California prospect update: Cole Guttman

What NHL fan wouldn’t want to watch the annual Entry Draft in late June?

That was the position California’s Cole Guttman found himself in on June 24, but there was a catch. The Northridge native said he had an idea that there was a chance his name might appear on the draft ticker at some point.

Cole Guttman 2017Sure enough, the intuition of the former LA Selects and LA Jr. Kings center was correct. The Tampa Bay Lightning called his name in the sixth round, 180th overall, despite his absence on some of the major scouting lists entering the draft.

Guttman’s rookie season for Dubuque in the United States Hockey League is tough to overlook. He scored 54 points, equal parts goals and assists, in 53 regular-season games, and he tacked on four more points in six playoff games. And his two-way game is respectable as he checked in with a plus-21. One rival coach told as I was researching California Rubber Magazine‘s all-California Junior Team that Guttman had a mature game.

He also has a mature approach, something his teammates and coaches in Dubuque (and earlier in L.A.) acknowledged when they voted him to wear a letter during his rookie season. Next season he will be the Fighting Saints’ captain under recently hired coach Oliver David, another Golden Stater.

Guttman’s excitement at being selected in the Entry Draft was heightened by seeing good friends from his youth hockey days, Jake McGrew (sixth round, San Jose) and Vanya Lodnia (third round, Minnesota) getting picked on the same day. In all, five members of California’s 2009 Brick team, those three plus Jason Robertson (second round, Dallas) and Sasha Chmelevski (sixth round, San Jose) were picked. And a sixth – Minnesota recruit Brannon McManus, whose Chicago Steel team won the USHL’s Clark Cup – very well could have been.

In addition, Guttman, McGrew, Lodnia and McManus helped the Selects win the elite division of the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament in 2012, along with Boston College commit Cayla Barnes, John St. Ivany, Cooper Haar and others.

Guttman, who has committed to play at St. Cloud State beginning in fall 2018, took time recently to speak with me about being selected in the draft, what his first pro prospect camp was like and his California ties.


California prospect update: Jake McGrew

It’s not hard to believe Jake McGrew would be drafted by an NHL team. Anyone who saw him play growing up knew the Orange native had a blend of power, speed and skill that would translate well into higher levels of hockey.

Indeed, the 1999 birth year was a strong bet to play a regular role for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League until he blew out a knee during the first practice of the regular season.

Still, the San Jose Sharks had scouted him twice during the preseason and saw enough to make him an early sixth-round pick, 159th overall.

Though he’s back skating, he wasn’t able to fully participate in the Sharks’ prospects camp this week. He is, however, highly motivated to return stronger than ever, as he told me in this recent interview before prospects camp.


©Chris Bayee 2017

Nine players with California ties left unprotected for NHL expansion draft

A total of nine players with ties to California were left unprotected by the NHL teams holding their rights in advance of Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft to stock the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster and system.

What follows is a closer look at them and their chances of staying put or making travel arrangements for the desert.

Forwards Emerson Etem and Nic Kerdiles, Anaheim Ducks: Etem returned to the franchise after stops in New York and Vancouver and played three games in Anaheim and one in San Diego before an injury ended his season. … After recovering from a concussion, Kerdiles made his NHL debut and then played four playoff games for the Ducks after the Gulls’ season ended. In between, he was one of San Diego’s better scorers, getting 15 points in 27 regular-season games and eight more in eight playoff games.

What’s next? Etem offers lineup versatility, speed and a scoring touch. Once healthy, the restricted free agent probably is going to camp on a two-way contract – with Anaheim or someone else. … Kerdiles signed a one-year contract on Saturday and might figure into the Ducks’ plans next season. He also can play on any line. … With all of the defensemen the Ducks exposed it’s highly unlikely either is taken by Vegas.

Defenseman Matt Tennyson, Carolina Hurricanes: Just 27, the big blue liner played in a career-high 45 NHL games this season and nine more in the AHL.

What’s next: He’s proven he can handle the rigors of the NHL game and has a good shot to play somewhere full-time. If Vegas passes on goalie Cam Ward, I see Tennyson as a very strong candidate to get picked. The unrestricted free agent wouldn’t cost much and he can either step into the Golden Knights’ lineup or be a leader for their AHL team and with NHL plug-and-play capability.

Forward Mitch Callahan, Detroit Red Wings: Tough and skilled, Callahan heads into unrestricted free agency for the first time this offseason. And his timing could not have been better. In addition to playing four more games with Detroit, he nearly set a career-high in points (43) and added 16 goals for Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids. He was one of the Griffins’ best players in the postseason, added 16 more points in 19 games.

What’s next: He’s done about all you can in the AHL, and at just 25, it’s time for him to get a shot at a regular NHL job, whether in Detroit, Vegas or elsewhere. His UFA status might work against him the way the expansion rules are set up (Vegas can sign up to five UFAs). But he would make some sense for a cash- or prospect-strapped team to sign.

Defenseman Taylor Aronson, Nashville Predators: The Predators still own his rights despite him spending this past season playing in Russia with Tolyatti Lada, where he had 15 points in 51 games.

What’s next: He won’t be taken, not with the bevy of young, skilled forwards the Predators had to expose.

Forwards Beau Bennett and Shane Harper, New Jersey Devils: Bennett, the highest drafted Californian ever (20th overall by Pittsburgh in 2010), played in a career-high 65 games and posted career bests in goals (eight) and points (19). Still, given how starved for offense New Jersey was and talented Bennett is, it’s a head scratcher he didn’t play on a scoring line or on the power play. … Harper made his NHL debut in his seventh season of pro hockey with Florida and played 14 games for the Panthers before he was traded to New Jersey’s organization. He has elite speed and, like Bennett, excellent hockey sense.

What’s next: Expansion teams typically need offense, and Bennett could be a good, low-cost option to provide some. Just 25, his upside remains considerable. Still, the Devils also exposed defensemen Jon Merrill and Ben Lovejoy as well as a couple of backup goalie options, so it’s less likely – though not impossible – the restricted free agent is picked. … Harper is unrestricted and could help a team looking for speed and lineup versatility with a bit of scoring touch.

Forward Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators: The former LA Jr. King is one of the biggest names out there for the taking, but there is a case against taking him if you’re Vegas. For one, Ryan had his worst season (25 points). For another, he’s 30 and he ‘s under contract for five more seasons at $7.25 million per. Still, he is an elite talent and capable of scoring 30-plus goals per season, and there aren’t many of those anywhere in the NHL, much less on the expansion list. He also seemed revitalized by Ottawa’s deep playoff run, scoring 15 points (several big goals among them) in 19 games.

What’s next: I don’t see Vegas picking him, though it wouldn’t be the worst idea if it did. The belief here is the Senators exposed too many good defenseman for the Golden Knights to pass on one of them.

Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, Pittsburgh Penguins: Ruhwedel is another player who could not have timed his best season any better. Not only did the unrestricted free agent to be become the second native Californian (after Bennett) on a Stanley Cup-winning team, but he played 34 regular-season games (getting 10 points) for that champion and six more in the postseason. He added 16 points in 28 AHL games.

What’s next: With Marc-Andre Fleury, Ian Cole, Brandon Rust and Nick Bonino on the Penguins’ expansion list, Ruhwedel won’t get picked by Vegas, but he will be an attractive option for teams looking for a fast, skilled and responsible defenseman in the $1-2 million person range. He could very well make the leap to full-time NHLer next season.

Click here for a look at the five players with California ties who were placed on the protected expansion draft lists.

©Chris Bayee 2017

Five players with California ties protected on NHL expansion lists

It says something about the caliber of hockey talent California is producing that five players with ties to the state were protected by their respective NHL teams when the teams were required to submit lists of players exempted from Wednesday’s expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here is a closer look at the five:

Defenseman Kevan Miller, Boston Bruins: That the Bruins kept Miller as one of three protected blue liners over veteran Adam McQuaid and younger players Colin Miller (a former Kings prospect when was part of the Martin Jones deal) and Joe Morrow says something about how far Miller has come and how much Boston values him. Miller was a plus player on a so-so defensive team and added 13 points in 58 games. He is under contract for three more seasons at $2.5 million per.

Forwards Rocco Grimaldi and Matt Nieto, Colorado Avalanche: Though it’s sometimes hard to tell what the Avs are trying to do, it appears the youth movement is on and these two will be part of it. Grimaldi was one of the top players in the American Hockey League this past season. His 31 goals were tied for third in the league and just two behind the AHL leader, and more than twice as many as any teammate. He added a team-high 55 points, 20 more than the next player in San Antonio. … Colorado added Nieto on a waiver claim from San Jose, and he played most nights after that. Though his 13 points were a career low, he’s just 24 and boasts plenty of speed and skill. Both players are restricted free agents, and I would expect both to be in Colorado full-time next season.

Defenseman Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings: The former Santa Clara Blackhawk and San Jose Jr. Shark had his best offensive season (39 points) for a fairly dismal offense in LA. He’s one of the Kings’ core players and is signed for four more seasons at $4 million per. He is a frequently mentioned trade target, and it’s not hard to see why he’d be in demand.

Forward Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: The arrow also is pointing up for the former LA Select, who put up a career-best 22 goals and 47 points for a playoff team. Part of that was staying healthy, he played in a career-high 79 games. The Las Vegas native has been infamously linked to the expansion team since it was announced, but his blend of speed and skill are is tailor-made for today’s NHL. He is under contract for one more season at $2 million … before he more than doubles that amount next summer.

Click here for a closer look at the nine players with California ties left unprotected for this week’s expansion draft

©Chris Bayee 2017

California’s Oliver David continues blazing a trail behind the bench

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote came to mind recently when I was thinking about my friend Oliver David , the most idea-driven coach I know.

David, as you may know, was introduced as the coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints, one of the premier junior hockey teams in the United States Hockey League, on June 5.

David_largeA passionate native of California, David is (to my knowledge) the first California-born and -trained coach to advance to a head-coaching position in our nation’s top junior hockey league.

His path has not been easy. He didn’t have the pedigree of an elite player. He didn’t play AAA hockey throughout his youth, high-level junior hockey or even college hockey. While he was a decent enough ice player to spend some time playing professionally in Germany, he made more of an impression on wheels. In the legendary, if short-lived, Pro Beach tour (yes, beach roller hockey!), David was the youngest player on the circuit, which in reality was a few weekends of inline hockey captured for months of ESPN programming.

The game’s lure prompted David to turn his attention to helping younger players achieve their dreams in this great sport, and he found himself in what would turn out to be a perfect spot to learn about teaching the game – Southern California. He was able to grow at a time when the game was growing in the Golden State.

One of the biggest early influences on David was Larry Bruyere, the former USA Hockey Pacific District Coach in Chief. The understated Bruyere has been seminal in providing opportunities and coaching for so many from California over four decades, and he’s never sought accolades. He and David crossed paths in Burbank in the early 1980s, and David has told me several times that Bruyere’s influence and assistance was key to getting him playing – and keeping him there.

While recovering from an injury during his short-lived pro career, David decided to coach. He landed a spot with the California Wave, helping Mike Lewis coach a 16AAA team that went on to win a USA Hockey National championship with a predominantly 1990 birth year group that included numerous players who went on to play Division I college hockey, including Brett Beebe, Matt Leitner, Troy Power and Steven Weinstein. The focused and somewhat elusive Lewis is one of the better coaches to emerge in recent times in the California youth circuit, and today is helping head up Tahoe Hockey Academy.

From there, David teamed up with a man who is one of the most insightful coaches I’ve ever met – Igor Nikulin – at LA Hockey Club. It was a cerebral match made in heaven. A curious, eager and intelligent learner paired with a veteran coach who played and studied the game at its highest levels in his native Ukraine. Like David, Nikulin began at Burbank before joining forces with James Gasseau and Andy Cohen with the then newly repurposed Los Angeles Jr. Kings in the late 1990s. He and Gasseau led the Jr. Kings to the first three AAA USAH National titles in state history in 2000, 02-03.

A brilliant tactician with a steel-trap mind that features almost other-worldly recall, Nikulin’s studious influence helped David get to where he is today. The two talked for countless hours, often during commutes in L.A. traffic. The subjects ran the gamut, but the one constant was hockey.

David has told me many times over the years his passions beyond hockey and California are learning and helping young people. To that end, David read … and read … and read … anything he could get his hands on about hockey, about coaching and about teaching.

In 2009, at age 30, David traded the warmth of California for his first junior coaching job, with the Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League. The coastal Alaska outpost is a 3,500-mile-plus drive from L.A. but might as well have been a galaxy away. Sun tans were traded for occasional sun sightings.

After the Brown Bears got off to a rough start, David was promoted to interim head coach, a title that was removed the following season. He guided the downtrodden franchise to an above-.500 record over the next three seasons, including a franchise-best 31-25-4 mark during the 2011-12 campaign. All the while, he continued his education through working camps and conferences.

When newly named Dubuque coach Matt Shaw was looking to fill out his staff four years ago, he looked West, far West, and found David. Shaw, now an assistant at the University of North Dakota, had succeeded Jim Montgomery, who had won two Clark Cup titles in three years in Dubuque before winning an NCAA title in his fourth season with the Pioneers.

David continued doing what he he’d always done – listening and learning, coaching and challenging, and at least as important, investing in his players. He was retained when Shaw left for North Dakota in 2015, serving a season under Jason Lammers as associate head coach and assistant general manager.

