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VSN Presents: S76 Power Rankings #2


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We have officially eclipsed the halfway mark of the VHLM season and a playoff picture is starting to come together more clearly.  The contenders are pulling away from the pretenders as things have become much more defined since the last Power Rankings. As expected, Houston sits atop the Western Conference, having only dropped 6 games thus far. Over in the Eastern Conference the Minnesota Storm have been just as dominant and currently hold an 18 point lead for first place in the East. As the trade deadline approaches next week, it will be interesting to see if teams will be looking to wheel and deal and try to bolster their lineups, or whether they will decide to look towards the future instead. There seems to be around 5 or 6 teams that could be considered contenders, while the rest of the league are all missing key pieces to be truly considered as threats in the post-season. Without further ado, let's get into the Power Rankings and take a look at how all 12 squads are fairing. 

 

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To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Bulls have been raging on and continue to be the toast of the VHLM this season. At a record of 42-6-0 so far, the Bulls are living up to the hype they received going into the season. They have excelled in all areas and have pulled in front of Minnesota for least Goals Allowed as well as Goal Differential. This is a testament of their complete roster that plays hard both on offense and defense.  Houston is getting incredible production throughout their lineup, with 7 players totally 50 points or more already! The hottest player on the team the past couple weeks has been @Mr_Hatter Paul Atreides. I'm not sure if he was promoted to the top line or he just found some more chemistry with his teammates,  but he now leads the team in the scoring with 74 points (29G,45A). He also is tied for the team lead in game-winning goals. Aside from Atreides, the Webber brothers  (@WebberP and @Webberj) continue to be pillars of consistency, both eclipsing the 60 point plateau. Meanwhile on defense @Parriyah9374 Javad Kamkar is proving he was worthy of being the first defenseman taken in the draft this offseason. He's netted 58 points (10G, 48A) which is good for third most amongst all defensemen in the league!  In between the pipes, goalie Trent Gibson hasn't been rock solid statistically, he continues to hold down the fort for the Bulls. 

 

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Coming in at number two for the second straight time is the Minnesota Storm. As previously mentioned, the Storm have gained a comfy lead atop the Eastern Conference. Despite dropping 3 straight at the time of this article, the Storm still maintain an 18 point lead over the Marauders. Having realized that they are in such a great spotm the Storm made two trades recently that saw them acquire two fully capped players. First they acquired @Nikdandrea34 forward Nik D'Andrea as well as defenseman  @correllvincent Vincent Correll from the San Diego Marlins for 3 draft picks (S77 1st and 2nd, S78 4th) and a couple of depth roster players.  D'Andrea has proven to be a great Top 6/Top 9 option up front and has had some valuable playoff experience with San Diego from last season. Correll is a solid add on the blueline as defensemen in the VHLM this season are a hot commodity and very hard to come by.  A week later Minny struck again when they acquired winger @Domino Draws Andy Nexber from the Aces for three more picks (S77 3rd, 5th and 6th) and a depth player. Nexber, like D'Andrea has some crucial playoff experience and he will really help fill out the top 9 for the Storm. They pieces are great complimentary additions to an already strong team and it's a clear indication that GM @Rayzor_7 is all in on this season.  So far this season it's been  @Telkster Brandan Telker leading the way for the Storm. He has already amassed 83 points (43G, 40A)  and which is a torrid scoring pace. If that's not enough he also leads the league in both powerplay goals (14) and game winning goals (9).  With the recent acquisitions and Telker's strong showing this season, Minnesota is looking deadlier than ever and could be a legitimate threat to Houston come playoff time!

