One of the nice things about the start of any sports season is seeing the developing storylines.
Every year there’s a new star, a team that emerges as an upstart and, of course, there are those franchises or players that disappoint or underperform.
That’s especially true in amateur or collegiate leagues like the Canadian Hockey League where there is massive turnover from year-to-year and the players themselves are still maturing and developing.
This past week is a great example of that turnover.
Whereas last year the CHL was dominated by the Calgary Hitmen, Moncton Wildcats, Saint John Sea Dogs, Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires, new powers like the Drummondville Voltigeurs, Owen Sound Attack and Oshawa Generals have stepped forward.
In terms of hot new prospects, all the buzz surrounded Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall. New stars like Alain and Alex Saulier, Alex Aleardi and Jonathan Audy- Marchessault have already started to make some noise just weeks in to the new season.
Perhaps most refreshing is some signs of parity in the league. Teams that really struggled last season like the Halifax Mooseheads and Prince George Cougars are already doing better, guaranteeing more exciting and competitive hockey.
As long-time readers of this blog know, I’m pretty awful at predictions. Therefore, I won’t make myself foolish and try to make any kind of prognostication about the rest of the junior hockey year. What I will say is that I’m enjoying the new directions this season has already started to go in.
Friday, Oct. 1st 2010
QMJHL: GATINEAU OLYMPIQUES STUN DRUMMONDVILLE VOLTIGEURS
It was an unlikely victory for the Gatineau Olympiques on Friday night.
Maxime Clermont made 23 saves to stun the Drummondville Voltigeurs and lead Gatineau to a 3-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: ATTACK TURN THE TABLES ON KNIGHTS WITH WIN
The Owen Sound Attack got a monkey off their backs Friday night.
Joey Hishon scored twice for Owen Sound as the Attack earned a 4-2 victory over the London Knights in Ontario Hockey League play.
WHL:OIL KINGS PREVAIL OVER PATS IN PHYSICAL AFFAIR
The Edmonton Oil Kings pounded the Regina Pats in every sense of the word Friday night.
Cameron Abney scored twice and added an assist to help the Edmonton Oil Kings handle the Regina Pats 7-3 in Western Hockey League action.
Saturday, Oct. 2nd 2010
QMJHL: HYNES SCORES TWICE, VICTORIAVILLE EDGE GATINEAU IN OT
Brandon Hynes took charge of the Victoriaville Tigres' game Saturday night.
The 18-year-old winger scored twice, including the overtime winner, as Victoriaville snuck by the Gatineau Olympiques 3-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: MCKEGG LEADS OTTERS TO WIN OVER KNIGHTS
After surrendering 12 goals in their last two games, the Erie Otters looked a lot more confident Saturday night.
Greg McKegg scored two short-handed goals as the Otters stymied the London Knights to snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory in Ontario Hockey League play.
WHL:BEACH SCORES WINNER AS HITMEN EARN FIRST WIN OF SEASON
Last year's Western Hockey League champions are finally shaking off a slow start to the new season.
Cody Beach scored the winner and added an assist as the Calgary Hitmen beat the Moose Jaw Warriors 6-2 for their first win of the 2010-11 season Saturday night.
Sunday, Oct. 3rd 2010
QMJHL: ACADIE-BATHURST EDGES DRAKKAR IN SHOOTOUT
It took all kinds of extra time for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to come out on top Sunday afternoon.
Zach O'Brien, Gabriel Levesque and Bryce Milson scored in the shootout as the Titan sunk the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: GRAOVAC FINDING PLACE AS OTTAWA BEATS MISSISSAUGA
Tyler Graovac is gaining confidence as a key part of the Ottawa 67's attack.
Graovac had a hat trick as the Ottawa 67's stomped the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 7-2 in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.
WHL: WINTERHAWKS OVERPOWER HURRICANES
Sven Bartschi scored twice and Ty Rattie, Taylor Aronson and Ryan Johansen all had a pair of assists to lead the Portland Winterhawks over the Lethbridge Hurricanes 6-2 in Western Hockey League play on Sunday night.