David’s focus primary was on defense, and the early returns suggest an impressive body of work. His charges include Denver standouts Michael Davies and Blake Hillman, former Dubuque captain Keegan Ford, North Dakota’s Casey Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning draft selection Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Minnesota), and Edmonton Oilers draft selection William Lagesson (UMass-Amherst).

A year ago, David had the opportunity to go work for former NHL coach Mike Johnston in Portland. The jump to the Western Hockey League put David and his wife Denee and their two children much closer to their West Coast families. It also offered a fresh opportunity to learn more about the game from a well-respected veteran coach. During one of our conversations last offseason, the excitement in David’s voice was noticeable.

A crazy spring in college hockey opened up coaching opportunities from Omaha to Michigan to upstate New York, and several points in between. Lammers landed one of them, at Niagara University.

The Dubuque opening piqued David’s interest, and obviously the feeling was mutual.

The life-long learner and exemplary coach and leader continues his journey, climbing the ladder one patient step at a time.

From a state known for setting trends, Oliver David is at the forefront of a new one – producing high-level hockey coaches.

©Chris Bayee 2017

Going to Quebec … and the NHL

It started with a simple request wondering if certain current NHL players had played in the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament. For those unfamiliar with the February event, it is the largest hockey tournament in the world for players ages 11-12 and regularly hosts teams from around the world.

I discovered a larger than expected group of Californians who had participated in the event went on the play at least one game in the NHL>

Numerous California teams have participated in it over the years, and several youth organizations continue to send teams, including the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, Los Angeles Jr. Kings, San Diego Jr. Gulls and San Jose Jr. Sharks among others.

In the early years of the tournament, which has existed since 1960, regions of the state would assemble what were ostensibly all-star teams to play in Quebec. By the turn of the 21st Century that had shifted to specific clubs sending teams.

The high-water mark for a California team occurred in 2012 when the LA Selects 1999 team captured the AA-Elites Division. The roster included Cayla Barnes, a U.S. Women’s National U18 Team captain and Boston College commit; Brannon McManus, a Minnesota commit who is playing for Omaha in the USHL; John St. Ivany, a Yale commit who is playing for Sioux Falls in the USHL; Jake McGrew, who is playing for Spokane in the WHL; Ivan Lodnia, who is playing for Erie in the OHL; Cole Guttman, a St. Cloud State commit who is playing for Dubuque of the USHL; and Cooper Haar, who is playing for Bismarck in the NAHL.


Lodnia, McGrew, McManus and St. Ivany are on the 2017 NHL Entry Draft watch list.

Back to the discovery. A total of 19 players from California (or playing for California teams) who played in the Quebec have reached the NHL.

Some notables:

One player went three times – forward Rocco Grimaldi. Rocco went twice with the California Wave (2004-05) and again with Detroit Little Caesars in 2006. A 1993 birth year, he was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the second round (33rd overall) in 2011. He enjoyed a standout career at North Dakota, won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2013 World Junior Championship and made his NHL debut – at Staples Center of all places – in late 2014. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in the offseason and is scoring at a point-per-game clip in the AHL.

Six other players went twice – Richard Park (1989-90), Noah Clarke (1992-93), Beau Bennett (2003-04), and Emerson Etem, Matt Nieto and Jason Zucker all in 2004-05.

  • Park was a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins (50th overall) in 1994. He played 738 NHL games, by far the most of a California-trained player. Born in Seoul, South Korea, his family moved to the South Bay when he was preschool-aged. He retired in 2014 and currently works for the Minnesota Wild.
  • Clarke was the first California-born and -trained player to play in a regular-season game for the Los Angeles Kings (on Dec. 17, 2003) and was a ninth-round pick (250th) overall in 1999. He was an NCAA standout at Colorado College and played 11 seasons of pro hockey, including 21 NHL games. He retired in 2013 and works in a family business.
  • Bennett remains the highest-drafted California player, going 20th overall in 2010 to Pittsburgh. He also became the first state native to play for a Stanley Cup winner this past spring. He was traded in the offseason to New Jersey and has played 136 NHL games over five seasons after playing two seasons at the University of Denver.
  • Etem was drafted nine spots after his former LA Hockey Club teammate in 2010 by the Anaheim Ducks after playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program and then piling up 167 goals in three WHL seasons. He has played 173 NHL games for the Ducks, Vancouver and New York Rangers. He was recently reacquired by the Ducks.
  • Nieto was picked 14 spots after Grimaldi in 2011 by the San Jose Sharks (47th overall) and has established himself in the League (210 games) in his first four seasons after three standout years at Boston University.
  • Zucker was picked in the second round (59th overall) of that 2010 draft by Minnesota and jumped right to the NHL in 2012 after two seasons at Denver. After two seasons split between the League and the AHL, he has earned a regular spot in the Wild’s lineup and has 179 NHL games under his belt.

Here is a complete list of the Californians at the Quebec tournament who have reached the NHL.

  • 1984 – Nick Vachon, LA Condors
  • 1989 – Richard Park, So. Cal Jr. Kings
  • 1990 – Richard Park, Toronto Young Nationals
  • 1992 – Noah Clarke, Ontario
  • 1993 – Noah Clarke and Garrett Stafford, California Jr. Kings
  • 1996 – Ryan Hollweg, Team California
  • 1998 – Gabe Gauthier and Brett Sterling, LA Jr. Kings
  • 1999 – Robbie Earl and Brian Salcido, LA Jr. Kings
  • 2001 – Bobby Ryan, LA Jr. Kings and Brett Sutter and Casey Wellman, San Jose Jr. Sharks
  • 2002 – Rhett Rahkshani, California Wave
  • 2003 – Beau Bennett, LA Jr. Kings
  • 2004 – Beau Bennett, Emerson Etem, Matthew Konan, Matt Nieto and Jason Zucker, LA Hockey Club; Rocco Grimaldi, California Wave (6 of the 28)
  • 2005 – Emerson Etem, Matt Nieto and Jason Zucker, LA Hockey; Rocco Grimaldi, California Wave
  • 2006 – Rocco Grimaldi, Little Caesars



Californians dot NHL prospect camp rosters

Summer is a great time to go camping, particularly if you’re a hockey player. Several young players with ties to California made appearances NHL development camps in the past month or so.

Some, like Austin Ortega and Collin Delia, went to multiple camps. Most are NHL free agents, but a few were draft picks.

Here is the rundown by player of who went where.

Delia, coming off a sophomore at Merrimack College in which he went 8-12-6 with a 2.96 goals-against average, attended the Anaheim Ducks’ camp as well as the Chicago Blackhawks’ a few weeks later. The 6-foot-2 net minder is from Rancho Cucamonga and played for OC Hockey Club, the California Wave, Stars and Titans.