 

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At number 3 we have the Mexico City Kings holding down their spot from the last Power Rankings. The Kings quite simply put are just solid from top to bottom. They are as deep as anyone up front, and while they might be lacking a high end defenseman to fill out their defensive core, they certainly are no slouches in their own end. I would even go as far to say that the Kings are probably the only team outside of the Storm and Bulls that have a legitimate chance to run the table and come away with a Founder's Cup this year. There are a couple other teams that might have an outside shot, but in my mind the Top 3 of this Power Rankings are the true contenders this season and everyone else is just don't quite measure up. In their past 10 contests the Kings have gone 9-1 and that includes 2 wins over the Minnesota Storm. They are as hot as anyone in the league. The Kings are full of veteran players who have had some service time in the minors. @Jbeezy76 Magnus Verlander leads the way for the Kings offensively with a very solid 85 points (33G, 52A). Verlander's success should come as no surprise as Jbeezy's former player Erik Draven was an absolute stud throughout his career. Another player worth noting is @Max12 Maksym Jankowski.  Not only has Maksym surpassed the 70 point mark already (32G, 39A), but he's also laid down 140 hits this season which surely makes him a nightmare to play against. This will be his final season in the M before making the leap to Chicago next season and the Phoenix have to be thrilled with this player's development. Even though they are in the 3 spot, I think Mexico is a team you need when we get to the post-season!

 

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As you can see, the top 4 spots have all remained the same from the last time the Power Rankings came out, but this is where things do start to get a bit dicey. While Yukon has had a great couple of weeks since the last Rankings were out, I do consider them to be trending in the wrong direction... let me explain why. First and foremost, a week ago the Rush were forced to release a nearly capped winger as well as a mid-level defenseman both due to inactivity. Both these players were crucial to the Rush's plans this season and these were crippling blows to their team. Despite these departures, Yukon has still done quite well as others have stepped up nicely.  However, the other reason for concern is something that just materialized this afternoon. Top line winger @Abe Roque has come out and demanded their management trade him. With the trade deadline looming next week, this puts Yukon in a tough spot and unless they can get a good return for Roque, it could throw their whole season into shambles. Despite the negatives, their are still a lot of positives for Rush fans to be happy about. Players like @jimmyallen93 Jim Allen (18G, 26A) and @Pythonic Gaspar Yakrevsky (26G, 28A) are stepping up big time and producing  big for Yukon. Considering Yakrevsky had 8 points in 50 games last season and hes already at 54 this season speaks volumes to his growth as a player.  Another positive is that the Yukon defensive core has not only done a great job at shutting down opponents, they are also very much a part of the offense. 26 % of goals scored for Yukon this season has come from the blueline so that's always a plus. Finally, @matt sovick has been rock solid in between the pipes this season. Management has to be happy with the results they've gotten from him since trading for him this past offseason.  He is currently 4th in the league in save percentage with .898% and he also leads the league in shutouts with 4. Despite these positives, like I stated earlier, I think the top 3 are are in a tier of their own and Yukon is not quite at the same level. It will be interesting to see what Yukon does going into the trade deadline next week.

 

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Easily the biggest leap in the Power Rankings is none other than the Miami Marauders. And dislike the Rush, I would consider the Marauders to be trending in the right direction. This past week GM @Ricer13 was able to pull of some of his magic and made a trade with the San Diego Marlins. They were able to acquire Theodore James St. Louis for a relatively small return. To acquire a capped forward for such a small price was quite surprising and will really help solidify a team that was already pretty good on offense.  On top of that, they were also able to sign coveted recreate @Jubis Zeedayno Chara. The addition of Chara addresses Miami's biggest need which is defense.  While I would still consider them pretty thin on the blueline, this is definitely a step in the right direction. The Marauders have gone 6-4 in their last 10 but have definitely been competitive in most contests this season.  Returnee @Toast Phoenix Dawson has been the catalyst of the offense for Miami this season putting up 81 points (29G, 52A). Meanwhile in net goaltender @ClapbombsRus has really come into his own. I said in the last power rankings that this goalie would need to continue developing in order for Miami to see any success this season, and he's done just that. Sporting a 25-13-4 record with a 2.93 GAA and league-best .904 save percentage, Clapbombs has really come into his own over the past weeks and has been one of the keys to Miami's success this season. I am curious to see if Miami tries to make anymore moves before the deadline next week. One thing I've learned in the VHLM in my first few seasons is that you can never count Miami out. Ricer loves to be competitive so time will tell!

