It’s the so-called second half of the junior hockey season, the 2015 portion of the 2014-2015 menu.
In some cases, the haves and the have-nots have already been identified.
In other instances, places and positions are up for grabs and player profiles are being touched up.
In the Ontario Hockey League, the Oshawa Generals, by way of recent multiple trades for older players, have clearly stated their championship intentions.
The Generals are runaway leaders in the Eastern Conference, good ways ahead of the Barrie Colts, North Bay Battalion, Belleville Bulls et al.
In the Western Conference, the Erie Otters and Soo Greyhounds are posturing for top position while the London Knights are playing possum and staying close.
To be sure, there is more strength and depth among the 10 members of the Western world then there is within the 10 residents of the Eastern block.
Worth noting is that Oshawa has placed itself as a prime target for all Eastern foes. As the Generals motor, the competition revs up the engine for a chase to the finish.
As the saying goes, it is not easy to get to the top and it is even harder to stay there.
Of the four divisions that divide the 24-team North American Hockey League, the margin for error in the Midwest and North is slight.
In the five-team Midwest, just three points separate the first-place Minnesota Wilderness, second-seeded Fairbanks Ice Dogs and third-rung Coulee Region Chill.
In the six-team North, Janesville Jets are flying solo over the rest. Then there are just seven points that stand between the Soo Eagles, Keystone Ice Miners, Michigan Warriors, Johnstown Tomahawks and Springfield Jr. Blues.
In a repeat performance of the 2013-2014 season, the defending champion Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and the close-but-no-cigar Soo Thunderbirds are again the top teams in a nine-member Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League where on the flip side, the Blind River Beavers still have not won after 31 games.
Over to the Canadian International Hockey League, the focus is on three second-half showcase tournaments. A first-year league that is determined to put some first-half issues behind it, CIHL teams will head south to Michigan to showcase their players in front of the American college scouts. Batchewana Attack, which leads the CIHL with a record of 20-0-1, has several skaters whose names have made it on the “watch-out-for” lists of American schools — and the Espanola Rivermen and Kalkaska Rhinos also have their share of prospects.
In the Midwest Jr. Hockey League, Traverse City Hounds have first place to themselves with a tidy record of 23-1-1. The real battle in the MWJHL is for second place — and regular-season bragging rights — between feuding two feuding neighbours, the Detroit Fighting Irish and the MC Monarchs. Simply put, personnel from the Fighting Irish and Monarchs do not exchange love letters.