So this week the OHL is accounting for 40 percent of the CHL’s Top 10 Rankings.
The percentage of teams isn’t surprising, but one team is: the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Now, it’s early, and this is no knock against a team on the up side of the junior-hockey curve. The Bulldogs are already plus-14 in goals-for and against, and boast A-listed draft prospects Mackenzie Entwistle and the third Strome brother, Matthew. Throw in a couple B-rated guys (including a dynamic-looking import, Marian Studenic) and another listed as a C, and you’ve got a talented team of draft eligibles. Couple those with a 16-year-old No. 3-overall priority selection pick who’s 6-foot-4, 210 lb., the recently acquired Will Bitten, and some scoring overagers, and there just might be something to get excited about.
Jeff Marek host’s Sportsnet’s prospects podcast. On the debut episode, guests included Uffe Bodin of Hockeysverige, Mark Seidel of NA Central Scouting and Sam Cosentino of the CHL on Sportsnet.
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Hamilton was also the No. 2 choice among OHL coaches to surprise this season, so full credit for a 4-1-0 start. But a bunch of players are just now making their ways back to junior from NHL camps. And—small sample size, I know—the underlying numbers are scary. Here are a few 5-on-5 eye-poppers courtesy Prospect-Stats.com:
|9||North Bay Battalion||4||101.11|
|14||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||5||98.56|
|16||Owen Sound Attack||5||96.28|
|2||Owen Sound Attack||5||58.24|
|4||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||5||55.49|
|20||North Bay Battalion||4||37.34|
|13||Owen Sound Attack||5||.714|
|16||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||5||.667|
|20||North Bay Battalion||4||.500|
So what do those all mean? Well, basically, the Bulldogs are getting really lucky at even strength. While PDO differences in junior hockey are always exaggerated, Hamilton’s mark is nearly two percentage points better than “second place” Kitchener’s. And while they’re shooting at an impossible-to-sustain rate (15.48%) and getting all kinds of saves (.921 SV%), they’re controlling less than 50 percent of possession and saving high-danger shots at a ridiculously high rate—and are T-2 for HD shots against, also not good.
Saturday Hamilton gets the Guelph Storm at home, a squad boasting similarliy skewed underlying numbers, so expect the Bulldogs to continue their winning ways ahead of Thanksgiving. And who knows, maybe for a while longer yet. But not for long. Not yet, anyway.