Bartschi scored the first goal of the game and his first of the season and then scored on the power play in the third period.
After all, the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League didn’t have any games on Saturday or Sunday after the Windsor Spitfires swept the Barrie Colts out of the playoffs and the Calgary Hitmen took out the Tri-City Americans in five games.
The Spitfires wrapped up their series last Tuesday with a decisive 6-2 victory over a rattled Barrie. Calgary finished off the Americans on Friday with an equally strong 6-1 showing.
This leaves just the Moncton Wildcats and the Saint John Sea Dogs to settle the outcome of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s President’s Cup.
Moncton has a 3-2 edge on the series, but it would be foolhardy to count the Sea Dogs out just yet. After all, Saint John skated to the regular season championship with a 53-12-3 record, five points ahead of the second place Drummondville Voltigeurs and seven points beyond the Wildcats.
Their regular season match-ups were very close, with a 4-3-1 record tilting in favour of the Sea Dogs. That said, five of those games went to extra time, so this is a decidedly close pairing.
For one of these teams to prevail and face the Brandon Wheat Kings, Hitmen or Windsor in the Memorial Cup tournament they’ll need their defence to step up.
In their five games, the lowest shot count was Saint John’s 26 in Game 1. Since then, totals have routinely been above 30, with some games seeing as many as 44 shots on net.
Both teams from New Brunswick need to bear down and slow down the game’s pace if they want to survive.
For Moncton to achieve this they’ll need defencemen Mark Barberio, David Savard and Brandon Gormley to continue to lock down the Sea Dogs’ best forwards.
Saint John will look to winger Nicholas Petersen as well as rearguards Nathan Beaulieu and Yann Sauve to be lights out in their own end.
In any playoff final there is the expectation that the teams will be pretty evenly matched. After all, they’ve survived the regular season and the first few rounds of the post-season.
This year though, the Canadian Hockey League finals across the nation are all well in hand. In fact, they could all end up as four-game sweeps.
Here in Ontario, the focus has been on the Windsor Spitfires’ dominance of the Barrie Colts.
The defending Memorial Cup champions looked to be dead in the water after falling behind the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 3-0 in their Ontario Hockey League semifinal match-up. But the Spitfires rallied to win that series 4-3 and now they are up on the Colts 3-0.
I covered the second game of that series for the Canadian Press and it was clear from the action what the problem is: Windsor absolutely owns the neutral zone. Several of their goals came from turnovers between the blue-lines and Barrie could barely get the puck over half.
Out in New Brunswick, the Moncton Wildcats have also quickly established a 2-0 lead over the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, including a 9-3 thumping in Game 2.
Things are even more lopsided in the Western Hockey League, as the Calgary Hitmen opened their series against the Tri-City Americans with a resounding 7-0 victory. They followed that up with a 4-1 victory to take a two-game lead in the series.
As a fan, I’m disappointed that these series are going by so quickly. Ideally, all series would be close with lots of back-and-forth between the two teams.
That said, good for the Moncton Wildcats, Windsor Spitfires and Calgary Hitmen. They should be proud of themselves for coming out so strong in the crucial step to the Memorial Cup. It's too bad that it comes at the expense of some high drama.
Now things get interesting.
I made some predictions in this space last Wednesday, and, well, as far as prognostication goes I guess I shouldn’t quit my day job.
The biggest shock is that the Windsor Spitfires, favoured by me to win the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, looks dead on arrival, already trailing the Kitchener Rangers 3-0 in their semifinal match-up.
Most shocking of all is that the third loss came on a heartbreaking goal when Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog dumped the puck into Windsor’s end where it bounced past Troy Passingham to stand as the winner.
(Check out of 3:54 of this video to see for yourself.)
It’s shocking to see last year’s Memorial Cup Champions, featuring a host of all-star talent including Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler, struggling like this. They're a stocked roster that most liked to win the John Ross Robertson cup.
If anything, this just opens the door for an easy Barrie Colts victory in the final, as they will surely finish off the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
Similarly, the Drummondville Voltigeurs, my favourites to win the Quebec Major Junior hockey League, are down 2-0 in their series with the Moncton Wildcats.
