It’s your final Source Embroidery Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Power Rankings of the 2021 calendar year!
1. Humboldt Broncos (27-8-0-0) – 1st last week – Connor McGrath has 19 points in his last 10 games, Braiden Koran is by far the hottest scorer (9 goals in 5 games) in the league and probably the run-away winner for the most improved player, and all this team is doing right now is winning. In five wins to close out the calendar year, the Broncos blew the doors off the opposition 29-6, including signature wins over the Estevan Bruins and Battlefords North Stars. The only question: can they bottle what they have going now and keep it going when 2022 rolls around?
2. Estevan Bruins (24-7-1-1) – 2nd last week – The Bruins had an uneven week before the Christmas break, dropping their first in-division contest to the Yorkton Terriers on Dec. 17 before righting the ship with another dominant win over their Highway 39 rivals in Weyburn. There’s another weapon stealing the show every night at Affinity Place, with Mark Rumsey at the top on pace for 47 goals.
3. Melfort Mustangs (20-9-1-4) – 4th last week – The Mustangs experienced a bit of a lull after bringing in two key pieces a couple weeks ago, but the ship is more than righted and Trevor Blevins’ men have rung off seven wins in a row before Christmas. A healthy Lucas Ochitwa is critical to the D-Corps, and young ’04 James Venne solidly won all seven of those games in net.
4. Flin Flon Bombers (21-10-0-1) – 3rd last week – Injuries and the ascendancy of the Mustangs are really the only reasons the Bombers slip one place this week. League-Top-5 defenceman Cole Vardy is back, though, and despite recent losses to Weyburn and La Ronge, Flin Flon is always a better second-half team under Mike Reagan than first. You can never count the Bombers out and nobody will want to have to go to the Whitney Forum for a playoff series.
5. Battlefords North Stars (19-9-4-1) – 5th last week – A slump to start December was ended with wins over struggling Notre Dame and Kindersley, but a thunderous defeat to division-rival Humboldt was not the way Brayden Klimosko wanted to start the Christmas break. The Stars generate plenty of chances on a nightly basis, but the D-corps has shown its youth on several occasions over the last couple of months. Still, there are not too many better coaches in the league than Klimosko, so this team will be fine.
6. Yorkton Terriers (15-13-1-3) – 6th last week – There have not been too many better teams in the second half of the first half of the year than the Terriers, and among many factors, one huge one is that head coach/GM Matt Hehr has constantly looked for, and hit on, acquisitions to make this squad better. An excellent December was capped off by a signature win over the Estevan Bruins, and with very serious Rookie of the Year candidate Kael DePape in net, the Terriers look a good candidate to keep rising up the power rankings. That being said, there is lots of space to make up between five and six in the actual standings.
7. La Ronge Ice Wolves (14-17-1-2) – 8th last week – Much like Yorkton, La Ronge has had an excellent December, and a 7-2 win over Flin Flon at home followed by a competitive loss in Manitoba before the break has this club full of confidence. The most important player to any team in the league has to be Xavier Cannon, as the veteran goaltender has won seven of his last nine starts, and this team is very serious when he’s healthy as he is without a doubt one of the best in the league.
8. Melville Millionaires (10-15-7-0) – 10th last week – Some might have had Melville left for dead early in the year, but the Mils have been taking care of business of late against teams around them in the standings, including two games before the Christmas break against Weyburn and Notre Dame in which they were clearly the better team. The playoffs are only four points out for Mike Rooney’s Mils and led by Noah Wills upfront, and Jared Thompson in net, they are a team bought-in to what their coach is preaching. The sooner they get leading goal scorer Zach Cain back, the better.
9. Notre Dame Hounds (14-14-2-1) – 7th last week – The injury-riddled Hounds, stretched thin and missing star rookie goaltender Austin Elliott to the Western Hockey League, had a rough December, going 2-6, with their only wins coming against the similarly struggling Klippers, and in a magnificent performance by Ryley Osland in net in Battlefords vs. the Stars. Brett Pilkington’s young team lost three over a tough four-games-in-five days stint to end 2021, but likely saved their best performance in that span with the mighty Broncos in Wilcox. They’ve shown real signs of brilliance this first half, despite their recent struggles.
10. Nipawin Hawks (12-16-0-5) – 9th last week – The Hawks have not fared much better with new bench boss Tad Kozun at the helm, and entered the Christmas break with clear losses to their arch-rival Melfort Mustangs. A combined powerplay—plus-penalty-kill special teams rate of 90.2% is concern No. 1, but there is still time to salvage the year for that proud community.
11. Kindersley Klippers (12-18-0-1) – 11th last week – The Klippers showed plenty of pride in a 3-1 loss in Battlefords to end 2021, but bad losses to Humboldt and Notre Dame must have had coach Ken Plaquin frustrated. On their night, Kindersley has shown that it can run with anyone, but when they’re off, it can go very poorly. A bunch of acquisitions are still working on gelling, and an illness to starter Matt Pesenti did not help either. Playoffs are not yet out of the question, but like Notre Dame, the Klippers better hit the ground running in 2022.
12. Weyburn Red Wings (8-21-3-0) – 12th last week – A big win a couple weeks ago over Flin Flon had the Weyburn faithful hopeful, but four losses since then, including one to fellow bottom-of-the-standings Melville, has Cody Mapes definitely searching for answers. Is it time for a big-time sell-off and a look forward to next year? We’ll see!