It's almost time for QMJHL teams to fish or cut bait.
The start of the mid-season trade period is roughly a month away and contenders really only have that window to improve themselves for a stretch run. Likewise, teams looking to rebuild will likely want to deal any quality veterans who are due to graduate at the end of the season rather than be left with nothing to show for them.
This is the business of hockey at the major junior level and it seems to me there are five teams that are front-runners who will want to load up, or at least make a shrewd addition or two, to improve their chances to win a championship.
At the top of the league standings are the Sherbrooke Phoenix, who are the No. 1 ranked team in the CHL thanks to a 17-1-2 record. This is a franchise that needs to win something.
The Phoenix have existed since 2012 and have only ever advanced to the second round twice. They have a balanced enough team that they don't need to empty the cupboards to go for it but would be well served by the right additions.
For a team that has allowed the fewest goals in the Q, it's hard to nitpick with their defensive make-up. But if the Phoenix could find a way to add one more puck-moving defenceman and an experienced second goalie, they would be pretty intimidating.
The second-place Moncton Wildcats are another team that could benefit from a boost on the back end. Specifically, their top four on defence could use a proven player, or even two.
The Wildcats don't necessarily need to bring in a specific style of defenceman, just someone who can handle a lot of minutes. And if they can find the resources to add two players who can carrry that kind of load, all the better.
It's harder to say for certain what additions the Chicoutimi Sagueneens most would benefit from because they have so many high-quality young players who are still improving by the week. They may want to wait until closer to the back end of the trade period to see exactly what they've got, then shop for an upgrade or two if they need it.
In all likelihood, the most important ingredient they'll want is experience but they may not necessarily need to do anything drastic if everything falls the right way with what they already have in their lineup. But chances are they'll want to plug in the right veteran - or two - and that would make them quite dangerous in the post-season.
The same seems true of the Cape Breton Eagles, although for slightly different reasons. They look to me to be the deepest team in the league and could certainly make a run with what they already have.
But you can always be better and the Eagles have the resources to do it. Adding an impact defenceman is a luxury they can afford, or even a top forward if they feel like it. They're in a prime position heading into December.
In one respect, the Rimouski Oceanic are not ideally positioned to go for it. Their scoring drops off drastically after their top line and they don't have true star power on their defence.
But it would be hard to justify having superstar Alexis Lafreniere in your lineup for one last year and not making the most of it. Knowing how the Oceanic usually operate, I expect they will find a way to give him enough support to make his farewell tour meaningful.
It wouldn't be fair to leave a team like the Charlottetown Islanders completely off this list because their goaltending and defence are second to none. The only reason I didn't include them in the clear group of contenders is because I don't know if I see them doing anything drastic up front to make a full entry into the race.
I'm not saying it couldn't happen, just like it's possible they could even elect to sell off. But it feels like the kind of year where they take a more moderate route. That mid-level approach has worked well for them recently.