It gets worse for Drummondville too: the next two games of the season will be in New Brunswick, with Moncton having home ice advantage.
I thought that the stellar play of goaltender Jake Allen would be enough to sustain the Voltigeurs, but it looks like an all-New Brunswick final is the QMJHL’s destiny, with both Moncton and the Saint John Sea Dogs looking strong.
Meanwhile, both series in the Western Hockey League are all tied up at 1-1. The Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings will meet again on Tuesday night in Manitoba, while the Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants will hook up in British Columbia the same night.
I should note that I have some good news and some bad news. The Good: I have been moved to the pagination department for the duration of the summer and will return to the junior hockey beat in September. The Bad: This means that I will not be writing or editing Canadian Hockey League copy for the rest of the playoffs.
Fear not dear reader! I will still write about the goings-on in Canadian junior hockey every Monday. It's a drug; I'm addicted.
After admonishing Tri-City last week, the Americans stepped up and reeled off three wins to take their series against the Kelowna Rockets 4-1.
I doubt my post made it on to their locker room’s bulletin board, so you can save your thanks for some other day, residents of Kennewick, Wash.
The victory also helped fans of the Canadian Hockey League by moving them closer to the official semifinal pairings for all three leagues.
Out east, the Saint John Sea Dogs will be facing the Victoriaville Tigres and the Moncton Wildcats will tangle with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
As I’ve said previously, I really like the Voltigeurs, and I expect that they’ll tame the Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finals.
Here in Ontario, the Barrie Colts will play the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors starting tonight, and the Windsor Spitfires will lock up with the Kitchener Rangers on Thursday night.
No bold predictions here – just obvious ones. Barrie and Windsor will definitely handle their opponents, making for a classic pairing for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the Ontario Hockey League Championship. At the end of it all, I think it will be the Colts that go on to the Memorial Cup.
The Western Hockey League semifinals will be the most hotly contested across the nation, with the Calgary Hitmen staring down the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference final and the aforementioned Americans tangling with the Vancouver Giants.
It’s a shame that the Hitmen and Wheat Kings can’t meet in the league final. They are the two best teams remaining in these brackets, and it would’ve made it a more pure championship.
That said, I still like Calgary’s chances to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup when they meet with Tri-City.
Friday, April 9th 2010
QMJHL – Cornet scores in second OT as Rouyn-Noranda edges Moncton
It took nearly five full periods of play, but Philippe Cornet kept the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies' playoff hopes alive on Friday night.
Cornet scored 14:28 into double overtime as the Huskies eked out a 5-4 win over the Moncton Wildcats in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League post-season action. (See more...)
WHL – Tri-City wins series with OT victory over Kelowna
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Kruise Reddick scored at 5:37 of overtime to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets and a series win in Western Hockey League playoff action on Friday night.
Tri-City wins the series 4-1 and will play the winner of the Vancouver Giants-Spokane Chiefs pairing in the Western Conference final. (See more...)
Saturday, April 10th 2010
QMJHL – Bourque has winner as Moncton wins game, series vs. Huskies
MONCTON, N.B. - Gabriel Bourque and the Moncton Wildcats weren't too tired to finish their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League series on Saturday night.
Bourque had the eventual winner 14 seconds into the final period as Moncton finished off the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-1, taking their quarter-final series. (See more...)
OHL – Knights drop Rangers to force Game 7
KITCHENER, Ont. -- Jared Knight scored twice as the London Knights forced a seventh game in their series against the Kitchener Rangers with a 5-3 win in Ontario Hockey League playoff action on Saturday night.
The decisive Game 7 will be in London on Monday night. The winners of the Western Conference semifinal will face the Windsor Spitfires. (See more...)
Niederreiter’s two goals keeps Portland alive in WHL semis
VANCOUVER -- Nino Niederreiter scored twice and added an assist as the Portland Winterhawks avoided elimination from the Western Hockey League playoffs with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night.
Portland will host Game 6 on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 7 will also be held there on Thursday. (See more...)
