WHL takes five of 10 spots – Kamloops Blazers

December 8, 2021 at 8:57 am  Kamloops Blazers, Sports

Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings – Week 10

1. Winnipeg ICE
2. Edmonton Oil Kings
3. Everett Silvertips
4. Kamloops Blazers
5. Charlottetown Islanders
6. North Bay Battalion
7. London Knights
8. Sherbrooke Phoenix
9. Kingston Frontenacs
10. Vancouver Giants
HM. Quebec Remparts
HM. Mississauga Steelheads
HM. Shawinigan Cataractes

Atop the Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings for the sixth week running, the Winnipeg ICE reign supreme in the WHL with 45 points through 25 games after splitting a weekend home set against Saskatoon. Continuing to push the pace for the ICE is 2022 NHL Draft eligible centre Matthew Savoie whose current 13-game point streak has helped him climb to top spot in WHL scoring with 41 points on the season. That continued over the weekend as Savoie drew a secondary helper on Connor McClennon’s eventual game-winning goal on Friday, while the next night saw Savoie as one of just two Winnipeg skaters to find the back of the net versus the Blades.

The ICE will need to keep up their winning ways to keep pace with the rising Edmonton Oil Kings, winners of three straight including a dominant weekend performance in which the Alberta capital club combined for 15 goals coming in home ice wins against Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw. Facing the Tigers on Friday, Arizona Coyotes first-round pick Dylan Guenther tallied three times in the final frame to notch his second career hat-trick en route to an 8-2 victory, while the next night saw St. Louis Blues first rounder Jake Neighbours play the hero against the Warriors as he came up with his third-straight three-point effort to guide his club to a 7-4 triumph. Meanwhile, this week sees Guenther and Neighbours join defenceman Kaiden Guhle and goaltender Sebastian Cossa as a CHL-leading four players from the Oil Kings attending Team Canada’s World Juniors selection camp.

Elsewhere, the Everett Silvertips hold steady as the third-ranked club after picking up a pair of victories highlighted by Friday’s 8-2 drubbing of Tri-City that saw defenceman Olen Zellweger push the pace with a one-goal, four-assist effort, all part of a dominant week in which the Anaheim Ducks up-and-comer collected nine points over four appearances. That victory came on the heels of a 9-2 takedown of Spokane two nights earlier in which captain Jackson Berezowski was one of seven Everett skaters to close out the contest with a multi-point showing.

Despite a down week, the Kamloops Blazers still stand atop the WHL’s B.C. Division with an impressive 17-4-0-0 showing. While the past week saw the club drop hard-battled contests versus provincial rivals in Vancouver and Kelowna, in all, the two-game set remained a solid showing from goaltender and New York Rangers draftee Dylan Garand who combined for 55 saves, helping him to move into a tie for top spot in goals-against average (1.90) and save percentage (.931) across the WHL.

Lastly, rounding out recognition from the WHL is the 10th placed Vancouver Giants whose impressive week counted three consecutive victories to push the club’s win streak to six. Among the triumphs were key victories over highly ranked clubs including a 3-1 decision over Kamloops in which netminder and Vegas Golden Knights draftee Jesper Vikram turned aside 39 shots, followed by Saturday’s 6-5 thriller over the Silvertips where Ottawa Senators prospect Zack Ostapchuk tallied twice en route to the victory that handed Everett its third regulation loss this season.

Headlining representation from the QMJHL is the Charlottetown Islanders who after going undefeated in regulation in their past four outings and having collected points in nine of their past 10 contests to stand atop the Eastern Conference with 36 points. Leading the way for Charlottetown is overage centre and Montreal Canadiens draftee Xavier Simoneau who continues to challenge for top spot in league scoring, while the Islanders also bring one of the most gifted puck-movers in the circuit in offensive blue-liner Lukas Cormier, the reigning QMJHL Defenceman of the Year who has decorated the scoresheet with 32 points in 25 games.

One of two QMJHL clubs earning ranking recognition, the eighth-slotted Sherbrooke Phoenix won two of three appearances on the week highlighted by Sunday’s come-from-behind overtime victory against Shawinigan in which Canadiens prospect Joshua Roy sealed the deal with just 20 seconds remaining in the extra frame to bring him to a league-leading 45 points.

In the honourable mention category, the Quebec Remparts are back in the spotlight after picking up four of six points. Owning a dynamic duo between the pipes, the past week saw overager Fabio Iacobo take command of the crease as he allowed just five goals on a combined 89 shots over three contests, helping him to find the win column against Drummondville and Halifax and close out the week with a dazzling .944 save percentage. The Shawinigan Cataractes, meanwhile, also earn honourable mention after taking five of six points. Leading the way was Edmonton Oilers first-round pick Xavier Bourgault who amassed five goals and four assists over the three-game stretch, including his second hat-trick of the season coming in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Halifax.

From the OHL, the North Bay Battalion earned their highest ranking of the season, coming in at No. 6. Standing atop the OHL’s Eastern Conference with 32 points in 24 games, the Battalion are undefeated in regulation over their past four outings following a pair of weekend road victories coming in Hamilton and Niagara in which the squad combined for 10 goals. That slate saw an impressive showing from overage right-wing Brandon Coe who picked up three goals and four assists, pushing his point streak to 13 games and his overall production to 46 points, good for a six-point buffer for tops in league scoring. Coe then culminated his successful week in securing an entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks.

Coming in at No. 7, the London Knights earn national recognition for an OHL-leading ninth time this season after winning two of three contests on the week. The Knights continue to see a strong performance from Nashville Predators draftee Luke Evangelista who sits third in league scoring with 40 points in 21 games, a performance that has helped him earn a spot at camp with the Canadian World Juniors. Should Evangelista make the national team, he will be joined by teammate Brett Brochu, who has already locked in one of the three positions between the pipes.

Lastly, the Kingston Frontenacs return to the Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings, coming in at No. 9 following a two-week hiatus. Going 3-0 on the week, the Frontenacs pushed their win streak to five games and are now a lone point back of top spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. Impressive feats over the past week came from 2022 NHL Draft headliner Shane Wright who picked up eight points over the three victories, while Finnish-born netminder and Ottawa Senators prospect Leevi Merilainen put in a prime performance Friday versus Oshawa in turning aside 28 shots to record his first career shutout. Elsewhere, earning honourable mention from the OHL is the Mississauga Steelheads whose perfect weekend counted wins over Ottawa and Oshawa to improve to 13-6-1-1. The Steelheads now look to make it three wins in a row when they head to Peterborough on Thursday to take on the Petes, with puck drop set for 7:05 p.m. Eastern and broadcasted on CHL TV.

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