By PATRICK KING
Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is living up to his billing as a potential first-round NHL pick this summer. The 17-year-old forward remains atop the Western Hockey League in scoring after continuing his early season torrid scoring pace.
Québec Major Junior Hockey League
Hot team: Québec Remparts
The Remparts are on a tear, having won their past eight games. Québec saw their streak nearly end Friday as they erased a two-goal third period deficit to win in a shootout against rival Chicoutimi. Russian import Dmitri Kugryshev and Benjamin Breault provided the scoring for the red-hot Remparts.
Hot player: Dmitri Kugryshev, Québec Remparts
The Russian sniper has given the surging Remparts another dynamic offensive weapon this season. Kugryshev scored twice with three assists in five games this past week with a plus-3 rating. His production has been clutch this season as he scored the shootout winner against Chicoutimi and assisted on Kelsey Tessier’s game-winning goal against Baie-Comeau on Sunday.
Cold team: Val-d’Or Foreurs
The winless Foreurs can’t seem to catch a break this season and are sitting at the bottom of the league standings with one point in 11 games. Val-d’Or held a 2-0 lead over Gatineau in a game played in September that was rescheduled for Wednesday. Gatineau won the rescheduled game 2-1 while the Foreurs then lost handily to Shawinigan and Rouyn-Noranda in their next two games.
Cold player: Angelo Esposito, Montreal Juniors
The honeymoon in Montreal came to an abrupt halt last week as the highly-touted Esposito went pointless in four games with a minus-2 rating. Montreal was shutout in three of their four games last week but remain in a tie for top spot in the Telus Western Division with Rouyn-Noranda.
This week’s key match-up: Rimouski Océanic vs. Shawinigan Cataractes, Friday
Two of the league’s hottest teams will face off for the first of four games this season. The Memorial Cup hosts Océanic are riding a three-game winning streak heading into this week while the Cataractes have won seven of their past 10 games. Both teams are currently second in their respective divisions as they try to keep pace with Drummondville and Québec. This game will give the Cataractes a good test defensively as the Océanic offence began hitting stride last week.
Ontario Hockey League
Hot team: Barrie Colts
The Barrie Colts are riding high with confidence this season after upsetting the Brampton Battalion in the OHL’s first round of the playoffs last season. The Colts extended their winning streak to three games with wins over Sudbury and Erie while obtaining nine of a possible 10 points in their past five games. They currently lead the Central Division standings.
Hot player: Justin DiBenedetto, Sarnia Sting
The overage forward appears to be ready for life without Steven Stamkos in Sarnia. DiBenedetto had nine points in three games last week with a plus-3 rating. Seven of his nine points were obtained Sunday as he scored five times with two assists. DiBenedetto could become a hot commodity at the trade deadline should Sarnia fall out of contention early this season.
Cold team: Erie Otters
The season began with more promise in Erie as the Otters were 2-2 after beating some strong teams in Plymouth and Kitchener. Since then, the Otters have recorded just a single point in an overtime loss to the London Knights. Erie has lost their past five games while their defence and goaltending resembles that of last season.
Cold player: Patrick Killeen, Brampton Battalion
The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect was rocked in two starts last week, surrendering eight goals on 46 shots in two losses. The goaltender’s struggles have only added to the slow start for the Battalion, who have fallen off the radar after being considered a solid contender last season.
This week’s key match-up: Windsor Spitfires vs. Belleville Bulls, Saturday
The Spitfires are back on track after losing their first game of the season a week ago to the Barrie Colts. Windsor is the top team in the league with an 8-1 record but will be in tough against the defending Eastern Conference champion Bulls. Belleville appears poised for another title run this season with a large core of last year’s team returning this season. This game should provide the fans with plenty of excitement as the Bulls and Spitfires match up very well with speed and skill.
Western Hockey League
Hot team: Saskatoon Blades
It didn’t look good for the Blades early this season after opening the year with an 8-2 loss to Prince Albert in their home opener and a 1-4 record. Since then, Saskatoon has rattled off six consecutive wins, the last four of which all coming on the road. Saskatoon will have a chance at top spot in the East Division on Wednesday as they travel to play the Swift Current Broncos.
Hot player: Evander Kane, Vancouver Giants
Kane has been on NHL scouts’ radar since his underage year as a 15-year-old, when he first displayed the offensive vision that indicates big things were on the horizon. The NHL draft eligible player continues to lead the league in early scoring this season, racking up three goals and three assists in two games.
Cold team: Portland Winter Hawks
The losses continue to mount as last season’s league cellar-dweller hasn’t fared much better in the new season. Portland has won just once this season and have lost their past five games. The team has scored just five goals in seven games this season and they have been shutout four times.
Cold player: Kurtis Mucha, Portland Winter Hawks
One can’t help but wonder how much Mucha’s growth may have been stunted by playing for the rebuilding Winter Hawks. Mucha allowed six goals on 37 shots in a loss to Spokane then another four on 31 shots to Seattle. The 19-year-old could certainly benefit from a change of scenery, which could happen this season before he heads into his overage campaign.
This week’s key match-up: Saskatoon Blades vs. Swift Current Broncos, Wednesday
The top spot in the Eastern Conference’s East Division will be on the line as the resurgent Blades head to Swift Current for a game against the rival Broncos. The Blades appeared to be heading towards another disappointing campaign early this season after starting 1-4 while the Broncos were expected to contend for the division this season. Swift Current will have home ice advantage which might not be of great importance considering the Blades have won their last four on the road.