Friday, December 2, 2016

The 2016-2017 Western Hockey League Power Rankings(Volume 6)

Keep in mind when perusing through these rankings that the objective of this  article isn't to rank the teams based off of current position which would skew the rankings, it's a ranking where enlies my thoughts on where teams currently situate when assessing the likelihood or lack thereof of said team hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

1.Seattle Thunderbirds(Last time # 2)

The Everett Silvertips have encapsulated the imaginations of the Western Hockey League faithful with their blazing 19-3-4 beginning but in my opinion when the cookie crumbles aren't even the best team in the U.S Division, that classification belongs to the Seattle Thunderbirds. In the last preview I made mention that contrary to popular belief scoring depth up front was more of a soft spot compared to the thriving back end Konowalchuk has assembled. About a month ago and I understand the tide has softened since the return of Matt Barzal there was calls from particular T-Bird supporters that the squad should look to deal the likes of Ethan Bear and Keegan Kolesar but frankly this isn't happening for an organization that was league finalists a year ago. Ethan Bear and Turner Ottenbreit have done an admirable job spearheading the d-core but a name that for whatever reason seems to be forgotten about, receives little accolades at the very least is Jarrett Tyszka.  Persuing plenty of mock drafts over the past while and not many include the Langley product in the first two rounds but when you watch him play,although only seventeen he plays a mean, burgeoning game that is compounded by stellar skating abilities. When I sit down and analyze the game of Jarrett the first name that comes to mind is Bryce Salvador. A really explosive stride and you just  know he'll continue to physically mature and by the time he's embarked on his eighteen year old campaign it's not out of the realm to suggest he'll be in the 220 LB range. An enticing prospect and the lack of respect amongst the hockey masses behooves me. He'll be one of those consummate steals when Jarrett gets his name called. 

2.Everett Silvertips(Last time # 3)

Hot take that Carter Hart is the best goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League. Sarcasm overtones aside, in all seriousness this is no hot take and the scary thing to consider for the rest of the Western Hockey League is that his play has elevated since having his name called for the Team Canada World Junior Selection camp.Not allowing a goal in one hundred and eighty minutes is startling and a perception that I may of had going into the year was that the systems implemented are conducive to gaudy statistics but what I've learned is it's one giant misnomer. Carter Hart(along with Noah Juulsen) are the best at their respective positions and with that it's almost guaranteed that they'll remain competitive throughout. It'll be a great measuring stick when they go head to head against the powerful Medicine Hat Tigers to see where they really stand pertaining to Western Hockey League supremacy.  One last tidbit about the Tips and you  may find this interesting is that the last time an American Western Hockey League franchise had  a goaltender and defenceman on the World Junior team,  a near certainty this year with the aforementioned two, that team being the 2008 Spokane Chiefs ended up winning the Memorial Cup. Will history repeat itself? Time will tell.

3.Regina Pats(Last time # 1)

To say the now finished road trip through British Columbia was shaky would be an understatement. Exerting their domination against lesser opponents throughout the first two months it was difficult to gauge the outlook of this hockey club because not once did they face any adversity. The B.C trip finally brought adversity and you could argue they caved under it at specific points. The panic button with the goaltending has been pushed several times but if anything that's the one position that we can now breath a huge sigh of relief with as Tyler Brown was one of the lone bright spots in the absence of injured backup Jordan Hollett. I understand Jonathan Smart was acquired from Kelowna but it's apparent from this bloggers eyes that a third line winger to assist Jake Leschyshyn is a pre requisite as is one more veteran defenceman. Nineteen year old from Portland forward Alex  Overhardt would be a welcome addition and should come relatively cheap as Paddock keeps a watchful eye on the 2018 Memorial Cup bid.

