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.

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.

 

 

 

NHL opportunities knocking

NHL.com (whether knowingly or not) highlighted two California hockey players who forever will be linked by their draft year (2010), their round (first) and their backgrounds playing for the now-defunct LA Hockey Club.

Forward Beau Bennett, taken 20th overall in ’10, is making a strong push to remain in the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, according the league’s website. Unfortunately, the story did not make the California connection, though plenty of other ones have.

NHL.com also weighed in on Emerson Etem‘s growing role with the Ducks, and make no mistake, it is growing. Interesting to read NHL Network analysts Kevin Weekes‘ take on working out with Etem when Etem was just 13. The accolades Etem receives for his work ethic are justified (as I’ve witnessed those workouts in Venice), as are the ones about his upbeat attitude.

That is something else Bennett and Etem, share – phenomenal, team-first attitudes and a truly grateful outlook for all the sport has given them (and undoubtedly will give them).

But they’ve got company from California this season.

In the past month, two defenseman have made their debuts and both will be profiled in the upcoming issue of California Rubber Magazine.

Matt Tennyson made his first NHL appearance on April 1 and has played three games, picking up two assists. Though he played just a few seasons for the San Jose Jr. Sharks growing up, his family now calls California home. Tennyson was part of a large group of players I affectionately termed the Cali-mazooans, who played for Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. That group included Brett Beebe, Garrett Haar, Chase Balisy, Dennis Brown, Robert Francis and J.J. Crew. Tennyson signed with the Sharks last spring and has spent most of this season in the AHL.

And lastly but not least is defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, whom I spoke to this week for a story. As with the other three, Ruhwedel was a delight to speak with. Unlike the other three, Ruhwedel jumped directly from college to the NHL through a whirlwind of events last week.

Consider that last Thursday (April 10), he was playing in the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh against eventual champion Yale. Less than 36 hours later, the smooth-skating defenseman was on his way to Buffalo for a physical, to sign his contract, get his gear and play in an afternoon game, which the Sabres won.

All of this for a player who spent exactly one season playing AAA hockey in California (for the Jr. Kings) and only a handful playing AA growing up in San Diego county.

This is the first time the state has had four players make NHL debuts in a single season, to say nothing of the fact that 40 percent of said season was lost due to a lockout.

Congratulations to these four!

Taking a closer look at California draft prospect Nic Kerdiles

When Nic Kerdiles was the final pick for California’s 2004 The Brick Invitational Tournament team the selection had a lot to do with his size and potential.

When an NHL club calls his name, most likely during the first or second round, at next month’s Entry Draft in Pittsburgh those will remain two appealing attributes, but the club will get a much more refined version of the young man who was exclusively a roller hockey player until 2003.

“Nic has developed about as far as anyone could,” said Louis Pacella, his coach for six seasons with LA Hockey Club/LA Selects. “When he started it was always about what he could be, not what he was.”

Fast forward to the present and the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Kerdiles (Irvine) progressed to the point where he led the U.S. National Development Team Program in scoring this past season with 48 points in 54 games. That figure included team highs in goals (22), assists (26) and power-play goals (seven).

Kerdiles, who was ranked the 29th North American skater in NHL Central Scouting Service’s final pre-draft rankings, capped his USNTDP career by helping Team USA to its fourth consecutive gold medal in the World Under-18 Championships in the Czech Republic in late April. The University of Wisconsin-bound forward saved his best for last, scoring two goals and adding three assists in the 7-0 gold-medal triumph over Sweden.

Team USA dominated the field, outscoring foes 27-4 despite having fellow draft prospect Stefan Matteau ruled ineligible because he had not played hockey for two consecutive full years in the United States.

“He’s obviously a good player,” Kerdiles said. “I knew I needed to produce and play well, better than I have all year.”

Kerdiles, who comes from an extremely close family, had additional motivation at Worlds. He played with a heavy heart after the recent passing of his paternal grandfather, who was scheduled to join Nic’s parents, one of his older sisters, an aunt and a cousin in the Czech Republic.

“That was a big part of why I played so well – I had him looking over me at the World Championships,” he said. “My grandpa had done so much for me. I wished he could have seen me, but our entire family has grown even closer.”

And Kerdiles redirects credit to his parents, Michel and Nathalie, as quickly as he would a point shot headed toward an opponent’s net.

“They have great work ethics and they have sacrificed so much for me,” Nic said. “That’s where I get it from. This is a way I can thank them for all they’ve done.”

