I know it’s only month into the 2011-12 season but two things are becoming quite apparent:
1) Goals are not hard to come by. Granted Major Junior Hockey has always been known for its high-scoring, free wheeling’ hockey, barring an NHL-like barrage of injuries there will most definitely be a 60-goal scorer in the ‘Dub this season. The league hasn’t seen a 60-goal scorer in 11 seasons when Layne Ulmer scored 63 in 68 games in 2000-01 for Swift Current. Top candidates this year include Medicine Hat’s Emerson Etem (projected 104 goals), Vancouver’s Brendan Gallagher (projected 68 goals) and Portland’s Ty Rattie (projected 64 goals). Etem is obviously the most likely to keep up his current pace, as he’s remained consistent by scoring at least one goal in 8 of 9 games.
In the points department, I wouldn’t be surprised if either Tri-City’s Adam Hughesman (21 points in 11 games thus far) or Brandon’s Mark Stone (21 points in 9 games) hits the 120-point plateau. The WHL record for most points in a season is held by Rob Brown, 212 points for the Kamloops Blazers in 1986-87, while Ray Ferraro scored a WHL record 102 goals back in 1983-84 for the Wheat Kings.
2) There’s no shortage of potential scenarios coming out of the B.C. Division. Other than the Kamloops Blazers, winning 7 of their 9 games, there is no other clear-cut division thoroughbred. Victoria Royals, Vancouver Giants and Kelowna Rockets are still working out the kinks that comes with early season play. The Royals ,with an average of 3.9 goals a game, are the closest to getting on a role as they’ve been able to find the net with ease. But expect the jockeying to continue for the rest of the season. Should be fun to watch.
GM Scott Bonner continues to shake up the Vancouver Giants lineup making another trade in as many weeks acquiring winger Austin Connor and prospect Arwin Atwal from the Prince Albert Raiders in exchange for centreman Teal Burns and defenceman Tyler Hart. The 6-fooot-4, 228-pound Connor brings much-needed size and grit to the Giants lineup.
Spokane Chiefs (5-2-0-1): The Chiefs’ offence is firing on all cylinders. Take this weekend’s results as proof – Spokane had six different goal scorers tally on all six goals over two games. The Chiefs snuck past Prince Albert 3-2 in overtime on Friday, and 3-1 against Everett on Saturday to extend their winning streak to four.
Kamloops Blazers (7-2-0-0): Kamloops is the official cream of the Western Conference. The Blazers scorched the competition once again winning all three weekend contests against Portland (5-4), Prince George (3-0) and Kelowna (3-2), and have won an impressive 7 of their last 8. The first place Blazers have given up a league-low 2.4 goals against per game.
Vancouver Giants (4-5-0-1): Just like their NHL counterparts the Giants are slumping out of the gate. In part because of lack of scoring – the team has tallied on just 13 per cent of their powerplay chances. The G-men dropped consecutive games over the weekend, a 5-0 drubbing to Tri-City and 3-2 squeaker against Seattle, where they were a combined 1-for-7 with the man advantage. Coach Don Hay is going to need to see offensive contributions outside Brendan Gallagher and James Henry if Vancouver is to quickly turn the tide.
Brendan Ranford, 19, Kamloops Blazers: The diminutive, 5-foo-10 forward hammered four goals, including the overtime game winner, in a 5-4 victory against the Portland Winterhawks on Friday. Ranford, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect , chipped in another when the Blazers edged the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 on Sunday for a 5-goal weekend. He now has six goals in six games after compiling a combined 60 goals over his previous two WHL campaigns.
Sven Bartschi, 19, Portland Winterhawks: The Swiss superstar sniped 3 goals and added 4 assists in two games over the weekend to earn WHL Player of the Week. After a long tryout stint with the Calgary Flames and their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford, B.C., Bartschi has scorched the WHL competition for 14 points in 7 games.
Top 10 Scorers
1. (4) Emerson Etem, Medicine Hat Tigers – 13g, 8a – 21 points
2. (1) Adam Hughesman, Tri-City Americans – 11g, 10a – 21 points
3. (2) Mark Stone, Brandon Wheat Kings – 6g, 15a – 21 points
4. (3) Kevin Sundher, Victoria Royals – 4g, 17a – 21 points
5. (9) Taylor Vause, Swift Current Broncos – 9g, 9a – 18 points
6. (7) Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks – 8g, 8a – 16 points
7. (6) *Martin Gernat, Edmonton Oil Kings – 5g, 10a – 15 points
8. (10) James Henry, Vancouver Giants – 3g, 12a – 15 points
9. (NR) Anthony Bardaro, Spokane Chiefs – 9g, 5a – 14 points
10. (NR) Sven Bartschi, Portland Winterhawks – 5g, 9a – 14 points
* Denotes rookie
Previous week’s ranking