4.Kamloops Blazers(Last time # 5)

In this last edition of the rankings, I was noticeably hard on Garrett Pilon. Since that ranking was issued (November 15th) all Garrett has accomplished is seven points in five games boosting his overall mark to twenty four points. It's almost as if he read this looked to prove a certain doubter wrong and I'll eat crow when necessary and I've unquestionably been proven incorrect. Garrett is maybe more of a playmaker opposed to a scorer than I originally thought but that's okay when you have gifted scorers in Devin Sideroff and Rudolfs Balcers. Let'st talk about Sideroff for a second... any time you get shafted by Hockey Canada for whch Devin and a lot of other quality players do you automatically get a chip on your shoulder and it's a great test of character for how he'll respond. I remember him for playing in an under eighteen international event and was extremely impressed from what I saw then so it's hard to say what's happened for Hockey Canada's opinion to be soured. One angle worth exploring are consistency issues. Although the Anaheim Ducks saw enough to exhaust a third round pick, to stay inside the 'Program of Excellence'it doesn't help to lay goose eggs on ten separate occasions this year. Sideroff is an elite player in the league, has tremendous speed and isn't afraid to track down the dirty areas but because he's in his nineteen year old season simply put the Blazers can't afford any off nights. This type or trajectory could prove detrimental come playoff time.

5.Medicine Hat Tigers(Last week # 10)

It's natural that as teams immerse in the four year junior cycle that you're always left  with a couple players who are fringe commodities in the dub but I can honestly say the Tigers aren't enamored in that problem as team depth is a definite strength. I suppose if you were to become nit picky you may ascertain that Shaun Clouston hasn't shown a lot of confidence in the backup goaltending position but with a plethora of available goaltending options I could surmise this is an easy fit. Continuing with the goaltending conversation, what a tumultuous road Nick Schneider has been on in his Western Hockey League journey. He went from a young prospect with the Regina Pats, who at one time perceived as the goaltender of the future to arguably landing in a worse situation in Med Hat. From what I gather his play before 2016-2017 was hot and cold which was part of the reason why Tiger administration brought over Mack Shields before last season which amounted inconsequential as injuries hindered Mack's career but what that trade did as well with riding the pine behind Marek Langhammer before that was it reverberated the idea that in order to secure the coveted National Hockey League contract he had to re invent himself in net and that's exactly what he's done.  With no one looking over his shoulder this go around he's battled thus far to a .908 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA which may be the formula that gets him signed after all.It's been a rollercoaster journey for Nick but being how  Nick resides it he abysmal Eastern Conference with only Regina being a feared foe, a near guaranteed trip to the conference finals will grab the scouts attention. Additionally I'd be remiss if I didn't speak to my surprise towards the  play of Zach Fischer.  Injuries have clearly stunted his development as a player but now with full health regained he's showcasing that he has the wherewithal to crack the thirty goal plateau.It helps that the team around him may score a thousand goals this year but we can't ignore that the former Lloydminster Bobcat is a rare sniper on a team flooded with playmakers and that bodes well for the coaching staff allocating important late game minutes for himself. As important as Mason Shaw and Chad Butcher are to the puzzle, don't sleep on Fischer.

6.Prince George Cougars(Last time # 7)

A lot of hurt egos at this current juncture in Northern British Columbia. I don't remember a scenario off the top of my head that so many players had the potential heading into the season of finding their way on the Hockey Canada but none received the call. Jesse Gabrielle, their have been rumblings that purported attitude deficiencies have gotten in the way because as a  pure scorer there aren't many that rival Jesse. With Jansen Harkins, I'm torn because on one hand you have to respect the hockey bloodlines with father Todd piecing together a commendable professional hockey career but where I think transgressions come into play are he doesn't possess one great skill set, is just above average in all areas. I believe it was TSN's Craig Button who said post draft who opined that he was surprised that Jansen fell to where he did but this blogger had him pegged right where he was selected, as a late second rounder His game won't translate well to the National Hockey League level. Ok to summarize,with Jesse it's off the ice issues holding him back, with Jansen it's him not standing out enough but for my strongest take, I present you Brendan Guhle. As loyal readers are well aware I had the Prince Albert Raiders pinpointed as a pre-season contender and two of the main reasons were because of Reid Gardiner and Guhle. Not many,including myself could've foreseen Reid sticking in the American Hockey League which in many respects led to a face palm moment for how I prognosticated Prince Albert. I'm sorry though, if you own the rights  to a defenceman who nearly made the NHL himself in Guhle and can't field a competitive entry then there are serious questions that need to be asked. I genuinely feel sorry for Brendan as I believe firmly if we would've started the year with any other organization he not only gets invited to camp but is on the team. Commissioner Ron Robison has to step in and correct the monstrosity that has become the Raider organization. It has directly impacted Guhle. 