Ortega, who will be a senior at Nebraska-Omaha, led the NCAA in game-winning goals for the second season in a row, with eight (one season after bagging 11). He went to camp with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Escondido native, a former San Diego Jr. Gull and LA Hockey Club player, has 37 and 36 points in his past two college seasons.

Goaltender Thatcher Demko, a 2014 second-round pick of the Canucks, was in camp with Vancouver after being selected a Hobey Baker finalist after his junior season at Boston College. He posted an NCAA-best 10 shutouts and won 27 games for a Frozen Four team. His gas was 1.85 and he stopped nearly 94 percent of the shots he faced.

Fellow goaltenders Merrick Madsen and Ryan Ruck also went to camps.

Madsen, a 2013 pick by Philadelphia, was again at Flyers camp, but this time the Acton native and former California Heat player went on the heels of a stellar sophomore season at Harvard. Madsen went 18-7-3 with a .931 save percentage and a 1.99 gaa to go with his four shutouts.

No goalie in NCAA hockey may have been hotter than Ruck in the second half of his freshman season, when he went 19-2-2 to help Northeastern make a run into the NCAA Tournament. Ruck, from Coto de Caza and a former net minder for OC Hockey Club and LA Hockey, attended St. Louis Blues camp.

Tyler Moy, a Harvard teammate of Madsen’s, went to Nashville’s camp. Moy had 19 points during his junior year and was a 2015 draft pick of the Predators.

Defenseman Alec McCrea, like Moy and Demko a former Jr. Gull, went to Winnipeg’s camp. McCrea had an outstanding freshman season at Cornell, leading Big Red blue liners in points with 15.

Ortega was joined at Kings camp by former LA Hockey and Medicine Hat and Portland (WHL) standout Miles Koules, who played in the ECHL this past season.

Former LA Hockey forward Dennis Kravchenko of Laguna Niguel, who put up 28 points of Massachusetts as a sophomore, went to Calgary’s camp one summer after attending the Ducks’.

Forward Robby Jackson, who had 10 goals as a freshman for St. Cloud State, went to San Jose Sharks camp near his native Oakland. Jackson played for Santa Clara, LA Hockey and the Jr. Kings growing up.

Defenseman Scott Savage, who will be a senior at Boston College and who scored a career-high 18 points this past season, attended New Jersey’s camp.

A handful of players with ties to California clubs also made appearances.

  • Forward Nolan Stevens, a one-time Jr. King, joined his college teammate Ruck in Blues camp. St. Louis selected him in June’s Entry Draft.
  • Forward Josh Wilkins, a former Jr. King, attended Hurricanes camp in his native North Carolina.
  • Goalie Evan Sarthou, a Washington native who played for LA Hockey and the LA Jr. Kings and now plays for Tri-City of the Western Hockey League, went to Arizona’s camp.
  • Power forward Adam Erne, who played two seasons with LA Hockey but is from Connecticut, was in camp with Tampa for the fourth year in a row. Erne was a second-round pick of the Lightning in 2013.

But the best prospect camp story of the summer hands-down belongs to Savage’s former LA Hockey teammate Trevor Moore. Moore not only attended Toronto’s prospect camp but played so well that the Maple Leafs signed him to an entry-level contract before his senior season at the University of Denver. Moore, an All-American in 2014-15, had 44 points to help the Pioneers reach the Frozen Four.

Book excerpt – The Mighty Ducks are hatched

As some of you may know, I’ve been researching the history of California hockey for several years now. I’ve written several chapters for one book on it, and a few more for another.

One of the former Mighty Ducks and Sharks players I enjoyed speaking with a great deal during this process was Todd Ewen, who passed away over the weekend. I had shared parts of some chapters with him, and he offered honest and constructive feedback.

Rather than continue to guard my writing as if it were a state secret, I’ve decided to share a chapter I’ve written (and rewritten) about the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. I felt prompted to do this after reading about Todd’s passing and looking at the notes from my first interview with him, which began with a discussion about our shared love of playing music and his willingness and ability to play “pickup” in bands, basically playing whatever instrument they needed.

I hope you enjoy this not-so-brief glimpse into California hockey history, however rough around the edges it might be. There will be more where this came from.

The NHL Expands to Anaheim

When people talk about “The Gretzky Effect” on hockey in California, they don’t have to look far – in fact, roughly a 40-mile drive from Los Angeles to the southeast – to discover one of the more prominent pieces of evidence.

The National Hockey League granted The Walt Disney Company a conditional franchise in December 1992. By the end of the following March, less than six months before the team would open its first training camp, the club had a name – The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, a sparkling new arena (The Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, later Honda Center) and a general manager – Jack Ferreira, the same man who had been charged with building San Jose’s NHL expansion franchise approximately 370 miles to the north.

The timing was impeccable because the Los Angeles Kings became the first team from California to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 1993, and the attention the sport was receiving was matched only by the acquisition of Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton nearly five years earlier.

Anaheim shared some similarities with fellow California expansion market San Jose. Both were growing and affluent – key components for a league that to this day still derives a lion’s share of its revenue from gate receipts and merchandise sales. And both were eager to fashion a name for themselves the shadow of cities to their immediate north, in the Sharks’ case San Francisco and in the Ducks’ case Los Angeles. More than 20 years later, the two franchises are – at worst – well on their way to that.

These emerging markets reflected a renewed emphasis by the NHL to expand into large U.S. television markets. The blueprint to establish big-market footholds wasn’t new to the league; it had been a driving force behind the NHL doubling in size from six to 12 teams in 1967, when, not so coincidentally, it also happened to place teams in Northern (the Seals) and Southern California (Kings).

The Oakland/California Seals followed a successful pro team in the old Western Hockey League in the 1960s. Likewise, the Kings followed the WHL’s Los Angeles Blades. As the WHL’s Seals and Blades faded, the Gulls began setting WHL attendance records in San Diego during their eight-season run from 1966 to 1974. So California was not uncharted territory for the NHL.

In February 1993, Gary Bettman was selected the league’s first commissioner and his mandate from the owners who hired him was to sell the game in the United States and complete expansion plans while ending the game’s labor unrest. His efforts in the latter yielded uneven results (labor woes cost the league half of the 1994-95 season, all of the 2004-05 campaign and half of the 2012-13 season), but the league has grown from 21 to 30 teams under his watch. And its annual revenues are approaching $4 billion, according to Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail.

In September 1993 the Mighty Ducks opened their first training camp. The general manager who would guide them to their highest height 14 years in the future, Brian Burke, had begun working as the NHL’s Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations. In addition to his role as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, the veteran of the Vancouver Canucks’ and Hartford Whalers’ front offices worked closely with the commissioner on matters concerning the direction of the league.

“Everyone talked in the ’90s about the electronic footprint. That’s all you heard, the electronic footprint. You’d hear it in your sleep,” Burke recalled. “If you want that elusive big television contract. If you want Fox to buy the rights to the NHL.