 

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This might seem like a weird choice at first glance, but the Halifax 21st are a fairly solid team all things considered. Don't let their last place spot in the East deceive you. First off, the Eastern Conference is a super close race from 3-6 this season. Now that being said, this ranking comes with a disclaimer. I do believe Halifax, like most of the teams from here on out, will be in sell-mode from here on out. So in a week from now, who knows what their roster could look like. But as of right now, I think they have a really decent squad put together. They have some high end talent in all facets of their organization and decent depth to boot. @rory should be commended for taking over on the fly during the offseason and putting together such a respectable squad.  Offensively, the 21st score at a clip that is right on pace with the likes of the Yukon Rush and Miami Marauders. Their best forward has undoubtedly been sophomore winger @Jolline Eeli Rantanen who has posted an even 70 points (31G, 39A) and even laid out 90 hits to boot! Though they traded for defenseman Yuuto Kira Cloudera and recently signed MIA d-man Roger Jone, they still tighten things up a bit on defense and keep the puck out of their net a bit more. They have a decent amount of goals allowed this year, but thanks to their high scoring prowess, their goal differential is at -24 which isn't great, but certainly not the worst either (7th). Halifax continues to roll with two solid options splitting the duties in net. Jurgis Kalevlis Blazevicius has been slightly better than Dexter Vaughn, but both have been serviceable. It should be interesting to see if Rory uses one of these tenders as a trading chip either now leading up to the trade deadline, or in the offseason. 

 

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Coming in at lucky number 7, its the Las Vegas Aces. Right back where they were for the last Power Rankings, I still believe Vegas is playing better than what their record indicates. They went 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and they have slowly crept up the standings in the Western Conference. I firmly believe that when the season ends and the dust settles, Vegas will be sneaking into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed. You could take this with a grain of salt if you'd like, but the Aces have managed to take the mighty Houston Bulls to overtime in 4 contests this season and have also beat them once in regulation. If they can hang tight versus the top team in the league, they can beat anyone! Their standout player has undoubtedly been their talented 1st line Russian center @Syzygy Evegeni Shevkov. He has been by far the biggest contributor on offense, posting an incredible 85 points (38G, 47A) and sports a very nice +21. There are a ton of people who could considered the most improved player in our league this season, but my vote would probably be for Skevkov considering he has played on a deeper roster than others and still has shown a 59 point improvement over his S75 totals already!  In the crease, goaltender @aksuko Aksu Maronen has been steady and reliable, going 19-25-6 with an .899 save percentage and a 3.24 GAA. In the grand scheme of things, the Aces are a very average team, but having said that I still consider them to be much better than alot of other teams in the league. 

 

 

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Next up is another huge gainer for this installment of the Power Rankings. This one might be a controversial one, but so be it. The Lynx are currently sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 24-25-2.  People may think they should even be higher than 8th but in contrast to that thought, I had a hard time even putting them this high.  They DO feature one of the most potent offenses in the league, having scored 193 goals to date, which is third best leaguewide. However, on the flipside they also have the second worst goals against and 3rd worst goal differential. They haven't rostered an active defensemen all season and the forward core is super small and therefore get double shifted a bunch, hence why their players have such great stats.  I don't say this to sound demeaning or to be a jerk, but it's just annoying how stats can be skewed by teams having un-optimal roster formats. Realistically if you only rosters 8-9  skaters a night, they would get exhausted and be destroyed, yet here we are with Ottawa 3rd in the East. I will credit the dynamic duo of  @snackhero Theodore Hoffman and @Blastmeaway Leaning Tower of Pisa for having monster seasons and they sit 1st and 4th in league scoring respectively.  Also it's worth noting goaltender @Barry Barry Taffe has fairly reliable considering he has bot defensemen in front of him. He currently sits at 24-25-2 with an .888 SV% and a 4.24 GAA.