7.Tri-City Americans(Last time # 4)

 At twenty, Tyler Sandhu's Western Hockey League career is riding into the sunset but one of the greater mysteries is how his skillset  didn't lead to getting noticed by National Hockey League scouts. The impressive thing about Tyler is his pure playmaking abilities. Some will theorize that Sandhu is far too passive to ever progress professionally but what is at least giving him a fighting chance is Mike Williamson's sudden tendency to pair up Sandhu and sniper Michael Rasmussen. The two are polar opposites to each other which makes the combination all that more enticing.I read somewhere that Michael hasn't scored a pretty goal in his life which is a fairly accurate representation and with Sandhu now on his line at moments it will create even more open space for someone that unequivocally has the best wrist shot in the Western Hockey League. Brilliant coaching really and for an organization prospering to the level they are I think we have to consider Mike Williamson as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate because not many pendants expected Tri-City  to remain the hunt. Unfortunately for the Americans they reside in a division which includes the T-Birds and the Silvertips which surely will cause Bob Tory headaches when contemplating whether to add at the deadline.I'm a proponent of this group but making a tangible addition is the only way they'll stay on the same playing field. Holding status quo and moving forward to 2017-2018 is the calculated endeavour.

8.Brandon Wheat Kings(Last time # 8)

Without knowing the character of Reid Duke completely, I'm curious as to how he's going to handle the inevitability that in a few short weeks this becomes Nolan Patrick's team again.  There will be an adjustment period to be sure because once Patrick is back in the fold and of this writing we're not sure if Nolan will get in any game action prior to World Junior selection camp you know the coach David Anning will construct his nightly game plans around Patrick and for Reid, an individual that anticipated fulltime employment in the American Hockey League this season it'll be a difficult pill to swallow. Reid has bought in to the team concept often times finding himself on the third line a year go during the championship run so it'll be a storyline to pay attention the rest of the way to see if he's willing to adapt to a lesser role Defensively it's been night and day since the opening of the season.Czech Republican Daniel Bukac who's vying for a World Junior spot has become a steadying presence. He's never going to present much acumen on the Power Play but in the Eastern Conference specifically has developed into one of the premier shut down guys. If Bukac keeps stymying the gifted scorers in the conference and if Clague keeps up his defensive player of the year pace then the Wheaties will not be a kind out in the playoffs. 7-3 in the last ten.

9.Swift Current Broncos(Last time # 15)

Is it possible with the way that Manny Viveiros has managed his team this season that he's changed the course on how to allocate the twenty year old positions? So many times nineteen years old from the year before are invited to Training Camp and are given preference because of the loyalty an organization shows but in reality there's a reason they're still in junior as an overager. It's becoming rarer and rarer that an elite twenty is returned to the league and dominates. Yes, examples of Adam Brooks, Dryden Hunt and Tyler Johnson are brought to the forefront however when scouring through piles of data a lot twenties end up being liabilites. What the Broncos elected to do is enter the campaign with one twenty and then assess the climate to locate exterior twenties. Since the commencement, Ryan Graham from Saskatoon has been brought in and if Kootenay ever lowers the price on Zak Zborosky.then you may see Swift enter those sweepstakes. It's an innovative concept, one that may be used more often in the future. I am one of those people that when analyzing then Broncos predicted that next year could be the pinnacle season but with the aggression showed thus far they've signalled to the rest of the league that they shouldn't be taken lightly.

