There’s never a shortage of storylines in the CHL, and as we draw nearer the playoffs, it’s interesting to get a cross section of some of the most interesting things we’ve witnessed this season. In examining certain streaks, here’s what has caught our eye during the 2017-18 season.
10. Red Deer Rebels, 15-game home winless streak from Nov. 1 – Jan. 20: It’s hard to imagine going 15 straight games without a home win, let alone playing a stretch of 34 games with just two wins, while still contending for a playoff spot.
But this is the situation the Red Deer Rebels find themselves. While he did mortgage some of his team’s future, Brent Sutter vowed not to completely dismantle his team in a push for the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup, which Red Deer hosted. Moving ahead from that, this was the year he worried about. He gave his team until Dec. 1 to see if it could contend. When that didn’t happen, he dealt away veterans and made a commitment to playing his youth. Ironically enough, the Rebels are playing in a weak Central Division, have turned things around, and now only trail Kootenay by two points for third spot in the division.
9. Gatineau Olympiques, 10-game winning streak from Dec. 1-29: Ten wins is a nice number for any team. But it’s not outstanding and isn’t usually something that’s noteworthy enough to make a list like this. That is, unless you’re the Gatineau Olympiques.
The Piques dealt their best player, Vitalii Abramov, to Victoriaville on Nov. 18 and two weeks later they embarked on the longest winning streak in the league to date. Mitchell Balmas missed two games in that time frame as did Shawn Boudrias. When the streak started, those three players were Gatineau’s top three scorers and had accounted for 42 per cent of the team’s goals. Gatineau added points in four more games on top of the win streak, buying valuable playoff currency.
8. Chicoutimi Sagueneens, 4-6 relocated home games from Feb. 9 – Mar 5: Due to structural concerns regarding the roof of the Centre Georges-Vezina, the Sags will play at least their next four games at the Palais des Sports in Jonquiere. In the meantime, an engineering firm has been hired to evaluate the structure of the arena to determine how safe the building is and whether or not temporary repairs can be made in order for Chicoutimi to finish its regular season on home ice. The Palais des Sports Jonquiere is located 19 kilometres from Centre Georges-Vezina. The Saguenay region has experienced record-level snowfall this winter.
7. Ty Ronning (Vancouver Giants), 11-game goal streak from Oct. 28 – Nov. 22: Ronning has always found a way to score goals despite playing on several mediocre Vancouver teams. In this, his overage year, he’s been surrounded by better players and is on the verge of cracking the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Ronning has a reputation for scoring in bunches and the 11-game goal streak he experienced early this season aligns with that. Over the 11 games the Giants faced Victoria and Kelowna, two of the stingiest teams in the league, five times. Ronning needed 61 shots for a shooting percentage of 18 per cent.
6. Matthew Phillips (Victoria Royals), 17-game point streak from Sept. 22 – Oct. 29, 18-game point streak from Jan. 5 – current: Phillips, a Calgary Flames prospect, has had a roller coaster ride after not being invited to Canada’s world junior camp, but then signing his first NHL contract. His effort, however, never wavers. He’s remarkably consistent and two lengthy point streaks speak to that. Despite being 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Phillips has only missed two games in his three seasons. He came out of the chute with a four-point effort on opening night to kick start a 17-game point streak. A new streak started Jan. 5 and is still going. The Royals are 1-7 when Phillips does not record a point.
5. Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), 20-game point streak from Nov. 22 – Jan. 13: Frost, a surprise first-round pick for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2017 NHL Draft, was able to craft his streak just after the CIBC Canada-Russia series, through the Christmas break, and into the New Year. Ten of those games were played without Connor Timmins, while eight of them were without Boris Katchouk, both high-end point producers who are especially adept on the power play. The 43 points during that stretch have accounted for almost half of Frost’s OHL-leading 88 points. The streak’s biggest scare came in a 3-2 overtime win over Oshawa, where Frost earned the secondary assist.
4. Linus Nyman (Kingston Frontenacs), 18-game road point streak from Oct. 14 – Nov. 7: Producing points on the road is a challenge in that you are at the behest of the home team’s match-ups, travel can be tiring and playing in enemy territory can be intimidating. Nyman, Kingston’s most consistent producer from the start of the season, was able to put up 29 points in opposing arenas and did it long before the high-powered acquisitions of Max Jones, Cliff Pu and Gabe Vilardi.
3. Alex Barre-Boulet (Blainville Boisbriand Armada), 25-game point streak from Oct. 17 – Dec. 28: Barre-Boulet has been the most prolific scorer in the QMJHL dating back to last season. He’s been held pointless in just five games this season, with four of those coming in the first six games of the season. The streak produced 26 goals, seven of which were game-winners, and 57 total points. The 5-foot-9, 167-pound centre has attended camps with LA and Vegas the past two years.
2. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 29-game point streak from Oct. 28 – Dec. 28: The longest streak of any CHL team this season is owned by the most dominant franchise in the 60-team loop. Sault Ste. Marie has not lost more than two straight games all season — and that’s happened just twice. Of the 29 games on this streak, 23 of them were outright wins, five were points gained in an overtime loss, while one came in a shootout loss. Fourteen of the games were played on the road. During the streak, the Hounds outscored their opponents 142-67.
1. Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current Broncos), 28-game point streak from Oct. 14 – Jan. 21: The Finnish magician put up 86 points in 2016-17, his rookie season. He started 2017-18 playing on the best line in junior hockey alongside Glen Gawdin and Tyler Steenbergen. At one point, the trio made up the top three scorers in the WHL. The Florida prospect scored 19 goals and added 50 assists for 69 points during this streak.
In 13 of the 28 games in the streak Heponiemi had three points or more. What makes the streak even more impressive is that it continued immediately after Heponiemi returned from the world juniors, a time frame in which most players’ production seems to temporarily tail-off.