The Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL are on pace for a historic season.
Almost three months into the season, arguably the biggest story in the CHL has been the incredible start of the Prince Albert Raiders. The team has dominated since game one of the regular season, only losing three games in the first 31 games of the season, one of of which being a shootout loss at the hands of Swift Current just last Tuesday. It certainly has been quite a turnaround for the Raiders. They squeaked their way into the final Wild Card spot last season, and finished second to last in the East the year before. The unlikely rise of Prince Albert has set them up to possibly achieve the best season in CHL history.
Let’s take a look at how the Raiders got to this point.
Off and Running
The Raiders came out flying at the start of the season in September. The club won their first seven games of the season before falling to the Red Deer Rebels on October 6. However, that was the last time Prince Albert would lose a game for almost two months. The Raiders won a team record 19 consecutive games following the Red Deer loss. The more impressive stat during that streak was that only two of their wins were one-goal games. The team has the best goal differential, by far, with a +90 differential. With that, Prince Albert leads the league in Goals For (146) and Goals Against (56). Let’s take a look at the two pieces of the Raider roster that have been the biggest benefit to the team’s success.
The best goaltender in the WHL, possibly the CHL. Scott has been quite the story this year in Prince Albert. He has never been an uber-impressive net-minder, as he’s never had a goals-against-average below 3.00, and save percentage above .900. Prior to this season, Scott had a career best stat line of 24-16-3-3, with a 3.10 GAA, and a .897 SV% in 2017-18. The Toronto prospect has really come into his own in his fourth year in the league.
If you have any doubts of how good Scott has been this season, just take a look at his stats. He’s tied for the lead in the WHL in wins with 23, and his 1.61 GAA, .943 SV%, and four shutouts are far and away best in the league. His best performance came back on the 14th of November, where Scott earned himself a 43 save shutout against Medicine Hat. Scott has gone from virtual unknown to a convincing challenger to Michael DiPietro for the starting job for Team Canada at this year’s World Juniors.
There is not a better candidate for MVP so far in the WHL. Leason has taken the league by storm. Similar to Scott, Leason has driven his stock through the roof with his season so far. The un-drafted winger from Calgary currently leads the league in points with 64, two points ahead of Edmonton’s Trey Fix-Wolansky. His 28 goals also leads the lead. In 31 games, he has almost doubled his career best of 33 points, which he achieved last season, in which he was brought over to Prince Albert from the Tri-City Americans. Leason has put up points in bunches on a consistent basis, as he’s been held to one point only nine times this season.
Prince Albert’s loss to Saskatoon on Sunday was not just the first time the team has been shutout all season, it was also the first time Leason was held pointless this season. Leason has played so well up to this point, that he was invited to Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp, and has had made a viable case to crack Team Canada’s roster come Boxing Day.
Who They’re Chasing
With a 29-2-0-1 record just before the halfway mark of the season, the Raiders are knocking on the door of history. If they can stay on the pace they have set through the three months of this season, they have a real opportunity to have the best regular season in not just WHL history, but in CHL history.
Arguably, the best season in CHL history belong to the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings.The ’79 Wheat Kings have the record for most points in CHL history with 125, and fewest losses with only five defeats all season.
There are many similarities to those Wheat Kings to this year’s Raiders. Brandon possessed the WHL’s leading scorer in Brian Propp, who had a ridiculous season, scoring 194 points in 71 games. The team itself also was a neck above the rest of the league. They scored more goals and allowed the least compared to the rest of the league, just like Prince Albert has been able to do so far.
Another key point to make is the consistency of Prince Albert, compared to the Wheat Kings. Brandon achieved 125 points in their 72-game schedule, an average of 1.74 points per game. Through the team’s first 32 games, Prince Albert has earned 59 points, an average of 1.84 points per game. This means the Raiders are on pace for almost 133 points, which would blow the Wheat Kings’ record out of the water.
The outstanding start by the Raiders has been nothing but phenomenal. They have the high scoring, and the excellent goaltending to make a solid run at Brandon’s 40-year record. The biggest question is, can they keep it up? If they can, they will become the greatest team in Canadian Hockey League History.
All stats and records found on WHL.ca