10.Victoria Royals(Last time #  9)

To begin this synopsis there are two players I wanted to focus on, not necessarily players that will separate the teams success from it's possible failures but two unsung heroes who play integral roles for Dave Lowry in Ralph Jarratt and Kaid Oliver. Jarratt has formed an intimidating shut down pairing with Marcel Ibragimov and while I originally knew little about Ralph heading into the year,it's clear the mentorship offered by the veteran Russian has rubbed off on the eighteen year old Fort St.John native.  The best scouting report I could give is he's a hard nosed player, has an underrated passing ability in his arsenal and once the pending graduations of Ibragimov and Ryan Gagnon transpire he could be the staple heading into 2017-2018. I vouch that the most impressive thing about Jarratt is his discipline. Too many times do you see a player who likes to exert himself physically get into penalty trouble,ie Radko Gudas but with Ralph he finishes checks and isn't running around aimlessly. Pertaining to Kaid Oliver, I see tremendous upside, in the last edition I name dropped Brenden Shinnimin and that's exactly who I recollect when watching Kaid play. Comparing his style to that of the last couple Royal entries it's actually very non-traditional to the type of players they tend to covet. A third round pick from White Rock he plays with a high level of energy and responsibility in his own end  As mentioned I expect contributions to be minimal  In my opinion and I'm not one to speculate into draft politics but Oliver has a higher upside then first round pick Eric Florchuk does.  I've made my thoughts known in this blog that the narrative of this season is it's thin at the top and even at the number ten rank I question if Victoria are true contenders. Chaz Reddekopp as potential trade bait?  Long term pain over short term gain.

11.Kelowna Rockets(Last time #13)

What's a rebuild in Kelowna any way? Just when I thought the mandate may of been to get younger, they roll off a few wins in a row and make a trade to get older although questionable if it made them better.  To trade former first round pick, Kelowna bred to boot Jonathan Smart has me surmising if something went on behind the scenes because it's unconventional to trade away a hometown first round pick when many will tell you this isn't Kelowna's year. But once again as I attempted to illustrate in the opening it's against General Manager Bruce Hamilton's philosophy to throw in the towel so the question must be asked, where does the team go from here? Positivity has been a trademark of this particular edition as after reading back I don't think I've been too hard on any such player or team thus far but that will change with my observations of Nick Merkley. I'll just lead with the thought that Merkley's invitation to Team Canada was unwarranted as his play from two seasons ago has regressed alarmingly.  Call first round-itis or what you want but after the Arizona Coyotes selected NIck in the 2015 first round(30th overall) there's been a wide scale of laxidazical play and under the tutelage of Jason Smith it's not getting any better. In retrospect maybe we've understated the loss of Rourke Chartier but as the leader of the Rockets he has to lead better by example so the future building blocks of Kole Lind and Leif Mattson can soak in valuable information and the next crop that carries the Rockets to a championship. In the absence of consistent productive from Nick, the emergence of Calvin Thurkauf has in many respects saved the campaign.Thurkauf's best asset is si strength along the wall  Most of the other core forwards are small in stature so Calvin's ability to win puck battles down low is a trait most of these other forwards don't have. I love this defensive group and it's the absolute strength of the team and if they have aspirations of pulling off a first round upset then it's imperative Smith's defensive first mindset continues.

12.Moose Jaw Warriors(Last time # 12)

The characterization of this Warriors has not changed an ioda from the characterization of last year's Warriors team. The Brayden Burke transaction aside the concerns I had heading into the season remain unchanged Top heavy up front with scoring depth an increasing problem with an incredibly shotty defence.  I opined in the pre-season preview if the tendencies of Head Coach Tim Hunter riding his first line at no end would catch up with him and it honestly has. From a lineup management perspective what I would love to see is Brett Howden, Noah Gregor and Nikita Popaguev split up on separate lines. There's always that team the dub, the Regina Pats on a couple of occassions, that has explosive goal scoring potential but are exposed for a lack of depth in the playoffs. The onus is on Hunter and coaching staff to get Luka Burzan and Tristin Langan specifically going. Everyone is familiar with Burzan due to his first round status but Langan is a relatively unknown commodity but has the potential to be a good player in this league.  The Swan River,Manitoba native has been heralded for his penalty killing prowess but when I watch Tristin play I'm left wanting and expecting more offensively. You know what player he reminds me of, chanelling this back to Regina Pats lore is Dyson Stevenson. Many in Dyson's early days with the Pats perceived him as a grinder with virtually no hands but the minute he was given the luxury of playing with upper echelon talent his stat line took off.This verifies my belief that if you put Langan with someone like Brett Howden is boost the productivity and balance out the scoring. Getting to thirty points should be the measuring stick.

