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

 

 

Kerdiles, Haar survive US WJC cuts

Forward Nic Kerdiles and defenseman Garrett Haar survived the first round of cuts Tuesday at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The former LA Selects were among four players with ties to California originally invited to the 45-man camp. Forward Adam Reid, also a former Select, was among Tuesday’s cuts, and forward Rocco Grimaldi, who played for the California Wave, did not attend the camp while he rehabs a knee injury.

Kerdiles (’94) was a second-round selection of the Anaheim Ducks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. The leading scorer for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s U18 squad last season, he will begin his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin in the fall.

Haar (’93) emerged as a force on the blue line for Western Michigan University last season after being a seventh-round selection by the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Entry Draft.

Reid (’93) is entering his second season at Northeastern University, while Grimaldi (’93) — a second-round pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2011 Entry Draft — will be a redshirt freshman at North Dakota after injuries limited his true freshman season to four games.

 

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).

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.