games this month) might be the most effective skater of the lot, even though he was taken with the final pick of Round 6.
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. London Knights, OHL (.544, +4); 14. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.536, -3); 15. Guelph Storm , OHL (.533, +6); 16. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.531, -7); 17. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.529, +4); 18. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.526, -2); 19. Brampton Battalion, OHL (.526, +14) 20. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.524, +5) 21. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.523, -1); 22. Niagara IceDogs, OHL (.521, +5); 23. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.520, -1); 24. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.520, -10).
Hot team — Val'd-Or Foreurs, up 15 spots to 26th.
Cold team — Victoria Royals, down 13 spots to 32nd.
Nowhere to go but up — Peterborough Petes (OHL), .414. The Vancouver Giants (.418) and Shawinigan Cataractes (.419) are looking up at everyone else in the other two leagues.
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.
(All rankings through play on Nov. 18.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.