WHL notebook: Cougars climb back to top of overall standings

The Prince George Cougars are back on top of the overall WHL standings with 71 points by virtue of their shootout victory Monday over the hapless Vancouver Giants.

The Everett Silvertips and Regina Pats are each two points back with 69 apiece. The Tips have five games in hand of the Cougars, while Regina has six games in hand of Prince George. Currently the Pats have one more win than Everett in one less game and Regina’s .784 winning percentage puts it first ahead of the Tips’ percentage of .767.

Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat have fallen off the pace a bit with 65 and 63 points, respectively, and have each played at least two more games than Everett and at least three more than Regina.

Both the Tips and the Pats are inching closer to the one matchup between the teams scheduled for Valentine’s Day in Regina. Cross-conference games normally don’t have tremendous stakes, but if both teams continue the success they’ve had, that game could go a long way to determining the Scotty Munro Trophy winner awarded to the best regular-season team.

That game will also be a reunion of sorts for former Tips captain Dawson Leedahl, who is Regina’s third-leading scorer with 24 goals and 37 assists.

Toth named WHL Goaltender of the Week

The Silvertips have seen plenty of the Seattle Thunderbirds this month, and that includes T-Birds goalie Rylan Toth, who Monday was named the WHL Goaltender of the Week.

The overage netminder went 2-1-0-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. That included a 3-1 win over the Tips last week Tuesday in Kent and a 1-0 loss Friday at Xfinity Arena.

As colleague Tim Pigulski points out over at mynorthwest.com, Toth took some time to get acclimated to Seattle after he was acquired in an early-season trade with Red Deer. Prior to the holiday break Toth had a 13-13-1-0 record with an .893 save percentage and a 2.95 GAA and some folks were calling for the Thunderbirds to go after another goalie at the trade deadline.

However, since the break he is 8-2-0-0 and has seen his save percentage rise to .904 and seen his GAA drop to 2.68. Pigulski also mentions how the addition of defensemen Aaron Hyman and Austin Strand also joined the T-Birds during that span and are clearly making an impact.

Will that be enough for Seattle to close what is now a 15-point gap in the standings after Everett’s win on Friday? Time will tell.

Twenty new Canadian citizens sworn in prior to Blades game

A citizenship ceremony took place prior to Sunday’s game in Saskatoon between the Blades and Swift Current Broncos as 20 people were sworn in as Canadians.

According to CBC, this is the first time this sort of event has been held prior to a junior hockey league game in Western Canada. The Saskatoon Blades organization partnered with the Saskatoon Open Door Society to put on the event that also featured a “Hockey 101” class and gave the new citizens a chance to skate for the first time.

NHL Central Scouting releases midterm rankings

There were 58 players from the WHL who were listed in NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings released last week and Brandon Rivers of Dub Network has a breakdown to put it in some perspective.

Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings, the predicted consensus No. 1 overall pick heading into the 2017 NHL draft, remains ranked first despite battling injuries all season and appearing in just 10 game so far.

But four of the top six WHLers listed play in the U.S. Division. Tri-City has two in forward Michael Rasmussen (sixth overall in the rankings) and defenseman Juuso Valimaki (ninth overall). Portland forward Cody Glass (eighth) and Spokane forward Kailer Yamamoto (17th) round out the contingent.

Only one WHL team has no players listed in the rankings — that would be the Everett Silvertips.

For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.

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