What they and his sisters, Marine and Mailys, have done is instill a team-first attitude, Pacella said.

“All of them sacrificed to help him; he has a great support system at home,” Pacella said. “They are very loyal to their son.

“It’s not easy being a Tier 1 hockey player in Southern California, but they just supported Nic so he could develop physically. He didn’t spend a lot of time in private lessons. He spent more time working in the weight room and practicing.”

Whether his strong finish to the season and his labor to get stronger impact his placement in the draft remains to be seen, Kerdiles decided early on that giving himself a chance to play hockey at the highest levels was his goal.

“I’ve thought about it ever since I started playing,” he said. “My Pee Wee AAA year I started to play a bigger role and we had a real good season. By my Bantam AAA year a lot of good things (including interest from the USNTDP and major colleges) started happening.”

Watching the NHL Entry Draft in person at Staples Center and seeing good friend Emerson Etem selected in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks only steeled Kerdiles’ resolve further.

“That’s when I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty special,’” Kerdiles said. “That pushed me to work harder.”

And that has caught scouts’ attention.

“The first thing I noticed this season was he has gotten bigger and stronger,” said an NHL amateur scout. “He’s always had good vision and offensive awareness with the puck. Now he has the body to go with that ability to create on the rush and off the wall. You saw his production at Worlds.

“He has the ability to slow things down and shield the puck while he makes his reads. And he doesn’t quit after he moves.”

That Kerdiles’ game has a mature feel to it shouldn’t come as a surprise, Pacella said.

“I used to kid him that he was 14 going on 40. It’s a credit to his parents,” the coach said. “He never got involved with crap that other teen-agers did. He didn’t have to be Mr. Popular in the locker room because he was very focused.”

Now rewind eight years and it’s not hard to see why Kerdiles was an appealing choice for the Brick team.

“One thing that stood out was how hard he worked,” Pacella said. “He was always smiling on the ice, having fun. He made it to the point we couldn’t not take him.”

Come this weekend in Pittsburgh an NHL club no doubt will feel the same way.

Zucker, Tennyson leave college early to sign NHL deals

Just days after their respective college teams were eliminated from the NCAA hockey tournament, two players with California ties have signed their first NHL contracts.

Forward Jason Zucker, a 2010 second-round draft pick of Minnesota’s, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Wild and is scheduled to make his NHL debut Thursday night, according to the Star Tribune.

Zucker is a former LA Selects player who has spent two seasons at Denver University, where he was the WCHA’s freshman of the year in 2010-11. Prior to that — and after playing for the Selects — he spent two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Meanwhile, defenseman Matt Tennyson (Pleasanton) reportedly has signed with the San Jose Sharks, foregoing his final season of eligibility at Western Michigan University.

Tennyson, who played youth hockey for the San Jose Jr. Sharks, had 11 goals and 13 assists this past season for the Broncos. The goals were third most on WMU, which won the CCHA tournament. He was a second-team all-CCHA selection.

Zucker, who was captain of Team USA in this past winter’s World Junior Championship, had 22 points and 24 assists for 46 points this season for the Pioneers, who reached the WCHA final in addition the NCAA tournament. He was a second-team all-WCHA pick for the second consecutive season.

Congratulations to both as they take this next step in their hockey careers.

 

What about Californians in college hockey?

We like college hockey – a lot actually – here. Covering the college and junior A versions of hockey is where I got my start.

Here is a conference-by-conference capsule look at some — but by no means all — the projected impact players from California in the NCAA Division I game. This was to accompany a November story in California Rubber Hockey Magazine about the large group of Californians at Western Michigan University this season.

Atlantic Hockey – RIT Sr. G Shane Madolora was a second-team All-American last season, when he went 17-3-7 with a 1.93 goals-against and DI-best .935 save percentage. …  Sr. F Nielsson Arcibal (Vista) is American International’s captain and was fourth in scoring on the team a season ago. … Jr. F Kyle De Laurell (Mission Viejo) was third in scoring for Air Force last season and leads the Falcons early this campaign.

CCHA – So. F Brett Mohler (Yorba Linda) was second on Bowling Green in scoring as a freshman. … So. C Chase Balisy (Rancho Santa Margarita) is Western Michigan’s top scorer, while three D from the state – Jr. Matt Tennyson (Pleasanton), So. Dennis Brown (Cypress) and Fr. Garrett Haar (Huntington Beach)– anchor the blue line.

