2013 California NHL Draft prospects, mid-term

NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term draft rankings were released this week, and there are four players with ties to California who were listed: Eric Comrie, Adam Erne, Merrick Madsen and Trevor Moore.

There also were a handful of players who, in my opinion, were overlooked. It doesn’t come as a great surprise to me because the CSS rankings tend to trend heavily toward CHL prospects, usually at the expense of U.S.-born players in the USHL. More on that later.

Here are the four that CSS ranked:

Eric Comrie is the second-ranked North American goaltending prospect, and it’s not hard to see why he’s generating buzz that he could be a first-round pick come June. The 6-foot, 175-pound Comrie has a 20-14-3 record, 2.62 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage for a young, middle of the pack Tri-City Americans team in the Western Hockey League. The former LA Select is tied for fourth in wins, is seventh in save percentage and eighth in gaa in the WHL.

Left wing Adam Erne is rated 13th among North American skaters and is enjoying an excellent season with Quebec of the QMJHL. Erne scored a goal in Wednesday night’s CHL Top Prospects game, and leads his team in scoring with 54 points (20 goals and 34 assists) in 43 games. He’s also plus-9. He played two seasons of Bantam hockey for the LA Selects.

Left wing Trevor Moore is the 108th-ranked North American skater, and is enjoying a fine season with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. He leads the Storm in scoring, with 38 points (15-23) in 35 games and has been among the league’s top-10 or close to it in scoring all season. The 5-10, 175-pound Denver University commit also played for the LA Selects.

Merrick Madsen, who is playing for Proctor Academy in New Hampshire, checks in as the 34th-ranked North American goalie prospect. Madsen has committed to Harvard. Prior to going to prep school, he played for the California Heat, West Valley Wolves and Valencia Express. His mom is the Heat’s club president and his father coaches at the club.

The first three players on this list all were teammates for the Selects’ 95s, coached by Sandy Gasseau, Rick Kelly and Bill Comrie. A handful of their teammates also could gain some consideration, including USNTDP defenseman Scott Savage and Shattuck St. Mary’s center Max Becker. Savage has 5 points and is a plus-4 in 29 games for the national program, while Becker was third on SSM’s varsity with 48 points (12-36) through 38 games.

Three other prospects have generated a fair amount of buzz, and with good reason, yet none appear in the rankings, adding fuel to my belief of the CSS’ bias.

USNTDP goaltender Thatcher Demko has been very good this season, compiling a 13-5-2 record, 2.36 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 22 starts. He’s been even better in international competitions. He helped Team USA win the Four Nations Cup in November, with a .936 save percentage and a 1.67 gaa. The former San Diego Jr. Gull and LA Jr. King stands 6-4, and it is a head scratcher to me why he isn’t ranked when every coach and scout I’ve spoken with has raved about the Boston College commit.

Another goaltender who has had a very good first half to his season is former Orange County Hockey Club netminder Artt Brey, who started 12-0 for Dubuque in the USHL and had a 16-3-2 records midway through the season. The win total and his 2.11 gaa were tied for second in the league, and his .907 save percentage was in the top 10. He’s a ’94, and that in part explains his omission.

And Moore’s Tri-City teammate Garrett Gamez also has generated some buzz. The 6-foot, 180-pound DU commit had 10 points (6-4) with a plus-3 mark in his first 27 games of junior. He played for LA Hockey and OC Hockey.

Etem, McColgan, Maxwell headline California’s WHL ties in ’11-12

It’s too early to tell how the Anaheim Ducks’ offense will shape up this season, but should goals become scarce the Ducks might want to re-think sending California prospect Emerson Etem back to junior.

Etem (Long Beach) was a first-round pick in 2010 and a late camp cut this season. No one questions his speed or will to win, nor should they question his offensive ability after the tear he is on for the Medicine Hat Tigers thus far.

Etem was selected the WHL’s Player of the Week after scoring six goals and adding an assist in three games this past weekend. Through eight games, he has 13 goals, which leads the Dub by five. His 17 points (13-4) are one off the league lead.

Etem headlines a group of 17 players with California ties in the Dub this season.

The group is composed of two goalies (Kelowna’s Adam Brown, 91, and Tri-City’s Eric Comrie, 95); six defensemen and nine forwards.

By birth year, there are five 95s, two 94s, one 93, four 92s and five 91s.

