There may be no NHL hockey this season, but there are plenty of options. From the American League to across the pond in Europe, your favorite NHLers are scattering to stay on the ice. But if you want to look at the future of the top professional league, there is no place better than the Canadian major junior leagues.
Each week, the CHL releases a ranking of the top 10 teams. So, in the absence of the NHL, our Power Rankings focus will turn to junior.
Topping the list this week are the Quebec League’s Quebec Remparts, who came into the season as the top-ranked junior squad. After decisive 9-4 and 5-0 wins over Chicoutimi and Baie-Comeau to start the year, there is no reason for the Remparts to fall.
Buffalo Sabres fans will be happy to know No. 12 overall pick Mikhail Grigorenko is off to a hot start. With six points (one goal, five assists) in two games, Grigorenko leads the best team in the nation in scoring. His five assists have come off two goal-scorers, draft eligible high-flyer Anthony Duclair and Florida Panthers 2011 third-rounder Logan Shaw.
With those three, plus draft-eligible – and first round probable – Adam Erne and a cast of experienced players, the Remparts are looking to rebound from a disappointing seven-game, second-round loss in last season’s playoffs to the high-powered Halifax Mooseheads, who you’ll also see on this list.
Two big wins last week should continue to three with the soft-touch Sherbrooke Phoenix first up on Saturday. A home date with Val-d'Or on Sunday finishes the weekend slate – but Tuesday's road showdown in Chicoutimi against Charles Hudon's Sagueneens will be one to watch.
Edmonton Oil Kings
The Oil Kings got here on the strength of a 2-0 start, but added another win in their first road game Wednesday night, 3-0 over Lethbridge. Draft eligible Curtis Lazar notched a hat trick in a 6-2 win over Red Deer last Sunday. Lazar already has four goals (two game-winners) in three contests.
The Knights haven't been tested yet, rolling over Connor McDavid's Erie Otters and Matt Finn's Guelph Storm, both by 8-2 scores. Seth Griffith (Boston 2012 fifth-rounder) led the team in scoring last season and is off to another great start with five goals in two games. London faces a stiff test against the Kitchener Rangers Friday, though at least it's at home.
The Rangers snuck past Mississauga 3-0 last Friday in a game that included two last-minute empty-netters and tossed 50 shots at Sarnia goaltender J-P Anderson in a 3-2 shootout squeaker on Sunday. Kitchener has yet to score a 5-on-5 goal. In fact, all five goals, plus the two shootout markers, have all been scored by Radek Faksa (Dallas, 13th overall in 2012) and Matt Puempel (Ottawa, 24th overall in 2011).
There's a reason why Halifax was on Ryan Kennedy's must-watch list: Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon. The two draft eligibles lead the young squad in scoring out of the gate. Halifax gets its home-opener Friday night against lowly Gatineau and has two more home dates against Cape Breton and Acadie-Bathurst this week.
A disappointing home-opening loss to Seattle helped bump Portland down two spots from its pre-season ranking, but they recovered to win the back end of that home-and-home and also trumped Tri-City 4-2. Undersized, draft eligible Nicolas Petan is flying out of the gate and leads the WHL with four goals and eight points in three games.
New Jersey Devils first-rounder Stefan Matteau has notched a goal and an assist in each of the first two games, both on the road. The Armada hit their home docks for the first time against the expansion Phoenix Friday night and stay there all week, meeting the Huskies for a rematch Saturday and the undefeated Voltigeurs next Wednesday.
A home-and-home is all that defines the Blazers' season thus far. They allowed the Kelowna Rockets to climb back into the first game before winning it in overtime, but made a comeback of their own in the second game, scoring all three of their goals in the final frame of the 3-2 win.
The Bulls were outshot in their first two games, both on the road, but came away with one regulation win and one shootout win. The reason? Boston first-rounder Malcolm Subban has been lights-out with a .952 SP and 1.44 GAA. Brother Jordan leads the team with three points, too.
Led by overager Cody Sylvester's five points, the Hitmen won a tight game and a blowout to start the season, but will be tested Friday when they head into Edmonton to face the No. 2 ranked Oil Kings.