Sunday, April 11th 2010
WHL – Foucault nets OT winner as Hitmen down Tigers, claim series
MEDICINE HAT, Alta. - Kris Foucault scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Calgary Hitmen edged the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-2 to end their Western Hockey League playoff series on Sunday night.
Calgary won the series 4-2 and will face the winner of the Brandon Wheat Kings-Saskatoon Blades pairing in the Eastern Conference final. (See more...)
This weekend, when I wasn’t obsessing over the Olympics, I was all about the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It was an incredible couple of days with Moncton’s Nicola Riopel setting a goaltending record Saturday night, only to be topped less than 24 hours later by Drummondville’s Jake Allen. On top of that, Sunday saw Richard Martel become the winningest coach in league history when his Chicoutimi Sagueneens dropped the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1.
But first, let’s talk about goaltending.
As a gross generalization, each league within the Canadian Hockey League produces particularly strong types of players. The Western Hockey League’s rough and tumble style lends itself to defensively minded players who are always ready to drop their gloves. The Ontario Hockey League produces tight, disciplined players who focus on positioning and off-puck work. The QMJHL? It’s all about the goalies.
The league is a factory for superstar goaltenders – Felix Potvin played for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Roberto Luongo played for the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
As good as those two are, they’re not even the best to come out of the QMJHL. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, the two best goaltenders ever came from the league, setting the standard for all netminders worldwide.
So when Nicola Riopel of the Wildcats passes all those names on his way to the second-longest shutout streak in league history it’s kind of a big deal. Riopel’s record ended at 179 minutes 59 seconds Saturday night.
However, it was an even bigger deal when Jake Allen of the Voltigeurs passed Riopel the very next day. Allen lasted nearly ten minutes longer, going 188 minutes 47 seconds without giving up a goal.
Really, it’s incredible stuff, and shows that these two players will be around for a long time.
Of course, it was all over-shadowed by Martel’s accomplishment of winning 570 games as a coach. Martel’s never won the President’s Cup as a head coach, but he did win it as an assistant way back in 1990 with the Sagueneens who were backstopped by a young Potvin.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Martel this past weekend for a feature story, and I was impressed with his humility and dedication to the young men he teaches. I also spoke to league commissioner Gilles Croteau who went on at length about what an asset Martel is to the league and Canadian hockey in general.
What a great weekend for hockey in Quebec.
Friday, Feb. 26 2010
QMJHL – P.E.I. drops Chicoutimi 4-3 in shootout
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens earned a point for their coach Richard Martel, but not a coveted milestone.
Cody Linteau had the only goal in the shootout as the P.E.I. Rocket disappointed the Sagueneens 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night. (See more...)
OHL – Tanski, Hodgson help Battalion defeat Majors
Cody Hodgson's return to the Brampton Battalion could not have been more timely.
Scott Tanski and Hodgson combined for three goals and six points to spark the Battalion to a 4-0 victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Friday night in the Ontario Hockey League. (See more...)
WHL – Bloodoff brothers both score as Kelowna beats Oil Kings
Three streaks came to an end in Edmonton Friday night.
Brothers Lucas and Evan Bloodoff scored as the Kelowna Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Oil Kings in Western Hockey League action. (See more...)
Saturday, Feb. 27 2010
QMJHL – Wildcats edge Halifax as Riopel makes QMJHL history
Nicola Riopel has made his mark in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League history.
Riopel made 21 saves as the Moncton Wildcats edged the Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 on Saturday. (See more...)
OHL – Erie stays in playoff hunt with win over Ottawa
The struggle for playoff spots continues in the Ontario Hockey League.
Anthony Luciani and Greg McKegg scored twice as the Erie Otters dropped the Ottawa 67's 7-1 Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Stanton scores twice as Warriors edge Bruins
The Moose Jaw Warriors have made the most of their time at home.
Defenceman Ryan Stanton scored twice as Moose Jaw hung on to beat the Chilliwack Bruins 3-2 in Western Hockey League action Saturday. (See more...)
