BCHL power rankings: Can the Silverbacks be stopped?

We are now five weeks into the 2021-22 BC Hockey League regular season, and it has sure been great to see all 18 teams travelling around the province competing against each other once again.

A busy first five weeks featured the regular season return of the Langley Rivermen and Wenatchee Wild after both sat out the 2020-21 pod season for COVID-19 related reasons. The league was also able to hold a successful BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack for the first time since 2019. And we saw the BCHL’s newest team — the Cranbrook Bucks — face a handful of teams for the first time.

As I write this following completion of games on Nov. 6, most BCHL teams have played 10 or 11 games so far this season. With that sample size, I decided there was no better time than now to release BCHLNetwork’s inaugural edition of the BCHL power rankings.

The main factor in determining the rankings is the same as the BCHL uses for its standings — points-percentage. In the event that teams have equal points-percentages, other stats such as wins, goals-for, and goal differential breaks the tie.

Here is the first edition of the BCHL power rankings, taking into consideration games and stats from Oct. 8 to Nov. 6.

1. Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Record: 9-0-1-0 (.950%)

Not only are the Silverbacks currently atop the BCHL standings, but they are also the only team without a regulation loss this season. Their lone defeat came in overtime on the road against the Vernon Vipers, before winning their last seven games.

Salmon Arm is tied for the most goals with 50, has the second-fewest goals against with 25, and owns a share of the league’s best goal differential at +25. On special teams, the Silverbacks’ 88.9 percent penalty-kill rating leads the league, their 35.6 percent power play ranks second, and they’ve been assessed the second-fewest penalty minutes with 82.

2. Penticton Vees

Record: 8-2-0-0 (.800%)

The Vees have gone just 3-2 in their last five games after winning their first five contests of the season. Still, they sit second in the BCHL with eight wins through their first 10 tilts.

They are one goal back of league-leading Salmon Arm with 49 this season, while their +25 goal differential matches the Silverbacks at the top. Penticton’s 24 goals against this year are the lowest in the league, and the Vees are also a top five team when it comes to special teams.

3. West Kelowna Warriors

Record: 8-2-0-0 (.800%)

The Warriors have won four straight games to match Penticton with eight wins through their first 10, good enough for third place in the BCHL this season. They’re also third overall in both goals against with 27 and a +17 goal differential.

West Kelowna has been good on special teams with the sixth-best power play at 22.9 percent, and the fifth-best penalty kill at 82.1 percent so far this season.

4. Langley Rivermen

Record: 7-1-1-2 (.773%)

The Rivermen are certainly one of the early-season surprises to be first in the Coastal Conference and fourth overall.

After opting out of the 2020-21 pod season, Langley came out firing in 2021-22, scoring the fifth-most goals thus far with 45. The Rivermen are also a top five team in goals against with 29 and goal differential at +16.

 5. Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Record: 7-3-1-0 (.682%)

The Bulldogs are another team that might be a bit of a surprise rounding out the top five, but they’ve been building towards contending for a couple of years now. They ride the strong play of the league’s top goalie, Hobie Hedquist, as their 29 goals against are tied for fourth in the league.

Alberni Valley matches West Kelowna with the sixth-best power play at 22.9 percent, and its 79.4 percent penalty kill also ranks sixth in the league.

6. Prince George Springs Kings

Record: 8-4-0-0 (.667%)

Prince George has been an offensive juggernaut so far this season, matching Salmon Arm for the most goals with 50, and owning the best power play with a 36.8 percent rating.

The Spruce Kings’ 29 goals against are tied for third-best in the BCHL, while their +21 goal differential stands alone in third.

7. Victoria Grizzlies

Record: 8-4-0-0 (.667%)

The Grizzlies’ strong start to the season was highlighted by winning each of their first five contests of the campaign.

They’ve scored the fourth-most goals in the league with 48 but have struggled in some of the other categories including goals against and special teams. Victoria has also been the most-penalized this season with 164 minutes spent in the sin bin.

8. Cranbrook Bucks

Record: 6-4-0-0 (.600%)

The Bucks started the season 2-3 in their first five games, before going 4-1 in their next five to rack up six wins through their first 10 contests. They also rank in the top-8 with their 31 goals against and +6 goal differential.

Cranbrook’s 83.3 percent penalty kill ranks second in the Interior and fourth in the league, while its 90 penalty minutes is the fourth-fewest overall.

