The Western Hockey League saw a pretty busy week these past few days. There have been two pretty big trades and a certain team in Portland has caught fire again. To top all that off we have new teams on top of each division which assuredly will have an impact on our rankings.
Here are our weekly power rankings, be sure to tell us which ones you like, which ones you don’t.
1. Kelowna Rockets (7-2-0-2) Last Week’s Ranking: 1
The Rockets cling to the top spot this week despite losing a tough game to Calgary. They continue to play tough defense and get excellent goaltending from Jordan Cooke as the Rockets have given up the second fewest goals in the WHL — trailing only Everett. While Victoria is ahead of them in the division (Kelowna has four games in hand) Kelowna is still the deepest team in the league…for now.
2. Spokane Chiefs (10-3-0-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 2
We all keep waiting for the Chiefs to come down to earth but they just refuse to do so — perhaps they won’t. How good have Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani been for them? They have combined for 28 of the team’s 48 goals. They continue to win despite the preseason pundits predicting a long season.
3. Calgary Hitmen (9-3-1-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 11
Don’t look now but the Hitmen have gone eight games without a regulation loss and have vaulted themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Jake Virtanen has four goals in his last three games and is heating up.
4. Seattle Thunderbirds (9-3-0-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 3
The Thunderbirds dropped a couple of games this past weekend they probably shouldn’t have and have slipped a spot in our rankings. This weekend they will see the addition of Ryan Gropp, Jabien Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie in moves that smell like a team that is going for it all this year.
5. Portland Winterhawks (9-3-0-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 8
The Winterhawks continue to be the team that is somehow flying under the radar in the WHL. While nobody was looking they have won six games in a row and are a goal scoring machine — leading the WHL in goal scoring with 67 lamps lit. That’s 14 goals more than the second place clubs (Seattle and Calgary).
6. Medicine Hat Tigers (7-3-2-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 4
The Tigers have lost three in a row and have slid down our rankings a bit and have seen Calgary overtake them for the division lead in the Central. After a hot start Hunter Shinkaruk has only one goal in his last four games.
7. Everett Silvertips (8-2-2-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 6
The Silvertips continue to be a tough team to play against. They are the stingiest team in the league and have only allowed 25 goals on the year – that’s just a neutral zone trap over two goals per game. They will be brutal to try and handle in a playoff series.
8. Victoria Royals (9-6-0-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 11
The Royals are another team that are quietly climbing up the ranks in the WHL. Thanks to having played four more games than Kelowna they actually lead the B.C. Division at the moment and are playing well. They rack up their share of penalty minutes but with the second best penalty kill in the league don’t expect them to change how they play.
9. Prince Albert Raiders (8-5-1-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 7
The Raiders continue to win one, lose one and are still atop the Eastern Division. It continues to be somewhat surprising that they have given up as many goals as they have, something they thought they had solved by bringing in Cole Chevledave during the summer. They will have to shore that up moving forward.
10. Edmonton Oil Kings (7-6-0-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 14
The defending Eastern Conference champs showed some life last week, despite playing in the dark a bit. They won two in a row and have worked themselves to fourth place in the conference. There is still a great deal of high end talent on this team, they will be heard from before its all over.
11. Brandon Wheat Kings (7-5-0-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 17
The Wheat Kings continued their up and down season with a nice two-game win streak over the last week. They are led in scoring by John Quenneville who had four points in those two wins.
12. Prince George Cougars (6-7-0-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 15
The Cougars continue to compete hard in games no matter who the opponent. This was evident last week, erasing a two goal deficit in Seattle with under three minutes left and winning in a shoot out. Put your hard hat on when they come to town.
13. Kootenay Ice (6-5-2-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 12
The Ice continue to be led by Sam Reinhart and his 23 points in 13 games. This week they made a big move by picking up Tim Bozon from the Kamloops Blazers. This is a big pick up as the Ice did not have much after their top line. They do now.
14. Regina Pats (7-6-0-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 16
The Pats continue to hang around and Morgan Klimchuk continues his strong season, now with 18 points. The Pats are second to last in killing penalties which could haunt them as the season wears on.
15. Red Deer Rebels (6-7-0-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 10
The Rebels have slid two weeks in a row and have only won three out of their last ten games. They’re better than this right? They have a lot of good players and coaching, expect them to rebound.
16. Saskatoon Blades (6-6-0-2) Last Week’s Rankings: 13
The Blades were on fire two weeks ago. They’ve cooled off a little but continue to be better than expected, so far proving that you can survive a Memorial Cup run — somewhat.
17. Swift Current Broncos (6-8-0-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 5
The Broncos are going to be happy to see the U.S. Division in the rear view mirror. They lost all five stops they made south of the border last week, finding out how tough that division is. Julius Honka continues his excellent play from the blue line however and will keep them competitive.
18. Tri City Americans (6-8-0-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 18
The Americans are exactly what we thought they were before the season. A team that plays solid defense, has a great goalie in Winnipeg Jets prospect Eric Comrie, but can’t score. If Tri City could find consistent goal scoring they would be tough to beat.
19. Moose Jaw Warriors (6-7-1-2) Last Week’s Rankings: 19
The Warriors are struggling to score and to keep the opposition from scoring. That is not a good recipe for success and a good reason for the Warriors only having three wins in their last ten games.
20. Vancouver Giants (3-7-1-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 21
The Giants displayed a bit of life this last week by winning two games including an overtime win against Calgary. Dalton Thrower has had a nice impact for Vancouver since his return.
21. Kamloops Blazers (4-9-0-0) Last Week’s Rankings: 20
When a team that can’t score trades away its best offensive player, as the Blazers did this week, then you know the rebuild is on. Kamloops has some promising young players but they are going to take some time to get their legs.
22. Lethbridge Hurricanes (2-11-1-1) Last Week’s Rankings: 22
The rough year in Lethbridge continued as their two top goal scorers from last year begged off the club. They were shipped to Seattle as the rebuilding has begun.
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.