 

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While Mississauga is clearly in rebuild mode, I really like the roster they've managed to assemble. They are able to at least remain competitive and win a fair amount of games, but for the Hounds the focus is clearly being put on S77. @Zetterberg and @tcookie have compiled a nice amount of picks along with some returning players from this season as well. @Spartakiller2 Guy Lambert and @Miks Sunins Miks Sunish both look to be key pieces for next season's plans, meanwhile back on defense @Chris P Bacon will be back to bolster their blueline. Netminder @Lspinelli Luke Spinelli continues to use this season to develop and hopefully by next season he will be poised to be a top tender in the league. This season has been mediocre, but the Hounds do have some okay balance in their offensive production, featuring 8 players with 40 or more points. Look for Mississauga to be right on the playoff bubble at the end of the season, though I don't expect them to make any moves to help their cause for this year before the deadline.

 

 

 

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The defending Founder's Cup champs are the biggest fall on the Power Rankings this week. The Reapers started off their championship defense looking great, but the problem is while other teams kept improving and making marginal gains, Philly remained stagnant and are kind of in the same place there were a few weeks ago. While the players they do have are rather formidable, they just haven't built or developed a roster his season that can hang with the top of the league. And that's no accident, its by design. Reapers management probably are keen on focusing on the future and just letting the chips fall where they may for this season. I imagine they may try to sell off some assets before the trade deadline. Much like the stars on the Lynx, the Reapers top line is seeing inflated production, most likely from being double shifted and getting a ton of minutes. Nonetheless,  @glass Kjeil Nilsson and @Duddy Thomas King are currently sitting 2-3 in league scoring with 107 and 97 points a piece and have really dominated this year. The Reapers got a tough bit of news this past week as their current goalie Loic Trepanier retired his player and recreated. This is especially troublesome for Reaper management and fans as he would have been returning next year and probably would have been close to capped. This is a huge blow as they will now need to spend resources on finding another goalie for future seasons.

 

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The Wild find themselves back in the second to last spot on the list this week, but it hasn't been for a lack of trying. The Wild are undoubtedly among the most active teams in waiver claims and have done an admirable job of filling out their roster. With their sites firmly on the future, their down season comes as no surprise. Veterans Gabe Johnson and Braxton Hunter will finish up their VHLM careers before going pro in Season 77. In an expanded role this season, @dshervill has continued to develop quite nicely. He will be a major candidate for best two-way forward this season as he is simply doing it all. 36 goals, 50 assists, over 250 shots, and 222 hits. Braxton is truly the jack-of-all-trades for the Wild this season and Prague must be excited to see their prospect do so well. Several players will be back for the Wild next season. Among them, goaltender @BrutalBoostAndrew Bowman will look to have an elite season as a high-end, high TPE goalie in Season 77!

 

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Well put this one down as a bad take for me I guess. In the previous Power Rankings I had San Diego at 8 and said I thought they could maybe be a fringe playoffs team. I was really impressed (and still am) by the amount of recruiting @thadthrasher was able to drum up in such a short amount of time. With little player assets and next to no draft picks, this season was basically doomed from the start. Thad did the smart thing and beat everyone to the market and sold his high valued assets for future draft picks. This season will be a wash, and although it won't be a bright spot on his career resume, going forward this season could be looked at as a noble and necessary sacrifice. I will be very intrigued to see what the Marlins do down the road, but S76 ain't it!

 

That's it for this week everyone. This season has been simmed super quickly, and I was originally planning on doing 3 Power Rankings during the regular season.  However, we are probably only a week out from the end of the season so we will have to see if another one comes out before the playoffs. While things certainly aren't as close at the top as they were last season, there is definitely going to be a decent race for the bottom playoff seeds. There are about 6 teams that could be vying for the bottom 3 spots, so it should be an exciting finish! Thanks to everyone reading! Everyone have a good one and stay safe out there! Cheers :)

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