“You look at a map of the continental United States. What markets need to have teams? You want to get as many teams in as many top 20 DMAs (designated market areas) as you can. The Fox guys were saying you need a team in Atlanta, you need a team back in the Twin Cities because we weren’t there at the time. We were trying to cover as many top 20 markets as we can. Columbus was the 20th biggest TV market and they didn’t have a team.

“A lot of the expansion process was how do we flesh out that electronic footprint. We need a team in Florida, we need teams in Atlanta and Phoenix, so that was a big part of allocation of teams. How do we flesh that out?”


The Mighty Ducks enjoyed some immediate competitive advantages that the Sharks had not enjoyed when they began play in 1991.

The expansion Sharks spent two seasons playing in a substandard building more than 40 miles away from the arena they eventually would call home, and they were a family-owned operation. The Mighty Ducks, meanwhile, had a sparkling new facility the moment the season’s first National Anthem was sung, and Disney’s ownership provided valuable marketing muscle.

“The thing that really helped us develop that following (so quickly) was that the team was owned by Disney, because they could use a lot of their marketing tools to help get us out in the community,” Ferreira said.

Some in the hockey community scoffed at the notion of the company that introduced Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and friends to the world having a spot in the lineup of such a tradition-steeped game, but the Mighty Ducks’ first coach, Ron Wilson, and the club’s front office recognized the inroads Disney could help the team make in a competitive, entertainment driven market like Southern California.

“We realized we had a great opportunity to sell in a new market,” Wilson said. “We had a great company backing us in Disney, who gave us a lot of support and instant, at least for us with some fans, credibility. Maybe no credibility as far as Canada was concerned, we were being run by Disney. But they had access to making sure the building was filled and the right way to treat people. All of the things Disney’s known for made it a lot easier from an organizational marketing point of view.”

Disney’s involvement wasn’t an issue for the players, said Todd Ewen, one of the expansion era club’s leaders.

“I didn’t have a problem that Disney was involved, and I don’t think a lot of players did,” Ewen says. “It’s nice to have a corporation like that backing a sport like ours. We’re always considered lower that baseball, football and basketball.

“(Anaheim Sports President) Tony Tavares was instrumental in picking my brain and a lot of other guys’ about how successful organizations did things. He was interested in Montreal (one of Ewen’s former teams) and their history and what they did for their players. He went out of his way to treat the players well, above and beyond the call of duty. He really put us out there with the fans.”


Ferreira’s experiences with the Sharks helped shape the way he would approach his next general manager’s role with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Another factor was the relatively short amount of time he had in which to assemble the team. Expansion franchises for the 1992-93 season in Ottawa, Ontario, and Tampa, Florida, had at least a year of preparation time, not the six months afforded Anaheim and its expansion mate in Miami, the Florida Panthers.

Ducks television analyst Brian Hayward had a front-row seat for both of Ferreira’s expansion projects, as a goaltender and sometime TV commentator with the Sharks and when he double-shifted his broadcast duties with serving as the Mighty Ducks’ goaltending coach during their first two seasons.

“He built the teams differently,” Hayward said. “That experience in San Jose served him very well in building the Ducks. They took a different approach in that expansion draft. Who are your veteran players you bring in? To me, that was the big difference.

“And the Ducks, frankly, had a better coach. Ron Wilson was an excellent coach for an expansion franchise. He’s a defense-first coach.”

History has proven Ferreira knew exactly what he was doing when he picked Wilson, who came from a strong hockey lineage. His father, Larry, and his uncle, Johnny, won Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1950s.

The Mighty Ducks job was the first head-coaching position for Wilson, who was a high-scoring defenseman at Providence College (where Burke was one of his teammates) and seasoned in international competition with the U.S. National Team and through playing in Europe, as well as a veteran of 177 NHL games. Wilson surpassed the 500-victory milestone while coaching the Sharks during the 2007-08 season. He also coached the United States to the 1996 World Cup title and led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1998.

“He was actually an assistant in Vancouver. And the thing that in the interview that I had with Ron that kind of separated him from everybody else was his knowledge of the league,” Ferreira said. “When I went in and talked to all the candidates, he had a real knowledge of which players were going to be available, which players he thought would be good for us. That kind of separated him.

“Then I knew he was an intelligent guy, and he was a hard worker, which some of the other people I had talked to that had been associated with him said. That really confirmed that he was going to be the guy for us.

“And I wanted somebody who would grow with the team. There were a lot of guys who were a little more experienced and whatever, but I wanted the whole organization to grow together. That’s why we took a lot of younger players and first-year pros when we built the expansion team. I just wanted to get everybody to grow together. We knew there were going to be growing pains, but that was my thought process.”

Said Wilson: “More than anything, the challenge was that it (Anaheim) was my first head coaching job, and you’re kind of overwhelmed by ‘Are you ready for the job?’ (There were) all the organizational things that have to go in when there is no history. There’s no anything yet.

“You spend a lot of time with a lot of people educating them about what your program is going to be, making sure how you travel, how you practice. We tried as best we could to avoid saying we were an expansion team with all these built-in excuses. We just wanted to be as competitive as we could.”

Ewen had run into Wilson – literally – during the overlap in their playing careers in the late 1980s when Ewen was breaking in with St. Louis and Wilson was finishing his career with Norris Division rival Minnesota.

“I didn’t know what to expect because the last time I played against him, he came around the net and I just flattened him. So when he walked in, I was like, ‘Last time we played I kicked your butt’,” Ewen said, chuckling.

“He had a definite plan, and he’s very driven. He’s one of the few exceptions of coaches in that he allowed us a lot of days off because he understood the travel part of it. He was very good with the players. Some are demeaning with players. Some are total textbook.

“Ron has a great attribute in that he knew how to take players and push their buttons to get the most out of them. A coach who can do that will always be successful.”

The button pushing took on different forms, defenseman Jason Marshall recalled. And Marshall would know, having played for Wilson in Anaheim, Washington and San Jose.

“When I was in Anaheim, he yelled a little bit,” Marshall said. “Some responded to that. I didn’t. I’d worry. But he was really good at knowing when to give a guy a smack on the hands and knowing when to back off.

“We always seemed to get on a roll after Christmas, and I think it’s because he kept the practices to a good skate instead of a total beatdown, which some coaches do (when they’re upset).”

Guy Hebert, the Mighty Ducks’ first expansion draft pick, and the player whose goaltending was the backbone of the Ducks teams during an Anaheim career that spanned 1993-2001, minced no words about the job Ferreira and Wilson and the rest of the front office did.

“I think Jack and Ron probably never received enough recognition in putting together a team in no time flat. Especially the short time between getting the franchise, having to draft players and maybe sign a few free agents,” Hebert said.

David McNab, whose ties to California’s hockey history extend to his youth in San Diego in the 1960s, is one of the few remaining members of the original front office team.

