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CHL top storylines: Rangers' firepower takes centre stage in OHL standings

Kitchener Rangers Celebrate Kitchener Rangers Celebrate - Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

As the 2023-24 Canadian Hockey League season progresses into November several teams and players have established themselves to be the stories early on in the season.

In the Ontario Hockey League, the Kitchener Rangers have established themselves as the biggest scoring threat atop the league, while Jordan Dumais is leading the Halifax Mooseheads in their chase for top spot in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. 

Out west, Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jagger Firkus has developed into the Western Hockey League's scoring leader to help his team stay near the top of the standings as one of the league's elite teams.

With analysis from TSN's Director of Scouting Craig Button, here is why each of these stories have had an impact on the CHL season.



The Kitchener Rangers have been one of the most exciting teams to watch to start the Ontario Hockey League season with their high-octane offence.

Kitchener sits atop the OHL standings with a 14-5-0 record and leads the league with 91 goals scored and a plus-40 goal differential, 18 goals better than the London Knights.

The Rangers have three players sitting at the top of the OHL scoring list and four players in the top 10.

Leading the charge is centre Carson Rehkopf, who leads the league with 19 goals and 33 points in 19 games.

Rehkopf, 18, was ranked 66th in TSN's Director of Scouting Craig Button's final draft ranking last season and was selected 50th overall by the Seattle Kraken at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville

"He's always been a powerful skater and someone who can open up the ice to get those opportunities," said Button. "When you're able to get that much open and free ice, it's going to give you opportunities in and around the net. He uses his skating to gain advantages offensively and finishes as a result but he's also been a good penalty killer because of that skating.

"The other thing about Rehkopf that's been evident to me is that he scores in bunches. If he scores a goal early in the game, you better be ready if you're an opponent because more is coming."

The Vaughan, Ont., native has 11 multi-point games this season, highlighted by back-to-back four-point nights against the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires on Oct. 13 and 15. He has only failed to record a point three times this season.

Closely following Rehkopf and leading all defencemen in scoring is Hunter Brzustewicz with five goals and 32 points.

The 6-foot defenceman was ranked 61st on Button's final draft rankings last season and was drafted 75th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in last June's draft.

"When you think about Brzustewicz, he's a brainiac," said Button. "He probes for opportunities and when they present themselves, he strikes."

Brzustewicz's production has mostly come during five-on-five play, only registering 10 assists on the man advantage. However, Button believes that Brzustewicz's ability to be the calm at the centre of the storm is the main attribute that makes him successful.

"It's an essential quality for a defenceman like him," Button added. "His skating is solid but not great so it's not going to get him out of problems. But [he's so smart] he doesn't get into problems [in the first place]."

The Washington, Mich., native is four points ahead of Graham Sward of the WHL's Wenatchee Wild for the most points by a defenceman in the CHL.

Sitting third in OHL scoring is overage forward Matthew Sop with 10 goals and 30 points in 19 games.

The 20-year-old centre has only been held off the scoresheet three times this season and has six goals and 10 points against divisional opponents.

Rounding out the Rangers' firepower is winger Adrian Misaljevic, who sits tied for sixth in the league with 14 goals and 24 points.

After recording only four goals and 11 points in 47 games last season, the 19-year-old exploded to start the season, scoring 10 goals and 20 points in the first 11 games this season.

The 5-foot-11 forward slowed down slightly over the team's last eight games, only scoring four goals but the strong start has boosted his confidence and has encouraged head coach Jussi Ahokas to play him in a more prominent role.

Kitchener's firepower only got stronger at the end of October when the Montreal Canadiens returned forward Filip Mesar to the Rangers.

Mesar, a first-round draft pick by the Canadiens in 2022, had 17 goals and 51 points in 52 games with the Rangers last season.

The Kezmarok, Slovakia, native gained professional experience going through the Canadiens' training camp and appearing in two games with the American Hockey League's Laval Rocket.

Since returning to Kitchener, the 5-foot-10 winger has continued his strong offensive play with four goals and 15 points in eight games and is expected to represent Slovakia at the 2024 World Juniors in Sweden.



Dumais driving the Mooseheads

Jordan Dumais Halifax Mooseheads

The top of the QMJHL Eastern Conference is turning into a three-team race between the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Halifax Mooseheads, and Moncton Wildcats.