Sunday, Feb. 28 2010
QMJHL – Martel wins 570th as Chicoutimi sinks Baie-Comeau
Sunday was a record-setting day in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Chicoutimi Sagueneens' head coach Richard Martel earned his 570th career victory, the most in QMJHL history, as Chicoutimi sank the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1. (See more...)
OHL – Lopes scores two as Majors prevail over Oshawa
The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors are firing on all cylinders as the playoff window is closing on the Oshawa Generals.
Ryan Lopes scored a pair of goals and defencemen David Corrente and Blake Parlett had four-point games to power Mississauga to a 7-4 triumph over Oshawa in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)
There were some big match-ups this weekend in the Canadian Hockey League.
The first, and the one I was most excited about, was Saturday night’s main event in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League when the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats had to go to the shootout to decide who the winner would be.
Saint John prevailed 5-4, with Michael Kirkpatrick leading the way with a goal and two assists. He might not be the biggest name on the Sea Dogs roster, but Kirkpatrick been a consistent scorer all season and as an alternate captain is clearly revered in Saint John’s locker room.
Also, you’ll be happy to note that I refrained from calling this game the Battle of New Brunswick. Cliché dodged!
That same night the Western Hockey League saw an even closer rivalry, as the Saskatoon Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings locked horns. Again, the game went to extra time with Saskatoon edging Brandon 4-3 in overtime.
With the win the Blades moved into first place in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, even though the Wheat Kings have picked up points in their last eight games. And, as predicted in this very space the Calgary Hitmen have moved into second in the Conference.
The other notable game this weekend was also in the WHL, with the Prince George Cougars hosting the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night. In the battle of the two worst records in the league, Prince George came out on top 4-1, snapping their 13-game losing streak.
Never fear Edmonton hockey fans, the Oil Kings won the rubber match on Saturday, taming the Cougars 5-2.
Sunday was a pretty light day with four games in the Ontario Hockey League and just one in the QMJHL. Most significantly, Adam Comrie kept the Guelph Storm's playoff hopes alive with goals that sparked a 4-3 win over the Ottawa 67's.
Apparently there was some sort of football game that evening that the hockey leagues didn't want to compete against.
Friday Feb. 5 2010
QMJHL – Victoriaville tops Drummondville to jump in standings
The Victoriaville Tigres struck a blow in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's standings Friday night.
Brandon Hynes and Emmanuel Boudreau both had a goal and an assist as the Tigres downed the Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-2 in QMJHL action. (See more...)
OHL - Lindsay’s big night lifts Ottawa to win over Belleville
Cody Lindsay did it at both ends of the ice Friday night.
Lindsay had two goals and an assist as the Ottawa 67's defeated the Belleville Bulls 3-2 in the Ontario Hockey League. (See more...)
WHL – Cougars drop Oil Kings to end 13-game slide
All the Prince George Cougars needed was a visit from the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Prince George snapped a 13-game losing streak Friday with a decisive 4-1 win over Edmonton in Western Hockey League play Friday night. (See more...)
Saturday, Feb. 6 2010
QMJHL - Saint John nips Moncton in shootout
The two best teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League needed the shootout to decide a winner on Saturday night.
Mike Hoffman, Tomas Jurco and Jonathan Huberdeau all scored in the shootout as the Saint John Sea Dogs tamed the Moncton Wildcats 5-4. (See more...)
OHL - McKegg scores twice as Otters eke out win over Spirit
It's been a big week for Greg McKegg.
McKegg scored twice and added an assist as the Erie Otters eked out a 4-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Broncos post emphatic shutout over Rebels
The Swift Current Broncos made a statement with their win Saturday night.
Morgan Clark made 37 saves as the Broncos posted their first shutout of the season, a 6-0 win over the Red Deer Rebels in Western Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
Sunday, Feb. 7 2010
OHL – Comrie scores twice as Guelph keeps playoff hopes alive
Defenceman Adam Comrie stepped up in front of his hometown crowd to keep his Guelph Storm in the playoff picture.