“Jack put a terrific team together,” said McNab, then the director of player personnel, now the Ducks’ assistant general manager. “Jack was a smart guy. We were big, we got good goaltending, and we were tough. It was fun.”


Ferreira and Wilson wanted immediately to establish a team identity – toughness. That would be easier said than done for a team named after a series of children’s movies.

“The marketing aspect, just being called a Duck was hard,” Ewen said. “I had fought a lot before, and I knew I was going to fight a whole lot more just being a Duck.”

Said Ferreira: “The one thing I learned from being in San Jose and now coming down and starting another expansion team was you have to try to establish some kind of identity because nobody gives you any respect when you’re an expansion team. You go in and beat a team, and it’s ‘That team didn’t play well.’ You never get the respect and the credit that you deserve from a hard effort or playing well. It’s always the other team didn’t play well, that’s why they lost because no one expects you to win.

“So what I did with that team was we just wanted a big, tough team. We were not going to be intimidated in any building. That’s what I tried to establish.”

Enter Ewen and Stu Grimson, a pair of hulking wingers who did their part to put the Mighty into the expansion Ducks. The tag team had a combined weight of 460 pounds and a total of 471 penalty minutes in the 1993-94 season, most coming in 5-minute increments.

“Stuey and Ewey – there weren’t many teams willing to take us on,” Ferreira remembered, fondly. “Those two guys really gave us that credibility as far as if we were coming into your building, you had to keep your head up. That’s what we really tried to establish was to have that type of respect or at least we’d get that respect from other teams.”

Their presence was comforting to Hebert on a couple of levels. First, it would establish a physical presence and perhaps keep scores lower, and second, it went a long way toward quieting critics of the team’s nickname.

“Our first team for ’93 with Stu Grimson and Todd Ewen and Jim Thomson and Robin Bawa, you go through the media program and look at the penalty minutes. We were going to be tough,” the goalie recalled. “That might allow us to have a physical presence and win low-scoring games and not be pushed around. And if we had skill guys, they would be protected.

“I don’t think it’s a secret – here’s a team being named after a Disney film. Hockey is a man’s sport. You fight, you spit, you bleed, you lose teeth. That’s how I grew up. Goalies didn’t wear masks.

“A small part of having a tough team early on was the fact that any preconceived notion of what the team was going to be like was instantly shattered when Stuey Grimson and Todd Ewen went on the ice and dropped the gloves for the first time.”

Hayward also recalls the duo’s impact vividly.

“Stuey and Ewey – those two guys loved to fight. Loved it. Especially Todd Ewen, he loved to fight,” Hayward said. “And that was a lot of the identity of the franchise in those early years. Maybe the team’s not very good, but the game’s not going to be easy to play.”

The Mighty Ducks’ toughness stood out more than any other attribute to defenseman Alexei Kasatonov, who was the club’s first All-Star that season at age 34. And no wonder. Kasatonov had been a premier player for the Soviet teams of the ‘80s, winning two Olympic gold medals and a silver and five World Championships for some of the most skilled and precise teams in the sport’s history.

“When we were first starting out I remember we had a lot of fighters, more than the Kings, which seemed important,” Kasatonov said. “The first year was more show, but everyone stayed together, tried to help each other out because it was new for everybody.

“The New Jersey organization (which was Kasatonov’s NHL entry point during the 1989-90 season) was more conservative, more like Russia. Here you had palm trees, the Disney stuff, the shows. Hollywood actors were around.”

Ferreira was familiar with Ewen from his role as a scout with the Canadiens after he had left San Jose. Ewen arrived in the Mighty Ducks’ first trade with more 300 NHL games played and membership on the Montreal Canadiens’ 1993 Stanley Cup champions on his resume.

“There was no better guy to be a tandem with than Stu. We were just on the same page,” Ewen said. “Before that I was usually the only fighter on my team so every game I’d have three fights with three different guys on the other team. My hands got ground up like hamburger.”

Former Ducks radio analyst and ex-NHL forward Brent Severyn remembered his “visits” with the duo as an opposing player.

“It was not fun to come here and play,” Severyn said. “Those were big boys, and I’d always wonder, ‘OK, which one am I going to have to go with tonight?’ ”

The Stuey and Ewey tag team might have been the most unique combination of enforcers in NHL history.

On the one hand there was Ewen, a gifted illustrator who wrote a children’s book, and who is so musically inclined that he plays piano, drums, bass and guitar. On the other, there was Grimson, a devout Christian who eventually earned a law degree from the University of Memphis and at one time worked for the NHL Players Association.

All business on the ice, the duo also brought plenty of levity to their teammates.

“My best memory there was my birthday,” Kasatonov said. “It was the first time I got hit in the face with a pie, by Ewen after practice. For me, it was strange, but everyone thought it was so funny.”

Stuey and Ewey typified a Mighty Ducks cast had plenty of characters – and character.

“They had some real good, strong character players on that team,” Hayward said. “I always put Stu in that category. Especially with (Randy) Ladouceur and Troy Loney (the club’s first captain).”

Added Ewen: “Troy Loney is a quintessential captain as far as I’m concerned. Guy Carboneau, Troy, Brian Sutter. They don’t say a lot, and they always bring their game. When they do say something, it means a lot. That’s how Troy was, when he said something, we all took it to heart.

“Randy Ladouceur was phenomenal in that he had so much experience.

“I don’t know what you’d call us, the tandem nuclear powers? Stuey and myself are at two ends of the spectrum. He’s more a joking, fun-loving, out there charismatic person. I didn’t say much but was determined. That support for all four of us to bring everyone together was part of the chemistry they always question. What does chemistry mean? Having different personalities pointing in the same direction. That was the difference.”

Wilson also valued the leadership of Loney, Ladouceur, Grimson and Ewen.

“Early on, Troy Loney and Randy Ladouceur were foundational guys,” the coach said. “Other people like Stu Grimson and Todd Ewen did a lot of things in the community and made a big difference. We wanted an identity as a hard-working, kind of tough team that people can identify with.”

Ewen recalled one of his first functions as a Mighty Duck, an organization he had told his agent during the summer of 1993, fresh off Montreal’s Stanley Cup victory over the Los Angeles Kings, that he had no interest in joining. Ewen and Grimson went on a radio show in an effort to reach out to potential fans.

“Stu and I did an interview on the radio the first day I came into town, and it was quite funny because we were getting some unbelievable questions, like ‘What’s the name of that thing that cleans the ice?’ Just bizarre questions,” Ewen said.

“A year later, and this goes toward everybody in Anaheim, we did the same show a year later at the same time, and they’re like, ‘Why aren’t you on the diamond formation on the penalty kill?’

“Did everybody go to school? It just took off. They just brought us in as a family and really gave us the support.”