Baie-Comeau has taken a stranglehold of top spot to start the season with a 17-3-2 record and have yet to slow down with a nine-game winning streak. However, the Halifax Mooseheads are hot on their heels with a 16-4-1 record and have an eight-game winning streak.

Leading the way offensively in Halifax is forward Jordan Dumais who has caught fire since being returned from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Dumais, a third-round draft pick by the Blue Jackets in 2022, began the hockey season injured with the NHL club and was eventually returned to Halifax when he became healthy at the end of October.

Since rejoining the team, the 5-foot-9 winger has 12 goals and 28 points in only 11 games.

"The rest of the Quebec league will be very happy when he heads to the Canadian national junior camp [in December]," said Button. "Coaches are good in the Quebec league and everything, but I have no idea how to stop him. [At this point] it's not about stopping Dumais, but how do you limit him to three or less points without giving up anything to anyone else."

The Ile Bizard, Que., native led the QMJHL last season with 54 goals and 140 points in 64 games and added five goals and 21 points in 15 playoff games before the Mooseheads were eliminated by the Quebec Remparts in the league final.

Despite Dumais' offensive explosion last season, the 19-year-old did not make Canada's World Junior squad but if he continues his strong play he will have a strong chance to be a part of the 2024 edition in Sweden.

While the Drakkar lead the QMJHL offensively with 99 goals, the Mooseheads are the polar opposite only allowing 49 goals which is good for second in the league behind the Sherbrooke Phoenix's 48.

The Mooseheads also have a plus-33 goal differential for the best in the league, five more than the Drakkar and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Leading the defensive effort is goaltender Mathis Rousseau who leads the league, registering a 14-1-0 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

His 460 shots faced is third most in the QMJHL and has 433 saves which is also good for third in the league.

"For Rousseau, there isn't one area of his game that catches your eye, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts," said Button. "All he's done is show his capability and he's another player where the Quebec league will be very happy when he goes to the Canadian junior camp."



Firkus Circus

Jagger Firkus Moose Jaw Warriors

Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jagger Firkus has played like a man on a mission since being returned by the Seattle Kraken to the Western Hockey League this season.

Prior to the 2022 NHL Draft, Firkus was ranked 16th on Button's final draft rankings, projecting him to be among the elite of his draft class.

However, the now 19-year-old fell into the second round and was eventually selected 35th overall by the Kraken.

Firkus' first two seasons in the WHL were marred with league-wide problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic which limited him to only 35 games combined.

In his draft season, the Irma, Alta., native exploded with 36 goals and 80 points in 66 games causing scouts to take notice.

However, sitting at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, some scouts questioned his size and viability at the NHL level.

"I honestly don't care," Firkus told reporters at the NHL draft combine in Buffalo in June of 2022. "It's their opinion, it's not going to change how I think about it. I've been small my whole life... it's part of the game."

Firkus continued to show that size is not an issue at the WHL level, finishing 10th in league scoring last season with 40 goals and 88 points in 66 games, leading his Warriors into the playoffs before they were eventually eliminated by the Winnipeg Ice (now Wenatchee Wild) in the second round.

With two NHL training camps under his belt, Firkus looks like he wants to leave a mark in what is likely his last season in the WHL by leading the league with 18 goals and 35 points in 18 games so far.

The Warriors sit in third place in the WHL's Eastern Conference with an 11-8-1 record and are five points back of the Medicine Hat Tigers for first in the league.

"One of the things I look for in players when they're not physically mature or far from it is I ask if they allow themselves to be denied?" Button explained. "There will be times where they just aren't strong enough but are they in the fight? Are they trying to get inside the dots or inside the hard areas? They may not be able to do it with success but they're trying.

"I see a lot of strong and physically mature players that are capable of doing that, but don't do it. Firkus was never one of those players, he was always in the guts of the action. Combine that with his intelligence and skill, you just need to give him some time because I think he's going to be a really good player in the NHL."

Next season, Firkus will be hoping to take his talents to the professional level with either the Kraken or their AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds. However, this season his main focus is on returning the Warriors back to the playoffs and pushing for a Memorial Cup appearance.

"I want to get a ring, if I'm being honest," Firkus told Darren Brown of in August. "I think we're a really good squad this year, so it's going to be an exciting year."