ECAC – Sr. D Corbin McPherson (Folsom) is one of Colgate’s captains this season.

Hockey East – So. F Matt Nieto (Long Beach) is one of Boston University’s top scorers, while Jr. D Max Nicastro (Thousand Oaks) is one its top blue liners. … Jr. F Dalton Speelman (San Jose) is counted on for scoring by New Hampshire. … So. D Kyle Bigos (Upland) – one of the biggest players in the league at 6-5, 235 – is a shutdown defenseman for Merrimack.

WCHA – Denver So. F Jason Zucker (former LA Select) was selected the league’s preseason player of the year, while North Dakota Fr. F Rocco Grimaldi (Rossmoor) was projected to be the conference’s rookie of the year. … So. F Beau Bennett (Gardena) was among top scorers in ’10-11. … So. F Matt White (Whittier) led Nebraska-Omaha freshman in scoring last season. … Jr. D Joe Marciano (Alta Loma) was voted Colorado College’s most improved player last season.

A few notes … Grimaldi is near a return after sustaining a knee injury early in the fall. … Bennett underwent wrist surgery this past week, and he is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. However, a couple of those will be during the Christmas break, so his games lost won’t be what they could be. … Zucker will represent Team USA at the World Jr. Championships for the third consecutive year. Emerson Etem (Long Beach) will join him for the second year in a row.

Hockey season is back …

And I’ve decided to keep this blog going.

I had considered posting everything at palmtreesandfrozenponds.com, but I’ll keep that for the hockey book.

After a season on the fringe, I’m back covering grass-roots hockey in California, and I’d like to share a few items that I’ve already submitted for October’s issue of California Rubber Hockey Magazine.

There are a lot of Californians in NHL camps as I type, including a handful who never were drafted but are trying to make the leap from either college or juniors this season.

Three have caught my attention: forward Jon Parker, forward Kyle MacKinnon and defenseman Kevan Miller.

Remarkably, Parker slipped under a lot of teams’ radar, but not the Buffalo Sabres, who invited him to camp then watched him score four points in four games in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. Parker piled up the points in his third season of the WHL, tying for fifth in goals (45, with Long Beach’s Emerson Etem) and tying for 13th in points (86, to lead all players from the state).

The Solana Beach native came up through the La Jolla Jaguars, San Diego Gulls and LA Selects, where he spent three seasons being coached by Jeff Turcotte.

MacKinnon (Walnut) is one of the rare players who could finish college and play pro hockey without needing to fill out a change of address card. He was a co-captain at Providence University before signing with the Providence Bruins and scoring three points in the AHL Bruins’ final five games. Primarily a center, he scored 71 points during his college career.

Both MacKinnon and Miller are in the Boston Bruins’ main camp.

Miller, whom I’ve written about in the past, was a captain at the University of Vermont the past two seasons, and he established a reputation as a tough, reliable defender. He didn’t miss a game in his college career until his senior season, and like MacKinnon, he played a few games in Providence at the end of the season.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Three Californians win gold with U.S. U-18 team

A trio of California-born hockey players helped Team USA win the gold medal in the World Under-18 Championships in Crimmitschau, Germany, over the weekend.

Rocco Grimaldi (Rossmoor) had two goals and six assists in Team USA’s four preliminary games and two playoff games — a 5-4 semifinal victory over Canada in overtime on Saturday and a 4-3 overtime victory over Sweden in the gold-medal game.

Grimaldi played for the California Wave and was coached by Jack Bowkus.

Adam Reid (Chino Hills) added two goals. He is a former LA Selects player mainly coached by Igor Nikulin.

He and Grimaldi are ’93 birth years and are  NHL Entry Draft eligible in 2011 and both are projected to be taken in the first three rounds. Reid has committed to play college hockey at Northeastern, while Grimaldi signed with North Dakota.

Nic Kerdiles (Irvine) was playing up with the U18s after spending much of the season on the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 team. He chipped in two assists.

He also is a former LA Selects player and was primarily coached by Louis Pacella. He is draft eligible in 2012 and has committed to Wisconsin.

The gold medal was the third in a row for Team USA, an unprecedented accomplishment for USA Hockey at the U18 level. Grimaldi was part of last year’s championship team.

It also bodes well for future U.S. World Junior Championship teams. Team USA has won consecutive medals in that prestigious event for the first time ever (gold in 2010, bronze in 2011).

