Following the conclusion of the 2019-20 regular season, the Canadian Hockey League puts the spotlight on its three regional league champions who were all prominent figures in the final edition of the Kia CHL Top-10.
Sherbrooke Phoenix (1) – 26 total weeks ranked
It was a season for the record books for the Sherbrooke Phoenix as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club finished atop the entire CHL with a franchise-record 106 points and an .841 point percentage, besting the club’s previous high-water mark of 79 points set during the 2017-18 campaign, to help clinch a playoff position for a franchise-record third consecutive season.
The conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign sees the Phoenix awarded the Jean Rougeau Trophy, presented annually to the QMJHL’s regular season champion, for the first time in franchise history, a remarkable accomplishment coming just eight years after the club was founded.
Among the top performers for the Phoenix this season was Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick Samuel Poulin, who alongside the club’s leading scorer in veteran forward Felix Robert combined for an astounding 15 points in a record-setting 9-4 victory over the Shawinigan Cataractes earlier this season that saw Poulin finish with two goals plus six assists and Robert register a hat-trick with four helpers. In all, it marked the first time a QMJHL skater has recorded at least eight points in a game in nearly a decade, with the most recent occurrence coming in October 2009. The impressive accomplishment saw Poulin take command of the franchise’s single-game records for assists and points. As for Robert, the veteran skater is one of three graduates from the Phoenix this spring alongside linemate Alex-Olivier Voyer as well as 1999-born right-wing Charles-Antoine Roy.
Among the other highlights for the Phoenix this season was the play between the pipes from first-year netminder Samuel Hlavaj, the club’s first selection in the 2019 CHL Import Draft who came away with a QMJHL-best 2.25 goals-against average and 33 wins to lead all rookie netminders while he also surrendered just three regulation losses through 39 appearances in 2019-20.
Ottawa 67’s (2) – 24 total weeks ranked
After coming up short in pursuit of the J. Ross Robertson Cup a year ago, the Ottawa 67’s refused to lay down this season as the club was once again dominant in the Ontario Hockey League, coming away with a league-leading 50-11-0-1 record to claim the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, presented annually to the OHL’s top regular-season club, for the second consecutive year.
In all, the 67’s were one of just three CHL clubs to reach the 100-point plateau this season, finishing with 101 points and an incredible .815 point percentage. Despite playing in six fewer contests, the 67’s equaled last season’s 50-win finish, helping the club post the league’s best record for the fifth time in franchise history in addition to the first time the club has chalked up back-to-back 50-win campaigns. Dominant at both ends of the ice, the 67’s also finished first in the OHL in both goals for (296) and goals against (164).
Among the top performers for the 67’s this season included overage left-wing Austen Keating, who put up 89 points to match his previous single-season high, bringing him to 325 career points, the most of any 1999-born skater in the OHL, making him the first skater in franchise history to exceed both 300 points and 300 career contests, and one of just two 1999-born OHL skaters alongside teammate Joseph Garreffa to record 300 career points. Keating also joins fellow 67’s graduate Noel Hoefenmayer, who this season led all defencemen across the circuit with 82 points in 58 games, in having skated all five seasons of their junior careers in the nation’s capital.
No discussion of the 67’s is complete however without highlighting 2020 NHL Draft eligible Marco Rossi, this year’s winner of the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy, presented each season to the OHL’s top scorer. Across 56 appearances, the sophomore forward recorded 39 goals and 81 assists for a CHL-leading 120 points, while teammate and fellow draft eligible Jack Quinn, who alongside Rossi are both projected first-round selections in the coming NHL Draft, was one of just two CHL skaters to reach the 50-goal plateau this season after lighting the lamp 52 times in just 62 outings.
Portland Winterhawks (4) – 16 total weeks ranked
Putting up 97 points on the season and a .770 point percentage, no Western Hockey League club was more successful this season than the Portland Winterhawks, whose 45-11-3-4 showing saw the club finish atop the U.S. Division for the fourth time in the past 10 seasons and punch its ticket to the playoffs for the 11th year running prior to the cancellation of the postseason.
In recognition of their success, the Winterhawks were presented with the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the WHL’s top regular-season squad, for the sixth time in franchise history.
2020 NHL Draft prospect Seth Jarvis pushed the offensive envelope for the Winterhawks this season with a 98-point campaign counting 42 goals and 56 assists across 58 appearances to help the club finish second overall in the WHL with 270 goals. While he’s likely to return, the conclusion of the 2019-20 season marks the end of a trio of junior careers for long-time forwards Lane Gilliss and Jake Gricius plus defenceman Matthew Quigley, all of whom were skating in their overage season with the Winterhawks since originally joining the franchise as free agents in 2016.
On the international stage, Portland was well represented this season particularly at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship where starting netminder and St. Louis Blues prospect Joel Hofer emerged as a key cog in helping Canada claim its 18th gold medal at the annual tournament thanks to a six-game showing in which he came away with a dazzling 1.30 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
Additionally, among the many highlights in another successful season for the Winterhawks was the club’s impressive 21-game streak in which it went unbeaten in regulation to come away with a 19-0-1-1 stretch, a performance that spanned from early November through to the final day of January. In all, the Winterhawks were particularly dominant on home ice this season, surrendering just two regulation losses through 32 contests before their home fans.