The task of building a competitive team was made slightly easier for Ferreira, McNab, assistant GM Pierre Gauthier, and Director of Hockey Operations Kevin Gilmore because of two key changes the NHL had made for this round of expansion. The first was the rules of the expansion draft, and the second was the Mighty Ducks’ and Panthers’ first two Entry Draft positions.

“The biggest difference was the expansion draft,” Ferreira said. “When I started the San Jose team, each team could protect two goaltenders. When we came down here to Southern California, the expansion rules were that each team could protect one goalie. That was significant because it’s your most important position, especially when you’re an expansion team.

“When we came down to Southern California, there was Guy Hebert and Ron Tugnutt, there was more to pick from. We had also drafted Mikhail Shtalenkov, but our plan was that we were going to let Tugnutt and Guy fight for the No. 1 job, have Mikhail be down in San Diego for half a year and then come the middle of the year we would try to trade one of the two goalies, whichever one didn’t win the job. Try to get a player, which we did. We ended up getting Stephan LeBeau (from Montreal for Tugnutt).

“When Mikhail came in, with Mikhail and Guy, the goaltending was pretty much solidified for the five years that I was the general manager there. We never had a question who was going to play goal. The players didn’t care if it was Guy or Mikhail, so that was pretty special thing to have. It all started because each team could only protect one goalie so there was a bigger pool to choose from.”

Unlike the previous Entry Draft, in 1992, when expansion teams Tampa Bay and Ottawa picked No. 1 and No. 2, the NHL added a twist for the Mighty Ducks and the Panthers in 1993.

“The NHL did it perfectly in my opinion the one year we came in to play,” McNab said. “Our franchise wasn’t granted until March of 1993. Usually it’s an entire season. When we came in, we picked 4 and 5, whatever the reason was. There were teams having miserable years anyway, they didn’t want to throw us ahead of them. Usually they pick first.

“For our first two years, with us and Florida, they had a coin flip and the winner got to pick either fourth in the 1993 and second in 1994 or fifth and first. But you were guaranteed to pick 1 or 2 after your first season.

“What happens with a lot of expansion teams is you need a bad year or two to get an influx of pretty good players.

“We picked fourth in 1993, and that’s when we got Paul Kariya. Going into the 1994 season we knew we were picking second. And we knew both Florida was going to pick first. Both teams could try to win and we still were going to pick first and second. It gave a certain sort of feeling.

“It wasn’t like you said at the trade deadline, ‘We’ve got to lose here. We have to help our draft pick. Winning some games and finishing with the seventh-best record doesn’t help us.’ We could just try to win every game. We had 33 wins, Florida and us. Two very good seasons. It was a great way to go. It helped the teams.”

Kariya joined the Mighty Ducks for the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season and immediately made an impact on the club.

Two of the other top-5 picks from that 1993 draft would make their presence felt later in the Ducks’ history.

Hartford, under the direction of Burke, selected defenseman Chris Pronger with the second pick, and Florida took forward Rob Niedermayer one pick after Kariya. Niedermayer later would be acquired at the 2003 trade deadline and would team with Kariya to help the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup Finals berth. Burke then put the finishing touches on assembling the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup Champion team with his acquisition of Pronger during the summer of 2006.


In Guy Hebert and Mikhail Shtalenkov the Ducks had a goaltending tandem that was not only good for an expansion team, but any team in the NHL. After Tugnutt’s trade to Montreal, either Hebert or Shtalenkov was in net for every Ducks game but eight from 1994 through the 1997-98 season. The team’s goals-against average was below 3.00 in three of those five seasons and very close to it in a fourth.

“It was Guy and Mikhail. I can’t forget Mikhail because Mikhail was the perfect backup guy,” Ferreira said. “He worked his butt off. He was one of the hardest workers on the team, and he had a great ability to come in cold.”

The good-natured Shtalenkov could not believe his good fortune of making the NHL in California.

“I was a guy from Russia, and I’d only heard about California. When I came here in ’93 I didn’t expect to find things how they were,” he said. “I wondered how is it possible to play hockey when there is sunshine all the time?

“It was very important to me that they drafted me. They gave the chance to play in the NHL, the best league in the world. I have real good memories about everything – the team, California, the people around town and at the games.”

A chance set of circumstances led to Hebert landing in Anaheim. Fired by San Jose at the start of the 1992-93 season, Ferreira was scouting for the Canadiens when he saw Hebert, who played in only 37 NHL games over two seasons before coming to the Mighty Ducks.

“What Guy brought was really stability,” Ferreira said. “When you talk about a player that was now going to be given a chance. He was the backup to Curtis Joseph in St. Louis, and that previous season I was working with Montreal, and we were going to make a trade with the Blues. I went and I followed St. Louis for about five games. Cujo was hurt and Guy played three games. So I got to see him, and he played well. So when it came time for expansion, we were looking for a goalie, we jumped on Guy.

“It’s crazy how things work in this game because Cujo got injured and I was there at the right time. He gave us stability from Day 1. The goaltending was always stable between those two guys.”

Hayward’s broadcasting job allowed him to watch every Mighty Ducks game in person. His job as goaltending coach and 11 years of NHL experience between the pipes lent added insight to the netminders.

“Guy was a revelation,” Hayward said. “Ron had been a guy who had played a lot of games with Quebec. Guy was kind of an unknown quantity. He was Curtis Joseph’s understudy and barely played. He came in and did a real nice job.

“There was one year where start to finish – might have been the third year of the franchise – I thought Guy Hebert was among the top 10 goaltenders in the NHL, and that’s saying something for a guy who is breaking into the league with an expansion franchise.

“A lot of teams had passed on him at that point. That’s really saying something. It’s a credit to Guy. He turned himself into a real good goaltender.”

That would come as no surprise to Ewen, who briefly played with Hebert in Peoria, the St. Louis’ International Hockey League affiliate, and practiced with him during off seasons in St. Louis.

“The consistency of Guy Hebert is what made him who he was,” Ewen said. “I knew he was a consistent goalie. I never had to question whether he was going to make the stops he had to. And he’s just a great person. I was very optimistic with him in net.”

Hebert’s impact on his understudy cannot be underestimated either.

“Guy was a great goalie and just a great partner to be with in the net,” Shtalenkov said. “Inside the room and as a person, I respect him a lot. He was playing more than me, but he took time to help me. When something bad happened, I was there to help him.”


Both the Mighty Ducks and Florida Panthers won 33 games during their expansion season. To put that into some perspective, it took the San Jose Sharks (a ’91 expansion team) three seasons to win as many games and seven seasons to do it twice. Among the ’92 expansion clubs, it took the Ottawa Senators six seasons to win as many games and the Tampa Bay Lightning four seasons.