13.Lethbridge Hurricanes(Last time # 11)

Peter Anholt has picked up a new nickname this go around, that being" trader Pete" as he's figuratively made a million trades this season.  He's reportedly cleaned out the hinderances in the dressing room but the question must be posted, is it any better today than it was yesterday? Brayden Burke was only the first domino that also included Jesse Zaharichuk, Brady Reagan and former Wheat King Kord Pankiewicz. For a team that captured the Central division title last year this ship has suddenly and sadly  transformed into the Hurricanes of the early 2010's. Tyler Wong has taken the team on his shoulders and shockingly the Canes reeled off five straight but to me it has  a long way to go to garner back respectability.  This may come off as an unpopular opinion amongst Canes fan but I think it's safe to say this team is in need of an identity and how does an identity come about mid-season, by capitalizing on your most prized asset, Stuart Skinner. An 11-10 record in front of this colossally bad backend is nothing to be ashamed about and I know for a fact he ha strong value throughout the league and would fetch an arm and a leg on the trade market. Lest this be a lesson though that it's never advisable to build your team around a goalie because you can be Carey Price but if the proper nucleus isn't around said franchise player you've wasted his formative years. Nothing more than a premonition but Skinner is navigating Swift Current waters in January.

14.Spokane Chiefs(Last time # 16)

Scouring message boards and most will have you believe that the B.C division is the strongest in the league but I'm here to alter that thought by proclaiming the U.S division as the deepest division. The Spokane Chiefs are  a solid club, were very high in my pre-season prognostications but circumstances, mainly the division they reside in have drastically dampened my outlook. Aside from the herculean division they're forced to navigate through, part of the equation that's been wrong has been the disappointing play between the pipes from Jayden Sittler. The statistical line of Sittler has been porous which I find perplexing as it was my opinion as a member of the Lethbridge Hurricanes a year ago he was the more trusted netminder. An .881 Save percentage is simply unacceptable and if keeps this up I don't know what choice they'll have but to call upon Dawson Weatherill more native Meager goaltending is generally correlated with inconsistent performances from the back end but in the case of Spokane that's not a fair assertion. The Chiefs have a fairly balanced attack and the player who's having a breakout season aside from the obvious Ty Smith has been Jeff Faith. Before venturing to Spokane Jeff was a highly recruited defender courtesy of the Notre Dame Hounds midget program and it's taken him  a while to adapt to his surroundings as his former penchant was to hit everything and everyone in the site and frankly when entering  a stronger league as a seventeen year old he may of had that idea in his head but the optics of the situation just made it impossible. That, and I put some blame on coach Don Nachbaur for arguably sheltering Jeff too much and in many respects this translates into his rookie season. If you appreciate truculence, I know Brian Burke does, he'll become a instant fan favourite however the more comfortable he gets is code for his penalty minutes increasing It's been a staple his entire young career.

15.Calgary Hitmen(Last time # 6)

The Calgary Hitmen to put it mildly have been a major disappointment at this juncture. I spent some time discussing identity with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and an identity crisis is also prevalent in Cow town. I thought coming in their identity coming in was going to be that of a defensively responsible forward group, a defence that could hold their own and extraordinary goaltending out of Cody Porter. I still hold the notion that Porter is the conferences best goaltender but where the things have fallen off the tracks is the inability to score whatsoever. Fifty one goals on the year isn't going to cut it and it begs the question why second rounder Noah  Geekie, brother of Tri-City American Morgan didn't make the cut for a team so thirsty for goal production. He's having a wonderful season in Midget AAA and it's about that time Mike Moore smell the coffee and starting supplanting more scoring in this lineup. Normally I'd advocate and condone Calgary's decision to slowly develop someone like Noah but not when the division is "gettable" and the Hitmen should be looking to take advantage of  a soft year in the central. That's not to say this group isn't endowed with some top tier talent but the top tier talent they do possess are better suited for fulfilling defensive minded roles. It's a near certainty that Matteo Gennaro gets dealt ignoring everything I've said about the Hitmen having an opportunity but when push  comes to shove it's a case of too little too late. Matteo may find himself donning the rival Med Hat Tigers sweater in a couple months.

