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.


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



Pacific Districts leftovers – LA Selects edition

The LA Selects sent three of their AAA teams to the Pacific District regionals this past weekend, and while the Pee Wees and Bantams advanced to the USA Hockey Nationals, I wanted to start with the 16U team.

Coach Sandy Gasseau‘s squad lost a heart-breaking semifinal to the Alaska Wolves, 4-3, in quadruple overtime in a game that ranks with the most exciting I’ve watched at this level during the past four seasons. The Selects had several chances to win it, particularly early in multiple overtimes, and ultimately outshot Alaska, 46-34, in the semifinal.

The Selects, who got second-period goals from Ethan Somoza, Stefan Malmlund and defenseman Kyle Mitsunaga (who led the team with three goals and four points for the tournament), qualified for districts as the CAHA State champion. After two round-robin victories, they lost to the rival LA Jr. Kings, 3-0, to set up the semifinal against Alaska.

At State I had a chance to ask Gasseau about his team, and he told me the season had been an unpredictable journey. He had several players playing AAA hockey for the first time and wasn’t sure how they would adapt. He saw improvement throughout the campaign, despite the loss of captain Ryan Schlerf for more than half of the season due to a severe concussion.

The Selects’ 16s deserve a lot of credit for what they accomplished and the heart they showed.


After the Selects’ Pee Wee 99s won the Elite Division of the Quebec International tournament, adding a district title would be no sweat, right? Not exactly.

The Jr. Kings led the Selects, 4-3, with 2 minutes to play only to see Brannon McManus tie and Vanya Lodnia, who was the MVP of the Quebec tournament, win it on a power-play goal just 11 seconds into overtime.

The Jr. Kings had taken a 4-3 lead with 4 minutes to play in regulation on Justin Ferrall’s second goal

“They’ve come through all year. This is a pretty resilient group,” Selects coach Shawn Pitcher said. “Never at any time did I feel they were in panic mode. They just kept plugging away.”

The Jr. Kings jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Casey Rhodes and Ferrall before the Selects rallied to go up 3-2 on strikes by McManus, Lodnia and Jake McGrew. The Jr. Kings tied it going into the third period on Nick Castro’s power-play goal.

“We knew (the Jr. Kings) were going to be hungry; it’s our rival,” Pitcher said. “Give the Kings credit, they didn’t give up.”

Meanwhile, the Selects’ Bantam 97s topped the Jr. Kings, 6-0, in the final to cap a weekend in which they outscored their foes, 35-4, and earned their first Nationals trip.

Robby Jackson led the tournament in points, while linemate Ty Comrie topped it in goals.

“Jackson was spectacular,” Selects coach Rick Kelly said of the center, who has nearly 200 points this season and is considered the top U.S. prospect on the West Coast among 97s. “I don’t think there is a player out there who wouldn’t have good chemistry with Robby. He is that good.”

Goaltender Evan Sarthou allowed just one goal all weekend.

“He was the MVP,” said Kelly, who has led numerous teams to Nationals. “It’s hard to spot the goalie when you win by wide margins, but he was just phenomenal. We started slow in our first game and he made one big save after another. He was the game-saver.”