CHL Power Rankings: Top 10 debuts with regular season underway

Kieffer Bellows (23). (Nathan Denette/CP)

In order to make this list, you would’ve had to have been playing or coaching your first game in the CHL, with a few exceptions. As a coach, you would have to be holding the head coach title, not just interim or fill-in. As a player, we made a couple of exceptions for those who have switched leagues, be it between CHL member leagues or the NCAA or Tier II. Last week’s season openers also left us with a laugh or two, starting with No. 10.

10. The Bob: Without a doubt one of my favourite venues in the CHL, the Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau typifies hockey in Quebec. The Bob, however, does not like hot, sunny weather, and in its 2017-18 debut, the humidity outside and cold inside didn’t mix well, ending up in a fog out. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada led 1-0 through 20 minutes of play before the cancellation. The game’s final 40 minutes or more will be played Jan. 24. Built in 1957, the old barn isn’t really up to today’s hockey standards, but it is one of a few that just reeks of old-time hockey.

9. Liam Dunda, Moncton Wildcats: Dunda spent his first four years in the OHL split between Plymouth, Owen Sound and Sudbury. He was waived through the OHL in August and immediately picked up by the Moncton Wildcats, where he is wearing a letter. In his first QMJHL game, Dunda scored the empty-net insurance marker as a welcome to his new team. More than anything, Dunda was brought in for his character to help mentor a young Moncton team. He has exceeded all expectations early on.

8. Dan Price, Victoria Royals: Price filled in for a sick Dave Lowry late in the 2016-17 season, but didn’t officially get the title of head coach until Lowry accepted a position with the Los Angeles Kings during the off-season. Price’s debut resulted in a 7-1 pasting of provincial rival Vancouver. The Royals went 3-for-8 on the power play and didn’t allow a goal on six Vancouver odd-man advantages against.

7. Val-d’Or Foreurs’ power play: The Foreurs were able to win the President’s Cup in 2014 based on a high-octane offence led by a league-best power play that finished at over 28 per cent efficiency. Since then, that number has taken a nosedive, to where Val-d’Or ranked 15th with an 18.1 efficiency rate in 2016-17. Based on Mario Durocher’s power-play debut to kick off this campaign, it indicates a rise back to prominence for the proud QMJHL franchise. The Foreurs went 3-for-4 on opening night, including the game-winner to upend Sherbrooke 5-4 in extra time.

6. Joel Hofer, Swift Current Broncos: Not drafted into the WHL, Hofer made his mark at the Program of Excellence with an outstanding 2015-16 season. As a result, he was listed by the Broncos in February of 2016. Hofer stopped 10 of 11 first-period shots by Saskatoon, eventually earning the win in a 5-2 defeat of the Blades. All told, Hofer stopped 23 of 25 in the win.

5. Anthony Dumont-Bouchard, Kitchener Rangers: After being waived through the QMJHL, Dumont-Bouchard was claimed on waivers by Barrie before being shipped to Kitchener. In his Rangers debut, Dumont-Bouchard stopped 36 of 37 Sarnia shots in a 3-1 win over the Sting. The overage netminder spent the last three seasons tending goal for Drummondville and Acadie-Bathurst.

4. Nathan Allensen, Barrie Colts: With all the hype surrounding projected top-five pick Andrei Svechnikov, the Colts got a Grade A performance from the 16 year-old rearguard. The Waterloo, Ont., native had a goal and two assists to go along with a plus-5 rating in an 11-2 Barrie victory against Ottawa.

3. Matthew MacDougall, Windsor Spitfires: After hoisting the MasterCard Memorial Cup in May, the Windsor Spitfires look like an entirely different group. Originally selected by Barrie in the third round of the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, MacDougall was acquired in a summer trade with the Colts. He had planned on taking the NCAA route, but de-committed from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to play for Windsor. His debut made that look like a solid decision with two apples in a 3-1 win over Saginaw.

2. Kieffer Bellows, Portland Winterhawks: A first-round pick of the New York Islanders, Bellows left Boston University after his freshman season to ply his trade in Portland. With the reputation of having a deadly shot, Bellows scored twice, added an assist and finished plus-4 in his WHL debut, a 7-4 triumph against Everett. Bellows and Vegas Golden Knights first-rounder Cody Glass should form one of the best duos in the CHL this season.

1. Nick Wong, Oshawa Generals: Wong netted a hat trick in his OHL debut, an 8-2 win at Sudbury. Wong, a second-round pick of the Generals in 2017, turned 16 just five days earlier and scored the game-winner and lone power-play goal in eight Oshawa opportunities.

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