A sort of homecoming …

Just learned that two players from California and a third with a strong connection to the state will be in Anaheim and Los Angeles this week playing in NHL preseason games for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Center Colin Long (Santa Ana), a fourth-round pick of the Coyotes in 2008, will head back to the O.C. on Tuesday night and then head north to L.A. on Wednesday. Long finished his Western Hockey League career with stellar seasons of 100 and 91 points in 2007-08 and 08-09 before suffering through an injury-plagued rookie pro season in San Antonio (AHL). He had a respectable 37 points in 50 games for Las Vegas of the ECHL a season ago.

Forward Ryan Hollweg (Downey), a veteran of 228 NHL games who has spent much of the past two seasons in the AHL, also will dress for the Coyotes. Like Long, he played in the WHL.

The third is forward Brett Hextall, who is in camp with the Coyotes after three seasons at North Dakota. His father, Ron, is the Kings’ assistant general manager.

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Californians at NHL prospects camps

Several recent NHL draftees from California have been attending prospects camps during the past week, and several were noted on various team sites.

On the New York Islanders’ site, forward Rhett Rakhshani of Huntington Beach is mic-ed up for some of the scrimmage video highlights (Day 3). If one looks carefully, you can spot the Denver University product behind John Tavares on the camp opening page. Rakhshani, incidentally, has been selected DU’s captain for the upcoming season.

Forward Colin Long of Santa Ana is quoted several times throughout coverage of the Phoenix Coyotes’ camp on the team’s web site. Long served as captain for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League this past season, and the Rockets came within one game of winning the Memorial Cup.

The Edmonton Oilers have a nice video interview with defenseman Kyle Bigos of Upland on their prospects camp coverage. Bigos addresses a variety of topics, including winning the RBC Cup and his college choice of Merrimack.

And the Detroit Red Wings have a nice feature on forward Mitch Callahan on their site. Callahan went from being a walk-on player at Kelowna’s camp to a sixth-round draft choice in one year!

California juniors tearing it up

This week I take a look at four junior leagues – the BCHL, NAHL, USHL and WHL – where the most California players are located this season.

And Californians figure prominently in all four playoff races.

In the BCHL, the Vernon Vipers have five Californians on their roster as they battle for the Doyle Cup. That includes defenseman Kyle Bigos of Upland and forward Cory Kane of Irvine, both of whom are 2009 NHL Entry Draft prospects.

In the NAHL, Californians figure prominently in all four Robertson Cup quarterfinals. Forward Soren Jonzzen of Mountain View had four points in two games for St. Louis. Fairbanks forward Austin Block of Thousand Oaks also had four points in two games. Block, the NAHL’s leading scorer, recently decommitted from Air Force and figures to attract a lot of attention from recruiters.

In the USHL, Indiana forward Brandon Richardson of San Clemente racked up 10 points in a five-game, first-round series. Matt Leitner of Los Alamitos had six points in Fargo’s first-round sweep of defending champion Omaha. Several defensemen – Jake Newton of Lincoln, Loren Barron of Indiana and Darren Rowe of Simi Valley also had excellent first rounds.

In the WHL West Finals, Vancouver and defenseman Jonathon Blum of Rancho Santa Margarita is squaring off with Kelowna and center Colin Long of Santa Ana. Both players were all-WHL selections and have been drafted by NHL teams.

For more alumni news, visit calirubber.com

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 report

My latest alumni report on California hockey players is posted on http://www.calirubber.com

Click here to go right to the story.

Among the highlights:

California players – particularly Vancouver defenseman Jonathon Blum and Kelowna center Colin Long – continue to dominate in the WHL. And those two and others, such as Spokane’s Mitch Wahl, Kamloops’ CJ Stretch and Everett’s Shane Harper, have some company. Rookie Tyler Maxwell is scoring at almost a point-per-game clip.

Bobby Ryan’s return to the NHL has been very solid, and read how Richard Park helped sink the Canadiens.

Matt Ford got his first AHL goal last week.

All this and more … in one place!

Coyotes return Colin Long to Kelowna

The Phoenix Coyotes have returned center Colin Long (Santa Ana) to his junior team, the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

Long, the Coyotes’ fourth-round pick in June’s Entry Draft (99th overall), had been invited to Phoenix’s main training camp after their rookie camp.

Long came within one point of winning the WHL’s scoring title during the 2007-08 season.