16.Portland Winterhawks(Last time # 14)

It's possible for the purposes of this blog that I've never vocalized my opinion that I expected Cody Glass to slow down from his current 1.39 points per game pace but to my surprise he hasn't and maybe I'm the delusional one in this facet as any Mike Johnston coached hockey team seems to bolster their offensive numbers, All of that being said, and I'm having trouble pinpointing why I'm not yet sold on Glass the player. He's not the flashiest on the ice  surface and I feel as the season progresses game planning against Cody will be more focal and he'll be forced to utilize some creativity to create space for himself, In a Western Hockey League comparables universe the player he most reminds me of is Devon Setoguchi. Setoguchi has mapped out a solid career for himself so the comparison isn't meant to be insulting but if we harken back to the way Setoguchi used to dominate in this league, he'd use his superb vision and make the simple play. You rarely ever saw a Setoguchi dangle and up until this point a Cody Glass dangle hasn't been a common occurrence.

17.Red Deer Rebels(Last time # 20)

Red Deer fans be warned, the only reason, and I stress ONLY reason why I've chosen to promote the Red Deer Rebels in these rankings because in some way or another every other team  below then has thrown in the towel. I look at the Western Hockey League climate this way, from team 1(Seattle) to team 10(Victoria), I consider this Tier A meaning the only ten teams I foresee winning the league. From Kelowna at eleven until Portland at sixteen I construe as the secondary tier. Red Deer begins the pure pretenders tier and like mentioned  would be a lot lower if other teams didn't begin to fold up shop.  Now for some constructive critique, Colton Bobyk has had a commendable season to date  His shot is one of the best in the league but how many times can he get caught up ice without facing any punishment from Brent Sutter? Sutter will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest coaches ever but I'm starting to hypothesize the good ol' hockey game has passed him by. No longer in this generation can you build a solely tough and rumble team and expect results. I bring this back full circle with my concern about Bobyk by saying because Bobyk would be labelled a big defenceman who CAN lay the big hit he gets away scotch free but defenceman such as Josh Mahura and Carson Sass get publically,lamented through the media by Sutter. I'd much rather see Mahura and Sass continually push the pace,put up points while making frustrating mistakes. This is an offence first league and someone in that Rebel organization has to forward the memo to Brent.

18.Prince Albert Raiders(Last time # 18)

I'm not one to usually cosign thoughts penned by anonymous fans online but the constant dialect I've been noticing is that of disbelief that the Raiders aren't willing to provide their young up and comers substantial playing time. The Brendan Guhle deal finally happened and as I touched on in the Prince George synopsis I'm happy Brendan will get to strut his stuff on  a playoff contender. The aftermath with the parting of Guhle should correlate to some of the younger defenders receiving more minutes. Two names, one on defence that constantly get brought up are Zack Hayes and Spencer Moe. Hayes from all accounts is having a superb season but point levels are down because he's been rotting away on the third pairing and isn't recieving any specialty minutes. Judging from his stats in Midget AAA with the Calgary Northstars he may never be a power play specialist and that could be why Marc Habscheid has been timid providing any PP time but at the very least allocate some penalty killing time because so far the second the Raiders are caught short handed he's stapled to the bench. It's shortsighted thinking because in a year from now him and Max Martin become your top pairing so why not start the audition process a little early? With Moe, I sense more frustration from Hockeytown North as there's been a few occasions that Spencer has sat down as a healthy scratch. Moe is a feisty individual who has a nose for the net and with the Guhle trade you've already signalled the rebuild, don't go halfway and play the remaining veterans at nauseum while not seriously shooting for the playoffs. The "half-assery" has been too prevalent in recent year and is par for the course as to why they've struggled holding on to stars in there nineteen year old seasons(Morrisey, Draisatl, and Guhle). Hunker down, formulate a plan and stick to it!