“We won 19 road games that year. We had 33 wins. If we had one more win, we would have made the playoffs because they changed the playoff rules that year, and previously it was the first four in each division made the playoffs,” Ferreira said. “We finished fourth (in the Smythe Division), the Kings finished fifth, but then they changed the format to the winner of each division got in and the next six were by points. Well, Winnipeg had two more points than we did and they made the playoffs instead of us. Still, it was kind of satisfying for us to win 33 games.”

As rewarding as that first season was, more good things were in store for the franchise in the coming seasons.

Wading through data

During my “down time” I’ve taken to re-reading chapters I’ve written for Palm Trees and Frozen Ponds and scanning the interviews I’ve conducted over the past 5-6 years, and I’ve concluded many of you I’ve spoken to are right — that is A LOT of information.

So I’ve reached the conclusion that the first book needs to focus on youth hockey and the influences for its growth. So yeah, the pros will be covered to some extent, but not in the comprehensive manner I’d originally thought. That is a different dragon to slay.

So while I’m sure Stanley Cup-winning coaches Darryl Sutter and Randy Carlyle have compelling stories to tell. I KNOW men such as Buddy McKinnon, Ludi Graf, Jeff Turcotte and James Gasseau (among hundreds of others) do.

And that’s really the point — honoring the players, coaches AND PARENTS who made the growing youth hockey trend what it is today.

So we press on! Thank you for your patience and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

A side note: Graf, now 82, recently retired and U-T San Diego ran a nice story on his career.

Californians at NHL Prospects Camps

The hockey season doesn’t end, it just goes through different phases. At least that was the impression I got from talking to the two California-born and -trained prospects selected in June’s NHL Entry Draft recently.

Gracious though they were, it was clear Thatcher Demko (2nd round, Vancouver) and Chase De Leo (fourth round, Winnipeg) were craving a bit of a break. They won’t say it but who could blame them.

Demko played well into April, helping lead Boston College to the Frozen Four despite the youngest player in NCAA hockey this season. He emerged as the Eagles’ starter in net as the season wore on and stayed there with impressive results (16-5-3, 2.24 GAA and .919 save percentage).

De Leo and the Portland Winterhawks advanced to a Game 7 against eventual Memorial Cup champion Edmonton in the WHL finals. De Leo played a big role in the Winterhawks’ success, racking up 81 points (including 39 goals) in 72 regular-season games and adding 19 more points in 21 playoff games. And he had a plus-49 rating and was solid in the circle.

At the end of May, it was on to the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto. Then, the bubbly had barely dried on the Kings’ second Stanley Cup in three seasons when the draft rolled around in late June.

Within two weeks, most NHL teams held their prospect camps. Here is a partial (I hope mostly complete) list of Californians who participated. Bear in mind, the state has a large number of players who are established in the American Hockey League and those guys usually don’t attend prospects camps these days.

Western Conference

Ducks – F Nic Kerdiles, D Scott Savage, F Chase Souto and F Brian Williams

Comment: I watched one of their scrimmages and was thoroughly impressed with Kerdiles’ play (2 goals, 1 assist, involved in every facet) as well as that of Savage (who attended as an undrafted invitee). Kerdiles (2nd round, 2012) left Wisconsin after his sophomore season to sign with the Ducks and fared well in an AHL cameo at season’s end. Savage was a BC teammate of Demko’s and was the Eagles’ second-highest-scoring blue liner as a true freshman. He made plays and was a physical presence. Williams flashed elite skating and hands, and given his smaller stature (5-8, 175) was also engaged physically, particularly in the offensive zone. Williams scored 36 goals in the WHL, and someone has to give him a chance in the pros. I did not see Souto play unfortunately.

Sharks – F Matt Nieto, Savage

Comment: Interesting that San Jose would have Nieto, who had 24 points and played 66 games in the NHL, at summer camp, but he has only played 20 games total in the minors so perhaps they thought more experience was necessary. … And yes, Savage attended TWO prospects camps, something that is not unusual for college free agents.

Kings – F Patrick Newell

Comment: Nice move by the champs to invite a former Jr. King to prospects camp. Newell is a St. Cloud State commit who scored 43 points in 59 games for Clark Cup champion Indiana of the USHL.

Chicago – F Fredrik Olofsson, F Nolan Stevens

Comment: The Blackhawks picked Olofsson, who skated as a Mite and Squirt for the Santa Clara Blackhawks, one pick before the Jets took De Leo in the fourth round (98th overall). Stevens is a former Jr. King who has committed to Northeastern.

Minnesota – D Gustav Oloffson

Comment: Fredrik’s older brother, a 2013 second-round pick, signed with the Wild after one season at Colorado College.

Vancouver – Demko (see above)

Winnipeg – De Leo, G Eric Comrie

Comment: Comrie (2nd/2013) came back strong from hip surgery during the 2012-13 season to go 26-25-9 with a 2.57 GAA and .925 save percentage for Tri-City of the WHL. He and De Leo are close friends and former LA Selects teammates.

Eastern Conference

Detroit – F Mitch Callahan

Comment: The needle is pointing way up for the 2009 sixth-round pick. He made his NHL debut this past season and played a well-rounded game for Grand Rapids of the AHL, scoring 26 goals among his 44 points. His coach told me a few months back he trusts him in every situation.

Florida – F Rocco Grimaldi

Comment: Derailed by a knee injury his freshman season at North Dakota, Grimaldi was stellar the past two seasons, scoring 36 and 39 points. The highest drafted of any of these prospects (33rd overall in 2011), Grimaldi joins a rebuilding franchise that is intent on working in its prospects.

N.Y. Islanders – G Blake Weyrick

Comment: Surprisingly not selected in the entry draft despite being ranked as high as third by NHL Central Scouting (mid-term). Like Nieto, Grimaldi, Kerdiles, Demko and Stevens, he came up through the USNTDP program. He de-committed from Brown and could play for Tri-City of the USHL, which holds his rights.

Philadelphia – G Merrick Madsen

Comment: Like Demko and Weyrick, Madsen is another tall (6-4) goalie. He spent this past season with Minot of NAHL and has committed to Harvard. The guess here is Philly will let him take his time to develop.

Tampa Bay – F Adam Erne

Comment: A 2013 second-rounder, the former LA Select got a taste of the AHL with Syracuse after scoring 62 points in 48 games with Quebec of the QMJHL. He is part of a large stable of talented forwards in the Lightning organization.

Washington – D Garrett Haar

Comment: A 2011 seventh-round pick, Haar played this past season with De Leo on Portland and had 45 points in 61 games after spending two seasons at Western Michigan. Let the pro apprenticeship begin.

One notable prospect who did not attend a camp, and it’s likely due to his contract status is forward Chase Balisy, who completed his eligibility at Western Michigan but apparently had not signed with Nashville, which drafted him in the sixth round in 2011. He could become an unrestricted free agent in August through a loophole Ducks fans (Justin Schultz) are painfully familiar with.