By PATRICK KING
A pair of first round National Hockey League draft picks lead the list of hot players this week including Canucks prospect Cody Hodgson. Meanwhile, the Shawinigan Cataractes remain the toast of the QMJHL early this season.
Western Hockey League
Hot team: Vancouver Giants
The powerhouse Giants have yet to lose in regulation this season as they opened the campaign with a 14-0-0-3 record. The Giants extended their winning streak to seven games while goaltender Tyson Sexsmith set the career record for shutouts with his 22nd shutout Friday over Prince George. Vancouver could be poised to set a new franchise record for points in a season as they set the mark last season at 106.
Hot player: Tyler Ennis, Medicine Hat Tigers
The diminutive forward put in a strong effort in three road contests last week. Ennis scored four goals and three assists for seven points in three games with a plus-4 rating. Of his four goals, one was an insurance goal against Moose Jaw with another standing up as a game winner against Brandon.
Cold team: Prince George Cougars
The Cougars continued to slip in the B.C. Division after losing all three games last week. Prince George has seemingly fallen back down to earth after a quick start where they went 6-1 in their first seven games. Since then the Cougars have won just two of their last 14 games and are now two points ahead of the Chilliwack Bruins for fourth in the division.
Cold player: Torrie Jung, Edmonton Oil Kings
It was a week to forget for the third year goaltender from Nanaimo, B.C. Jung was lit up for 10 goals on just 41 shots, giving him a 0.756 save percentage on the week. After waiting at home for a trade to start the season, Jung was impressive to begin his career in Edmonton but has been cold in his last three outings.
This week’s key match-up: Lethbridge Hurricanes vs. Spokane Chiefs, Wednesday
It will be a rematch of last season’s league final where the Chiefs swept the Hurricanes before winning the Memorial Cup in Kitchener, Ont. Before this season began, many predicted this year’s final could be a rematch of last season’s final. The Hurricanes have started slowly as they begin the week in fifth place in the Central Division standings. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been a tad inconsistent this season but appear to be back on track. It will be a big game for both teams who need the points to keep up in the standings.
Québec Major Junior Hockey League
Hot team: Shawinigan Cataractes
The Cataractes are playing with the poise of champions of late, winning back-to-back games on the road against Montreal and Québec. Shawinigan has won their last 12 consecutive games, just one win shy of the franchise record. They currently lead the league in points with 38, two more than the Moncton Wildcats.
Hot player: Yannick Riendeau, Drummondville Voltigeurs
There was no shortage of players to choose from this week as Riendeau leads the list of great performances. In just two games, both against the Lewiston MAINEiacs, Riendeau scored five times with two assists for seven points and a plus-2 rating. Two of his five goals were game winners as the Voltigeurs stomped the MAINEiacs last week.
Cold team: Gatineau Olympiques
A new head coach brought similar results as the Olympiques dropped their 11th consecutive game last week. Mario Richer resigned as head coach last Tuesday with Jerome Dupont taking over. The team has a heavy home schedule this month which should help Dupont familiarize himself with his new team.
Cold player: Peter Delmas, Lewiston MAINEiacs
The first year starter will be having nightmares all week after the Drummondville Voltigeurs lit him up in two games last week. Delmas allowed 13 goals through two starts on 76 shots for a 0.829 save percentage. Lewiston will need to give their goaltender better support if they’re going to keep pace in the strong Telus Central Division.
This week’s key match-up: Moncton Wildcats vs. Drummondville Voltigeurs, Saturday
The Moncton Wildcats will get their best opportunity to prove how strong a team they are this week with three road games in three nights, all against strong opposition. The Wildcats open in Québec Friday, head to Drummondville Saturday then face the Montreal Juniors on Sunday. The Voltigeurs’ offence is red hot after outscoring the Lewiston MAINEiacs 20-5 in two games last week. Drummondville will have home ice in this game which hasn’t slowed the Wildcats this season as they set the league record for most consecutive road wins to open a season, currently at nine and counting. This game will provide each team with a tough test and a barometer as to where they stand.
Ontario Hockey League
Hot team: Brampton Battalion
The Brampton Battalion appear poised to throw their hat in as the league’s top contender from the Eastern Conference this season. After a slow start, Brampton has now won their last 11 games as their dynamic offensive duo of Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene has provided plenty of offence. Brampton trails the Belleville Bulls by just two points for top spot in the conference.
Hot player: Cody Hodgson, Brampton Battalion
Hodgson, the first round pick of the Vancouver Canucks last summer, has seemingly put his team on his shoulders and carried them to victory this season. Hodgson scored five goals and four assists for nine points in three games with a plus-6 rating and two game winning goals last week.
Cold team: Kitchener Rangers
The young Rangers are learning to play through adversity this season as the team is now winless in their last eight games. Kitchener lost both games to Oshawa and Sarnia last week which now sees the defending league champs fall into last place in the Midwest Division standings. The Rangers could be hard-pressed to make the playoffs this season if their losing streak continues.
Cold player: Daryl Borden, Oshawa Generals
The 19-year-old’s future with the Oshawa Generals appears shaky, at best. After allowing seven goals on 36 shots in a loss to Peterborough on Thursday, Borden did not dress in the team’s next two games. Overage goaltender Neil Conway looks poised to take the starting job which could leave Borden as the odd-man out in Oshawa.
This week’s key match-up: Brampton Battalion vs. Guelph Storm, Friday
The Battalion will have a big test this week against the tough Guelph Storm. Brampton is riding the hot play of their stars, Hodgson, Duchene and Evgeny Grachev while the Storm success revolves around goaltender Thomas McCollum. The Storm goaltender is considered one of the best in the league and should have plenty of help as his team plays a reliable defensive game. Brampton will need to utilize their speed to create chances on the rush if they’re going to be successful in their bid to take over the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.