Nine California prospects on THN’s radar

The Hockey News’ annual Future Watch issue (which features Kings prospect Brayden Schenn on the cover this year) is a must-read for those wondering what their team’s future looks like.

I also enjoy scouting it for Californians viewed as up-and-coming players by the magazine’s panel of experts. Each of the 30 teams’ top 10 prospects are profiled, but the real selling point is who are the top 50 overall prospects.

There are nine players with ties to California listed among the 300 (1o for each of the 30 teams) in the publication, and one — Beau Bennett, a 2010 first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins — in the top 50. I have not gone back and compared how those number stack up to years past, but it would make for an interesting study.

Bennett, who just finished a strong freshman season at Denver University, was ranked No. 46 overall and the Penguins’ top prospect. Fellow 2010 first-round pick Emerson Etem was rated No. 57 overall and was slotted as the Anaheim Ducks’ second-best prospect.

Other prospects “ranked” by their respective teams included:

Calgary Flames — C Mitch Wahl was No. 8. Wahl struggled through an injury-plagued season, but with the Flames up against the salary cap and needing an infusion of youth, the former California Wave and LA Jr. Kings prospect should go into camp with some sort of shot at a roster spot next fall.

Colorado Avalanche — C Mark Olver was No. 8. A one-time Wave player, Olver had 40 points as a rookie in the AHL and also scored during a brief call-up to the Avs.

Nashville Predators — D Jonathon Blum was No. 2 (I did not count him in the overall totals because he is in the NHL to stay at this point).

New York Islanders — RW Rhett Rakhshani was No. 5. He tied for the rookie scoring lead in the AHL with 62 points, had four points in the AHL All-Star Game and made a two-game NHL appearance.

Minnesota Wild — C Casey Wellman was No. 4 and LW Jason Zucker was No. 6. Wellman also battled injuries but posted 35 points in 42 AHL games and played in 15 games for the Wild. He’s considered a strong bet to stick in Minnesota next season. Zucker might have been Denver University’s best player as a freshman, posting 45 points in 40 games, and he again shone at World Juniors.

Phoenix Coyotes — LW Viktor Tikhonov was No. 5. The former San Jose Jr. Shark seemed to find his game in the AHL this season, getting 33 points in 60 games. The Coyotes have said they rushed him to the NHL after being a first-round pick in 2008.

I’ll take a look at other players from California whose rights are owned by NHL teams in the next post.

A closing note: inclusion is no guarantee of anything. And the turnover of prospects is quite high year-to-year. Just a few years ago, one would have seen Brett Sterling, Brian Salcido and Gabe Gauthier among the Thrashers’, Ducks’ and Kings’ top prospects. Sterling signed with the Penguins last summer and has played some in Pittsburgh, Salcido played in Europe this past season and Gauthier suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and only played a few few ECHL and AHL games.

Book update and a few bits on 2011 California draft prospects

One question I’m asked from time to time about the hockey book is did you talk to (fill in the blank)?

Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes it’s I plan to. And other times it’s no.

As I’ve worked on the history of the state’s pro teams (Kings, Seals, Sharks and Ducks) and the beginnings of youth hockey, there have been people I’ve tried to contact who for whatever reason would not respond or when when reached declined to comment. Given that the book encompasses the history of the game in California and the whole idea is to promote what’s been done, what’s being done and what possibly could be done, it can be frustrating.

However, there have been more than 350 people associated with the game at all levels who have talked with me — many at length and many multiple times. So my approach has been to focus on what I’ve discovered and press on in those other areas. Regardless, this will be an exhaustive and informative work.

Nice story on NHL.com today about Shane McColgan of Manhattan Beach. McColgan, who played for LA Hockey Club and the LA Jr. Kings, is one of three very highly ranked 21011 draft prospects from California. He was runner-up in voting for the WHL’s Rookie of the Year a season ago and one of the Kelowna Rockets’ leading scorers. It’s likely he will hear his name called during Round 1 of the NHL entry draft in June.

And he could be joined by fellow forwards Matt Nieto of Long Beach and Rocco Grimaldi of Rossmoor. Nieto, also a former LA Hockey player, is playing his freshman season at Boston University after two years in the U.S. National Team Development Program. Grimaldi, who committed to North Dakota over the summer, is playing his second season in the USNTDP program. He played for the California Wave until his family relocated to Detroit when he was 12. He helped Detroit Little Caesars win multiple USA Hockey Youth National Championships during that four-year period.