The lockout ended, the NHL returned, and draft watchers were treated to a World Junior feast.
January was indeed a special month - and especially for Portland Winterhawks' blueliner Seth Jones, who emphatically claimed top spot in the McKeen's midterm rankings for the 2013 NHL Draft.
No. 1 had been up for grabs heading into the Christmas break, as the likes of Jones and Jonathan Drouin had effectively closed the gap on frontrunner Nathan MacKinnon.
The race was expected to remain a close one - and perhaps even come down to the final wire.
However, Jones broke from the pack with captivating performances at both the WJC and Top Prospects Game.
Historically, underagers are usually 'seen but not heard' at the under-20 world juniors, but not this year as the top five ranked prospects were all on display - and featured prominently.
Jones sparkled throughout, taking control of games with his prodigious talents and helping guide Team USA to a gold medal - playing in a top pairing with Buffalo draft pick Jake McCabe.
It wasn't the only eye-catching performance as a number of draft-eligible players made definitive statements on the world stage.
Mirco Mueller of the Everett Silvertips displayed remarkable poise for a 17-year-old while handling a heavy load for Switzerland, impressive sixth-place finishers. The biggest riser on our midterms, Mueller led the Swiss with a plus-7 rating to rank fifth overall at the tournament - and then followed up with another striking effort at the Top Prospects Game.
A pair of Swedes - Alexander Wennberg and Linus Arnesson - also seized the moment in Ufa, Russia, and have consequently cracked the first round.
The Djurgarden teammates grew in stature as the tournament progressed, and particularly Arnesson who thrived after being thrust into a main role with key blueline injuries to Jonas Brodin, Hampus Lindholm, and Oscar Klefbom.
Yet another youngster making waves at the WJC's was big Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin, the hero of the bronze-medal game. Nichushkin certainly flashed high-end individual skills that will likely bump him up on some lists, however he did not do enough in our opinion to dispel questions about his consistency, team play, and overall vision.
In fact, he slips to third among the Russians, surpassed by bullish winger Valentin Zykov who continued to rampage up the charts and now is pushing the top ten. The Baie-Comeau star has points in every game this month (12-10-16-28) - aside from the Top Prospects Game - including a six-point effort against Rouyn-Noranda.
Another mover this past month was Rimouski pivot Frederik Gauthier, currently second in QMJHL rookie scoring behind Zykov. The 6-foot-5 pivot vaults up the No. 12 spot having made significant gains in his overall game.
Quebec Remparts winger Adam Erne is the lone newcomer to the top 10 - sliding into the No. 8 slot.
Three OHLers also climbed the rankings having drawn plenty of praise for their steady development - those being Darnell Nurse (Sault), Bo Horvat (London), and Ryan Hartman (Plymouth).
|1||2||Seth Jones||D||6-3/205||10-3-1994||Portland (WHL)||40-9-27-36|
|2||1||Nathan MacKinnon||C||6-0/180||9-1-1995||Halifax (QMJHL)||37-26-36-62|
|3||3||Jonathan Drouin||LW||5-11/185||3-28-1995||Halifax (QMJHL)||31-24-38-62|
|4||5||Elias Lindholm||C||6-0/190||12-2-1994||Brynas (Swe)||40-7-17-24|
|5||4||Aleksander Barkov||C||6-2/210||9-2-1995||Tappara (Fin)||41-18-21-39|
|6||9||Ryan Pulock||D||6-0/210||10-6-1994||Brandon (WHL)||40-10-21-31|
|7||6||Sean Monahan||C||6-2/190||10-12-1994||Ottawa (OHL)||40-18-36-54|
|8||13||Adam Erne||LW||6-1/195||4-20-1995||Quebec (QMJHL)||48-21-38-59|
|9||7||Hunter Shinkaruk||LW||5-10/180||10-13-1994||Medicine Hat (WHL)||47-30-32-62|
|10||8||Rasmus Ristolainen||D||6-3/205||10-27-1994||TPS Turku (Fin)||39-2-10-12|
|11||22||Valentin Zykov||LW||6-0/210||5-15-1995||Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)||49-32-30-62|
|12||17||Frederik Gauthier||C||6-5/210||4-26-1995||Rimouski (QMJHL)||43-16-35-51|
|13||10||Anthony Mantha||RW||6-4/200||9-16-1994||Val d'Or (QMJHL)||47-38-31-69|
|14||12||Nikita Zadorov||D||6-5/230||4-15-1995||London (OHL)||44-3-14-17|
|15||20||Darnell Nurse||D||6-3/190||2-4-1995||Sault Ste Marie (OHL)||49-10-20-30|
|16||11||Andre Burakovsky||LW||6-1/180||2-9-1995||Malmo (Swe 2)||33-3-4-7|
|17||NR||Mirco Mueller||D||6-3/185||3-21-1995||Everett (WHL)||43-5-18-23|
|18||15||Josh Morrissey||D||6-0/185||3-28-1995||Prince Albert (WHL)||48-13-22-35|
|19||19||Valeri Nichushkin||RW||6-4/195||3-4-1995||Traktor (KHL)||17-3-2-5|
|20||NR||Alexander Wennberg||C||6-1/190||9-22-1994||Djurgardens (Swe 2)||36-12-13-25|
|21||18||Max Domi||C||5-9/195||3-2-1995||London (OHL)||47-28-36-64|
|22||16||Robert Hagg||D||6-2/200||2-8-1995||MoDo (Swe Jr)||23-9-11-20|
|23||NR||Bo Horvat||C||6-0/200||4-5-1995||London (OHL)||49-23-23-46|
|24||14||Curtis Lazar||C||6-0/195||2-2-1995||Edmonton (WHL)||51-23-14-37|
|25||24||Zachary Fucale||G||6-1/180||5-28-1995||Halifax (QMJHL)||31-5-2, 2.49|
|26||NR||Linus Arnesson||D||6-1/190||9-21-1994||Djurgardens (Swe 2)||22-0-1-1|
|27||26||Kerby Rychel||LW||6-1/200||10-7-1994||Windsor (OHL)||48-26-25-51|
|28||29||Eric Comrie||G||6-1/170||7-6-1995||Tri-City (WHL)||20-14-3, 2.62|
|29||NR||Ryan Hartman||C||5-11/185||9-20-1994||Plymouth (OHL)||39-19-22-41|
|30||23||Jason Dickinson||C||6-1/180||7-4-1995||Guelph (OHL)||47-15-22-37|
|* Goalies (W-L-T, GA)|