Here is a team-by-team look at California’s prospects:

High-scoring left wing Tyler Maxwell (91), who attended training camp with the Minnesota Wild, returns for Everett. … Brown is joined in Kelowna by right wing Shane McColgan (93), a fifth-round pick of the New York Rangers in June’s NHL Entry Draft. McColgan has been a point-per-game player the past two seasons and performed so well at prospect camp that the Rangers invited him to their main camp. … Etem is joined by veteran defeneseman Matthew Konan (91), a previous invitee to Ducks camps, in Medicine Hat.

Portland’s roster includes left wing Tyler Parker (92), and defensemen Cody Castro (92) and William Wrenn (91), a 2009 San Jose Sharks pick who played for the LA Selects. Wrenn is the team’s captain. The Winter Hawks could have had a third California d-man, but Taylor Aronson, a 2010 third-round pick of the Nashville Predators, made Milwaukee of the AHL.

A third California native made Portland, center Chase De Leo, who like Comrie is part of a strong group of 95s from the state. That group also includes Tri-City center Brian Williams, Victoria left wing Taylor Crunk and Prince George defenseman Michael Mylchreest.

The 94s, who are eligible for next June’s entry draft, are Kamloops right wing Chase Souto and Spokane center Liam Stewart.

Other 92s in the Dub include a pair of defensemen, Tyler Vanscourt with Prince Albert and Brandon Underwood with Regina.

Next: A look at California’s NCAA Division I players

Selects’ Comrie, De Leo, Williams head to WHL

One of the bigger questions surrounding the LA Selects’ talented group of 1995 birth year players has been where would they end up playing after this season?

It has been a foregone conclusion among many California minor hockey observers that a slew of these players — who won USA Hockey National championships in 2008 and ’09 at the Pee Wee AAA and Bantam AA levels, won silver at Bantam AAA last year and reached the quarterfinals last week as part of the Selects’ midget minor squad — would move on after this season.

One day after returning from Nationals in Connecticut, forward Chase De Leo and goaltender Eric Comrie have decided to begin the next step in their hockey careers in the Western Hockey League. Both players are headed to the squads that selected them in the Bantam drafts —¬† Comrie to the Tri-City Americans and De Leo to the Portland Winterhawks. One week later, center Brian Williams also signed with the Americans.

Comrie and De Leo have made college visits — including to Denver University, which has strong ties to California — and De Leo was one of three Selects who attended the U.S. National Team Development Program evaluation camp last month in Ann Arbor, Mich. Defenseman Scott Savage, one of seven early commitments to the USNTDP, and forward Ryan Siroky also attended that camp.

A few observations on the trio:

Comrie is the one of the three best¬† young goaltenders I’ve seen in California during the past three years (John Keeney now of the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and Branden Jensen now of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants are the other). The bigger the game, the better Comrie seems to play, and nowhere was that more evident to me than at the 2010 Nationals tournament.

De Leo’s improvement this season was dramatic, and it coincided with him growing and getting stronger. He’s always good skating ability and a terrific release. Every time I watched him play he stood out.

Williams is simply the best skater I’ve seen come out of California in recent memory. Though still a bit on the small side (5-foot-9, 160 pounds), his poise with the puck and his wheels make him almost unhittable.

Savage, whom I write about in April’s issue of California Rubber Magazine, will head to Ann Arbor for the next two seasons and then possibly right to Boston College, which he has verbally committed to.

All four are ones to watch going forward.

Eight more players from CA are WHL Bantam picks

Last Thursday, the WHL held its annual Bantam draft, and eight players from California were selected.

The one that most people will talk about, and rightly so, is goaltender Eric Comrie, who has been the backbone of a very, very strong LA Selects 95s team for several years. Comrie was outstanding at the recent USA Hockey Nationals and will have no shortage of opportunities to further his career. Given his family’s ties to Edmonton (his father Bill founded The Brick chain of stores) it’s not unreasonable to think he could land in the Dub.

What also was notable, at least to me, is some of the players who were not selected – specifically the Selects’ entire top line of Adam Erne, Ryan Siroky and Max Becker. In some cases, the families made it known their sons won’t play in the league. Every scout and coach I’ve talked to over the past year projects all three to be high-end players in Junior and possibly beyond.

You have to admire the Tri-City American’s approach. In addition to selecting Comrie, they picked teammates Brian Williams and Andrew Oglevie. I see a package deal as highly unlikely because linemates Williams and Oglevie strongly favor the college route.

One player who was drafted, San Diego Jr. Gulls defenseman Alec McCrea (by Regina in the 10th round), already has a relative (cousin, we think) in the WHL – forward Markus McCrea of Everett.