The Sea-to-Sky Boner Report: Oct 18th 2013

That's Offside!
October 18 2013 06:07PM

Madison Bowey and Tyson Baillie are leading the way for the strong Kelowna Rockets
Madison Bowey and Tyson Baillie are leading the way for the strong Kelowna Rockets.

The Vancouver Giants haven't played a game since ending their disasterous eastern road trip without a win, so instead we'll turn our attention this week toward the Okanagan and what is probably the B.C. Division's top team: the Kelowna Rockets. Led by offensive contributions from young guns Tyson Baillie, Nick Merkley and Riley Stadel, the Rockets are off to a furious 6-1-0-2 start. They trail only the Victoria Royals for the B.C. Division lead, but the Royals have played four more games.

For a closer look at Kelowna's early season success, read past the jump.

Probably the only team in the WHL that is as bad as Vancouver is the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and Kelowna made them look the part on Thursday night. After ending the first period up 2-0, the Rockets outshot Lethbridge by a total of 47-14 over the final 40 minutes en route to a 6-0 thrashing. The shot clock was even more lopsided in Kelowna's favour, as they managed an astounding 62 shots on Corbin Boes. Merkley had a 4-assist night and Stadel had a hat trick plus one assist. Winnipeg Jets draft pick Ryan Olsen also had a big night with a goal and three assists.

Nick Merkley's four assists pulled him into a tie with Tyson Baillie for the team lead in points, which is impressive for any 16 year old, let alone someone playing on one of the WHL's top teams. In fact, a huge portion of the Rockets' scoring to date has come courtesy their young players. '97-born Merkley and draft eligible 17-year old Baillie have identical 5G-8A-13P stat lines, while 17-year old defenseman Riley Stadel leads the Rockets with 7 goals, is tied for the WHL lead in goals by a defenseman, and also is tops among all players in powerplay goals with 6.

There should be some concerns in Kelowna, however, as they've been scoring at a rate that looks unsustainable. Their team shooting percentage sits at 12.04% right now, and I'll speculate that Merkley's and Stadel's early season perfomances account for most of that inflation. This said, WHL goaltending stops about 90% of shots on average so it's not as if this early season scoring rate is too much of a mirage, even though goal scoring should fall from the nearly 5 per game that are going in right now.

Overage goalie Jordon Cooke has been stellar too, posting a save percentage over 0.930. Of course this is also due to fall a bit, but with a WHL career rate of 0.912, he's a good bet to provide strong goaltending for Kelowna for the whole season. This means that the percentages then should be kind to the Rockets, but their possession game looks stellar as well. Through their first 9 games, Kelowna has controlled 55% of the shots and is averaging nearly 40 shots per game, indicating that they should continue to be one of the WHL's very best offensive teams.

Going forward, look for overage wingers Myles Bell and Zach Franko to really heat up. Despite scoring at a point-per-game clip so far this year, Bell should flirt with 100 points on the season after he collected 93 points last year, good for the team lead. The duo of 2nd round NHL draft picks Madison Bowey and Damon Severson should continue their strong offensive output from the blueline, and could both be point-per-game defensemen by the end of the year. For the second week in a row, Kelowna was ranked among the CHL's top-10 teams, and if early performances are any indication, they look like they'll be staying on the list for the forseeable future.

The Rockets host Prince George on Saturday, then the Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday before heading to visit the Division-leading Victoria Royals to kick off a 4 game road trip.

Around the B.C. Division

Kamloops Blazers: Had a 2-0-0-0 record this past week, with wins over Lethbridge and Seattle...After failing to score a point in his first 6 games, F Chase Suoto has goals in 5 straight games.

Prince George Cougars: Went 1-2-0-0 this past week with a win over Everett, but back-to-back losses to the Victoria Royals...Have struggled on the powerplay. At 11.9%, the Cougars are better than only Vancouver, however they have also allowed 5 shorthanded goals.

Vancouver Giants: Acquired F Trent Lofthouse from Victoria for an 8th round draft pick. Lofthouse should make his Giants debut against Kamloops on Friday...Forwards Cain Franson, Dalton Sward and Travis McEvoy are all scheduled to return from injury on Friday...F Rob Trzonkowski, F Scott Cooke and F Jakub Stukel remain out indefinitely with injuries...D Dalton Thrower will make his home-ice debut on Friday. Despite playing just 6 of 10 games, he leads the Giants in scoring with 6 points...Prospect F Tyler Benson leads the NAPHL 18U league in scoring with 10 points in 5 games.

Victoria Royals: Acquired F Mitch Skapski from Everett in exchange for 16-year old D Mark Nerland...Won 5 consecutive games to jump to the top of the B.C. Division...Leading scorer F Logan Nelson has a 6 game goal scoring streak. He has 7G-4A over that span...Calgary Flames prospect D Keegan Kanzig scored his first career WHL goal on Saturday. It was his 140th career game.

Other News and Notes:

  •  4 WHL teams were ranked in the CHL's top-10 this week. They were: Spokane (4), Medicine Hat (5), Seattle (6) and Kelowna (9). Prince Albert also recieved an honourable mention.
  • Spokane's Mitch Holmberg leads the WHL in scoring with an insane 29 points in 11 games. Only Val-d'Or's Anthony Mantha has as many points as Holmberg in the entire CHL.
  • Click here to watch this week's WHL Plays of the Week, featuring especially nice goals from Spokane's Mike Aviani and Calgary's Jake Virtanen.
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Rhys Jessop - CanucksArmy's resident CHL buff/hater of prospects, depending on who you ask. Follow my ramblings on Twitter: @Thats_Offside. Email contact: thats.offside.hockey@gmail.com
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