Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Portland Winterhawks top BTN Dynamic Dozen, thanks to 12-game streak

Time to paint a bird on everything in Portland, since the Winterhawks are atop the Dynamic Dozen.

The 'Hawks are on a 12-game point streak which includes beating the Nos. 6, 10 and 22 teams in the ranking. Translation: they are good at hockey, but so are a few other teams.

1. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.587 RPI, +1.8 SRS, +2) — The Winterhawks have allowed just 17 goals during their present 11-0-0-1 skein where they've been operating with a full deck. The heartwarming part about Phoenix Coyotes-drafted goalie Brendan Burke harnessing the whirlwind by being named goalie of the week is that Burke absorbed some punishment during the Christmas blah period when Portland was without five of its regulars.

By the way, not that Portland's pest parBrendan Leipsic wasn't already a scourge to the Seattle Thunderbirds, but he managed to push the bile even more by declining to fight Seattle's Keegan Kolesar last week. Kolesar was on the wrong end of a suspendable check by Leipsic during a game on Dec. 11.

2. Guelph Storm, OHL (.584 RPI, +2.0 SRS, -1) — Music to Columbus Blue Jackets fans' ears; Storm left wing Kerby Rychel, whose skating is a work in progress, is among the Guelph players drilling with the renowned coach Barb Underhill. That's part of why it wouldn't be a stunner if Rychel, who has grit and guile, plays NHL games as early as next season.

Meantime, Guelph slips down directly due to a loss to Rychel's old Windsor Spitfires team, which stymied the Storm by sticking to its systems. The Storm's itinerary for this week includes three games against teams playing .423 hockey or worse, so picture Scott Walker harping on the need to avoid bad habits.

3. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.583 RPI, +1.8 SRS, -1) — The Rocket men (heh) play six of their next at home, with a down-and-back game at Spokane on Feb. 12 being the only roadie. That means a team that has got a bit scrambly with its defensive play will have a lot of time for practice and positive reinforcement, or the other kind. Kelowna's Tyson Baillie, its second-leading scorer, is in a dry spell with five points in the last 15 games.

4. Erie Otters, OHL (.570 RPI, +2.1 SRS, —) — The ultimate proof we have too much time on our hands, with names omitted to protect the well-meaning. When ex-Otter and London Knight Greg McKegg was called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, someone on Twitter wondered whether London regretted trading away future 50-goal scorer Dane Fox for four months of McKegg. Gee, I can think of two reasons the Knights don't rue that move. Both involve taking a picture with a trophy.

Fox has two goals in the Otters' last eight games. Does that count as a slump?

5. London Knights, OHL (.569 RPI, +1.6 SRS, —) — The Knights, seven points adrift of Erie and eight behind Guelph at the three-quarter pole, have slightly better than faint hope of moving up from the No. 4 playoff seed. London seems to have found a groove that directly correlates with Nikita Zadorov getting acclimatized to the place he's spending the rest of the season. The big offensive defenceman has five goals, eight points and is plus-9 during the coursre of the Knights' five-game win streak.

London is at Erie on Sunday for the metaphorical four-pointer. It has one game left with the Otters.

6. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.555 RPI, +0.3 SRS, +1) — That shutout loss to Portland slightly dampers the good vibes from a solid January for Seattle, which had a double-digit victory month for the first time in six seasons. The upside is that Seattle got burly Dallas Stars draft pick Branden Troock back in the lineup after a four-week absence, so the 19-year-old has a game under his best ahead of a home-and-home with the Spokane Chiefs. Seattle is 5-0 vs. its state rival.

7. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.553 RPI, +1.2 SRS, -1) — With 10 wins in a row, Éric Veilleux's crew has eclipsed the club record for consecutive wins that dated back 2002-03, and you might remember how that year played out in B-C. The Drakkar dominated with a 50-win regular season but were ousted in seven by the Halifax Mooseheads in the league semifinal; Halifax in turn lost in the final in seven to then-Hull Olympiques. Along with Charles Hudon's early impact, Los Angeles Kings second-rounder Valentin Zykov is turned up with 15 points in his last seven games; the Russian sophomore is already close to matching his assist total from his age-17 year.

