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.

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Many California hockey alumni updates

My Alumni Report on http://www.calirubber.com this week spotlights several college and junior players from the state who are rising up the scoring charts in their respective leagues.

Chief among them are Ryan Lasch, Rhett Rakhshani, Chris Margott, Casey Wellman, Laura Veharanta and Kristi Kehoe in the NCAA; and NAHLers such as Austin Block and Bryon Paulazzo and USHLers such as Brandon Richardson and Matt Leitner.

I also take a closer look at just how much of an impact Californians are making in the WHL (huge). Not only are players such as Colin Long, CJ Stretch, Cameron Cepek and Jonathon Blum contributing points, but those for in particular are captains or assistant captains for their teams. And they are far from the only ones making waves in Canada, others include Mitch Wahl, Shane Harper and Tyler Maxwell.

You can read the Alumni Report here or hop over to http://www.calirubber.come

California hockey alumni report for week of Feb. 2

In this week’s California hockey Alumni Report on http://www.calirubber.com,  I detail the impact of a handful of freshman on the college hockey scene, among them UMass’ Casey Wellman, MIT’s Kameron Klauber and  Providence’s Laura Veharanta. Read more about them here.

One thing that is becoming clearer and clearer is that not only are male players making an impact in college and juniors, but the female players are making huge strides as well. They’re not just playing, but in many cases starring at their programs and gaining noteriety in their conferences and beyond.

Californians also continue to make inroads in the junior leagues as well. This week, Northridge’s Austin Block was selected as one of the NAHL’s players of the week, and a quick scan of the WHL scoring leaders shows three Californians in the top 20 (CJ Stretch of Irvine, Colin Long of Santa Ana and Jonathon Blum of Rancho Santa Margarita).

California hockey alumni updates

This week my Alumni Report on http://www.calirubber.com focuses on California-trained hockey players in the NCAA Division I and Division III ranks.

Several men and women are leading their teams in scoring, and a few are among the NCAA leaders.

In the Division I women’s game, Northeastern sophomore F Kristi Kehoe (Bakersfield) and Providence freshman F Laura Veharanta (La Verne) lead their respective teams in scoring, and freshman F Paula Romanchuk (San Jose) tops Princeton in goals.

In the Division I men’s game, sophomore F Jason Krispel (Cypress) of Connecticut, freshman F Nielsson Arcibal (Vista) of American International lead their teams in scoring, and junior F Rhett Rakhshani (Huntington Beach) of Denver, junior F Ryan Lasch (Lake Forest) of St. Cloud State and freshman F Casey Wellman (Brentwood) of Massachusetts are second on their teams in scoring.

It also was a big week for pros from California.

Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks had a five-goal week and was recognized as the NHL’s Second Star of the Week. Forwards Matt Ford of the Charlotte Checkers and Tim Kraus of the Ontario Reign were selected to the ECHL All-Star Game.

Click here for the full report