Comrie scored twice to lift Guelph to a 4-3 win over the Ottawa 67's in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)
Friday Jan. 29, 2010
QMJHL – Retooled Wildcats win 12th game in a row
“The Moncton Wildcats continue to thrive after they retooled at the trade deadline.
Daniel Pettersson had back-to-back power-play goals as Moncton doubled the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 6-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.” (Read more...)
OHL – Cameron has hat trick as Colts blank Majors
“Bryan Cameron and the Barrie Colts continue to dominate Ontario Hockey League's Central Division.
Bryan Cameron scored three goals and Mavric Parks posted his second shutout of the season as the Barrie Colts triumphed over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 4-0 Friday night.” (Read more...)
WHL – Silvertips down Winterhawks for 13th straight win
“Simply put, the Everett Silvertips haven't lost since 2009.
Zack Dailey scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period, as the Everett Silvertips downed the Portland Winterhawks 4-3 in Western Hockey League action Friday night." (Read more...)
Saturday, Jan. 30 2010
QMJHL – Huberdeau has career night, Saint John pounds Val-d’Or
“Jonathan Huberdeau had the biggest game of his junior career Saturday night.
The 16-year-old forward scored three goals and set up two as the Saint John Sea Dogs crushed the Val-d'Or Foreurs 11-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
OHL – Jenks and McRae lead way as Whalers down Knights
“Captain AJ Jenks and Phil McRae were instrumental Saturday as the Plymouth Whalers continue to roll.
Jenks' goal and two assists led the Whalers to a convincing 6-1 win over the London Knights in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
WHL: Hulak has three points as Blades down Broncos
“The Saskatoon Blades and Derek Hulak made it look easy Saturday night.
The Saskatoon Blades, led by a three-point outing from Hulak, skated to a 7-4 win over the Swift Current Broncos in Western Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
Sunday, Jan. 31 2010
QMJHL – Acadie-Bathurst edges Val-d’Or in shootout
“Julien Tremblay and Bryce Milson wanted to see the Acadie-Bathurst Titan's slide come to an end.
Tremblay and Milson scored in the shootout as Acadie-Bathurst edged the Val-d'Or Foreurs 6-5 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.” (Read more...)
OHL – Shugg scores twice as Windsor Spitfires down Sarnia
“Justin Shugg helped push the Windsor Spitfires into the post-season Sunday afternoon.
Shugg scored twice as the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Sarnia Sting 4-1 in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
The playoff pictures in the Canadian Hockey League really started to take shape last week.
In the Ontario Hockey League the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires both clinched spots. As last year’s Memorial Cup champions the Spitfires have been favourites all year, but they’ve been slowed by injuries and suspensions to key players like Adam Henrique and Zack Kassian. Of course, the fact that their top line played for Team Canada in the World Juniors briefly mellowed their offence as well.
Those aren’t the only teams in the OHL though. The Ottawa 67’s, Plymouth Whalers, London Knights and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors have looked pretty strong recently and should play their way into the postseason.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is similarly set, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats the early favourites to win the President’s Cup. After Saint John’s historic 22-game win streak, the Sea Dogs have settled into a competitive rhythm. Now it’s Moncton that’s on a tear, winning 12 in a row, trying to play catch up to their consistent Atlantic division rivals.
The Central Division is where the action happens in the QMJHL, with the Victoriaville Tigres and Drummondville Voltigeurs side-by-side at the top of the table. Both are solid teams who’ve won six of their last 10 games, but with Drummondville earning two consecutive wins and Victoriaville dropping three straight, the division might sort itself out soon.
Like the Moncton Wildcats, the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips have been clawing their way to the top of the standings in 2010. In fact, they haven’t lost since 2009 having strung together 14 consecutive wins. However, they’re still trailing the Vancouver Giants and league-best Tri-City Americans in the West Conference standings.
In the East, the Saskatoon Blades, Medicine Hat Tigers and Brandon Wheat Kings have all established themselves as the class of the Conference.
All three will have to keep up the pace though, as the Kootenay Ice have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 and the Calgary Hitmen shutout Tri-City 3-0 on Sunday.