WHL Sports Four Teams in CHL Top 10

By Tom Hoffert

The Western Hockey League is well represented in this week’s Top 10 Canadian Hockey League Teams ranking. Strong team play enabled the Red Deer Rebels to remain 1st overall for the fourth consecutive week.

#1 Rebel Notes: Individual leaders for the Rebels include stellar goaltending by Columbus Blue Jacket property Shane Bendera and play-making by highly touted Russian Center Mikhail Yakubov, the 2000 1st Round Draft Pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. Bendera is standing firm on a tiny 1.58 GAA and a SV% of .942!!! That is absolutely sick! Yakubov leads the team in scoring with a balanced 8 Goals and 11 Assists, but a puzzling 0+/-. Not exactly the type of two-way play you will need to survive in an NHL uniform. However, the 19 year old WHL rookie is adjusting smoothly to the punishment and grind of the tough Western Hockey League schedule.

#4 Bronco Notes: Individual leaders for the Broncos include yappy-mouthed Vancouver Canuck Draft Pick Tim Smith and goal-scoring talent Duncan Milroy, a 2001 Montreal Canadiens Draft Pick. Diminutive winger Tim Smith is putting his war of words with former-employer, the Spokane Chiefs, behind him and is concentrating on finding the open man. As a result, he leads the team in scoring with 9 goals and 17 assists in 17 games. Milroy is letting his goal-scoring ability do his talking as he has potted 12 goals in as many games and added four assists. Four of his goals have come on the man-advantage, while two have come while short-handed, leaving opposing coaches pulling their hair out.

#7 Blazer Notes: Individual leaders for the Blazers include lamp-lighting by second-year stud winger Scottie Upshall and balanced attack by Los Angeles King prospect Jared Aulin. Upshall is showing everyone in the scouting world why he wants to be a first-round 2002 NHL Draft Pick. Scottie has posted impressive numbers with 10 goals, 11 assists and a tough 38 PIM through 14 games. Aulin, who was acquired by the LA Kings from the Avalanche as part of the Rob Blake deal, is showcasing his two-way talents with a +11 through 12 games and posting 20 points. Of course, one of my favorite agitators, Keegan McAvoy, is stirring things up for Kamloops as well.

#9 Hurricanes Notes: Individual leaders for the Hurricanes include some staggering numbers by 2000 Canuck Draft Pick, Nathan Barrett and Slovakian teammate Tomas Kopecky, property of the Detroit Red Wings. Barrett has flourished in a wide-open offense and is posting 17 goals and 14 assists, coupled with a +11, in 15 games. Speedy center Kopecky is displaying his imported scoring techniques by posting 27 points in merely 13 games. Lethbridge will be challenged to keep everyone healthy because they are unable to role three solid forward lines like most top contenders are able to do. Simon Ferguson, prospect and younger brother of Portland Winter Hawk offensive d-man Jesse Ferguson, is showing good numbers and a gritty side with 53 PIM in 14 games.

CHL Top 10 Ranking

1. Red Deer Rebels – WHL
2. Rimouski Oceanic – QMJHL
3. Plymouth Whalers – OHL
4. Swift Current Broncos – WHL
5. Belleville Bulls – OHL
6. Shawinigan Cataractes – QMJHL
7. Kamloops Blazers – WHL
8. Erie Otters – OHL
9. Lethbridge Hurricanes – WHL
10. Acadie-Bathurst Titan – QMJHL

Please feel free to email me comments or questions. Until next time . . . Keep your head up and Drop the gloves!!!

-Tom Hoffert

WHL Writer