9. Trail Smoke Eaters

Record: 6-4-1-0 (.591%)

Trail rounds out the top half of the league after — like Cranbrook — winning four of its last five games. The Smoke Eaters also rank ninth overall with 40 goals but fell outside of the top-10 in goals against and goal differential.

They struggle on the power play as their 19.6 percent rating is fifth-worst in the league, but their 79.2 percent penalty kill is good for fifth in the Interior and ninth overall.

10. Nanaimo Clippers

Record: 7-5-0-0 (.583%)

After starting the season on a four-game winning streak, Nanaimo has gone just 3-5 in its last eight games to land at number 10 in the power rankings.

They are also a top-10 team in both goals scored with 41, and goal differential with a +5 rating. The Clippers are good on special teams, as their 25 percent power play and 83.9 percent penalty kill both ranks second in the Coastal Conference.

11. Chilliwack Chiefs

Record: 5-6-0-0 (.455%)

Based on expectation, Chilliwack being outside of the top-10 might be one of the bigger disappointments to start the season. The Chiefs managed to equal West Kelowna for sixth in the league with 44 goals, but their 38 goals against is sixth-worst overall.

They did, however, have the best special teams in their conference, as their 34.1 percent power play and 86 percent penalty kill is both the best on the Coastal side.

12. Surrey Eagles

Record: 5-6-0-0 (.455%)

After winning the Coquitlam pod and finishing second in the BCHL last season, Surrey is another team perhaps playing below expectations so far this year. The Eagles are a bottom-six team in goals with 34, goals against with 43, and goal differential at -9 through 11 games.

It’s a similar story on special teams, as both their 19.4 percent power play and 64.4 percent penalty kill rank in the bottom-four of the league.

13. Vernon Vipers

Record: 3-4-3-1 (.455%)

Much like Chilliwack and Surrey, Vernon is a team that is expected to be much better than where they are as we approach mid-November. The Vipers currently rank 10th in goals against with 35, however, their 29 goals for sit 16th overall.

Add that up and you get a negative goal differential of -6 which ranks outside of the top-10. Vernon could definitely improve on some shaky special teams to help get back on track.

14. Wenatchee Wild

Record: 2-3-2-1 (.438%)

The Wild land at 14 on the power rankings riding a modest two-game winning streak. Despite losing its first six games, Wenatchee managed to pick up points in three of them. Overall, being close to .500 is something they might be able to live with, as they haven’t played a single home game to date.

Having only played eight games, Wenatchee ranks second-last in both goals with 20, and power play with a 14.8 percent rating. The Wild does however rank in the top-10 with just 31 goals against and penalty killing with a 77.8 percent rating.

They’ve also been assessed a league-low 56 penalty minutes this season. More information on the latest updates to the Wild’s schedule and travel procedures can be found here.

15. Powell River Kings

Record: 4-6-1-0 (.409%)

Powell River may very well be the streakiest team in the league so far this season. After starting the campaign 0-4, the Kings reeled off three straight wins. They then lost their next three contests, before picking up the win in their last game.

Losing as often as they have and being where they are in the standings, the statistics don’t paint a pretty picture for the Kings. They rank in the bottom-four in the league in goal scoring, goals against, goal differential, and penalty killing.

16. Cowichan Valley Capitals

Record: 3-9-0-0 (.250%)

Despite beating Penticton in their last game, it’s been a tough start to the season for the Capitals. They rank 11th overall with 39 goals for, but their goals against and goal differential both land in the bottom-four.

Cowichan Valley has been a middle-of-the-pack club on special teams so far, but it needs to clean up its overall defense to have any shot at competing this year.

17. Coquitlam Express

Record: 2-8-1-1 (.250%)

The Express is another team that would likely attest that it is achieving well below expectations. A quick look at the stats confirms that Coquitlam’s first 12 games of the campaign have been a mess.

If not for the winless Centennials, the Express would find themselves at the bottom of the league in almost every category. I’m not expecting it to last, however, as it would be impossible to not put everything they have into winning if they follow the lead of their young and determined general manager Tali Campbell.

18. Merritt Centennials

Record: 0-11-0-0 (.000%)

As mentioned above, the Centennials are not only winless but are also the only team to not collect a single point in the standings so far this season. Despite returning a handful of players from the pod season, Merritt is still one of the youngest teams in the league, led by a rookie head coach.

In addition to being last in the standings, Merritt also ranks last in goals for, goals against, goal differential, and power play. There is a lot for the Centennials to figure out if they want to get out of the Interior Conference basement and into a playoff race by season’s end.