19.Saskatoon Blades(Last time # 17)

How about Braylon Shmyr of late? After a stretch in late October where he went seven games without accumulating a point he's caught fire in the latter half of November scoring eight of his eleven goals in the last fourteen games. That saying that get involved with Kelly McCrimmon in a trade negotiation and you'll usually get fleeced has historically held true with the irony being in the Wheat Kings championship run the trade that brought over Schael Higson for Braylon heavily worked out in Saskatoon's favor.......and the Wheaties still reigned victorious. I  just finished talking about Prince Albert not having a plan where as, and I can understand Blade fans running short on patience at least in Saskatoon you can understand the direction. Grybowski(likely butchered the spelling) who's spending the year in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is the distinct goaltender of the future and the blue line prospects engineered by Jantzen Leslie and Nolan Reid make room for optimism, for the first time in a very long time. It is too bad thought that the Blades couldn't reach an agreement with Johnny Tychonik who's right were transferred to Calgary The wherewithal to secure his rights would've sent a strong message to the fan base.

20.Edmonton Oil Kings(Last time # 21)

My pre-season preview was very complimentary of 2014 first rounder, Lloydminster product Kobe Mohr but safe to pronounce that he's underwhelmed to date. He always looks so disengaged from the play,I'm not seeing any compete and for someone entering hjs NHL draft year and I find that awfully perturbing. I'm going to assume and keep in mind that this is me going on a wild goose chase that when Oil King administration settled on Kobe's name in the first round of said 2014 draft that they projected a physical that to date hasn't happened. So what are the options with Kobe?  Would he accept a re-assignment to Midget AAA or would he frown at the notion? Do you undeservingly appropriate first line ice time for Kobe at the risk of peeving off teammates who have been put in the work? Do you scout out a change of scenery for Mohr in hopes of capitalizing on a dwindling asset?  So many questions, does Edmonton have the answers?

21.Kootenay Ice(Last time # 22)

Bravo, bravo Cranbrook! So many teams ahead of them in this ranking don't seem willing to just let it ride with their younger  commodities but full marks go out to young Coach Luke Pierce for completely buying into this rebuid and putting the future ahead of the present.  Giving the most recent first overall pick Peyton Krebs an extended audition was sheer brilliance and even more brilliant was just not using the call up in fourth line minutes but during his short stay he saw time with leading scorer Zak Zborosky. At the start of the season and I touched on this in the last edition was the ice time was tipping too much in the direction of Zborosky and other veterans but the tide has turned and now the future of this organization are also the now.  There's generally not much to talk about when I get this far down in the rankings so I'll give a shout-out to former Ice standout Elgin Pearce for being named the most recent WHL graduate of the month.

22.Vancouver Giants(Last time # 19)

Has the firesale started yet? No seriously has it? When Tyler Benson was fortunate enough to have his name called first overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, the premise was to build around Tyler in order to contend in the 2016-2017 season which is now because at the time the widely thrown around theory was that by the time Benson turned nineteen he'd be NHL bound.  Those that bought into that myself included sure look red in the face now. In Benson's defence for a management group that made moves to strengthen his stock in retrospect all they've done is lower his value significantly  It's been a mitigated disaster from step one. From Claude Noel to Lorne Molleken to now Jason McKee their's never been any rhythm in the message and that's probably effected Tyler's psyche. Secondly and likely most importantly can we touch on the fact that when attempting to build the roster around Benson that it's been a disastrous effort. I'm not saying injuries haven't played a role but this very well may be Brendan Guhle all over again where a change of scenery could benefit both the player and the organization.  Unfortunately for all those involved this type of linear thinking is non existent with Giants ownership and just like the parent NHL team will continue to flounder until responsible hockey operational decisions are made. Also, what's happened to the potency of Brendan Semchuk? Has not scored a goal in sixteen games and because he's an integral part of the future I'm just surmising here that potential partnership of Benson and Semchuk could be what both need to knock them into gear.

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