8. Victoria Royals, WHL (.552 RPI, +0.9 SRS, —) — Victoria is missing a couple of hammers coming into the week with captain Jordan Fransoo and forward Ben Walker each ailing. The attrition could catch up to it over a stretch that, beginning Tuesday, includes six games in nine days, including a visit to Kelowna and a matinee grudge match vs. Vancouver. At least defenceman Joe Hicketts is back to complement Travis Brown as a defenceman who can quickly launch the counter-attack. Hicketts, if not for the upper-body surgery that sandbagged half his season, would be a leading candidate to be the first sub-5'10" player drafted in June.

9. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.550 RPI, +1.0 SRS, +1) — One scout who took in B-B's shootout win over Halifax last Saturday called it the best game he had seen all season. Please bear in mind that came one night after a 6-5 barnburner between two other quality Q sides, Drummondville and Gatineau. Last week, it was noted in this space that Armada scoring leader Danick Martel was overdue for a big week; by sheer coincidence, he had five points over three games. Let's go double or nothing and ponder whether Florida Panthers draftee Christopher Clapperton will snap a four-game point drought this week.

10. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.547 RPI, +0.8 SRS, -1) — Since shootouts never happen in Dynamic Dozen land — it's just like the NCAA, except unconcerned about bagel spreads — Spokane only got credit for tying mighty Kelowna last week. That rally was Pyrrhic since Spokane lost two-way forward Liam Stewart in the course of authoring its comeback; it lost 6-nil to Portland on Friday and in overtime to Everett on the weekend.

If you are betting on which goalie will give up Mitch Holmberg's 50th, the Chiefs do play their next two games vs. Seattle. Thunderbirds have held the 47-goal marksman to a singleton through five games this season. Spokane's next tilt is vs Tri-City and Eric Comrie, who doesn't give up goals to just anybody.

11. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.540 RPI, +1.4 SRS, +3) — Being in a conference where Saskatoon, Lethbridge and Moose Jaw are in a race to the bottom puts a drag on the Oil Kings' RPI. The way the Oil Kings have avoided any dip after successive conference titles is impressive. You know the so-called 7-7-7 maxim about age distribution on a junior team? Edmonton's actually achieved it with its 17- to 19-year-olds. The presence of Curtis Lazar and 17-year-olds Brett Pollock, Aaron Irving and Dyson Mayo suggests they can avoid an all-out tumble next season.

Edmonton has also had a more stable roster than its closest pursuer, Calgary. That might account for the Hitmen's recent dip.

12. Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (.539 RPI, +1.0 SRS, -1) — On balance, Detroit Red Wings first-rounder Anthony Mantha still had a commendable January: seven goals, 15 points across nine games. His production just wasn't otherworldly, but that could be explained by knowing the game changes after Christmas, when the checking ostensibly gets tighter. Mantha's been kept off the scoresheet three times since returning from the world junior after being zonked only once in the first half. The high-scoring Foreurs' ability to rise above seventh in the Q could rest on Mantha's consistency. Or not.

The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.538, -1); 14. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.537, -1); 15. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.532, —); 16. Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL (.531, +1); 17. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.525, -1); 18. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.522, +5); 19. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.522, +1); 20. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.519, -1); 21. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.517, -3); 22. Everett Silvertips, WHL (.516, —); 23. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.515, -2); 24. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.509, —).

Hot team — Victoriaville Tigres, up 6 (31st to 25th).

Cold team — Oshawa Generals, down 5 (26th to 31st).

Nowhere to go but up — Saskatoon Blades (.423).

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.

(All rankings through play on Feb. 2.)

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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