Nine from California reach the NHL this season

Nine players with direct ties to California played in the NHL this season, and two – defensemen Brian Salcido (Anaheim) and Ray Macias (Colorado) – made their NHL debuts in 2009.

And there is an interesting connection between those two. Salcido’s father, Frank, has coached numerous youth hockey teams over the years in Southern California, and Macias’ mother, Helen, often served as his team manager with the LA Jr. Kings. The families are close, and both have plenty to celebrate this season.

Two other notable performances were by Anaheim rookie Bobby Ryan, who spent part of his early teen years in Southern California playing for the old El Segundo Regents and the Jr. Kings travel teams, and Islanders veteran Richard Park. Ryan led all NHL rookies in scoring (57) and goals (31) – both Ducks records – and is a favorite for the Calder Trophy, while Park scored a career-high 14 goals and wore an A most of the season on Long Island. Interestingly, both played major junior in the OHL.

Others in the league this season: Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios, who played Bantam and Midget hockey in San Diego; Toronto forward Ryan Hollweg, a product of the old Norwalk ice rink; Atlanta forward Brett Sterling, who played out of Pasadena; Dallas forward Landon Wilson, who played minor hockey in LA while his dad was a Kings assistant coach, and Dallas defenseman Garrett Stafford, who registered his first NHL points during his recall with the Stars. Stafford also played in LA against the Kings for the first time in early April.

For the complete rundown on the alumni’s seasons, visit calirubber.com

And thanks for making this month’s the highest yet for traffic (and we’re only half done!).

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Macias makes NHL debut

One day after Garrett Stafford played his first NHL game in Los Angeles, another Southern California alumni is set to make his NHL debut tonight for the Colorado Avalanche – defenseman Raymond Macias.

Macias, who has played most of the season for the Avs’ AHL farm team, the Lake Erie Monsters, was recalled Tuesday to replace injured defenseman Brett Clark. Macias, a Long Beach native, has 18 points and is a plus-6 in 38 games with the Monsters this season.

He joins Hermosa Beach’s Brian Salcido as Californians making their NHL debuts this season.

Los Angeles native Stafford, meanwhile, played almost 19 minutes and had three shots in the Stars’ 3-2 victory over the Kings. Stafford had two assists – his first two NHL points – on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

California hockey alumni update

My most recent California hockey alumni update is posted on http://www.calirubber.com

Please click here for the story.

Among this week’s highlights:

  • Numerous California natives are tearing up the ranks of NCAA women’s hockey, including Providence freshman Laura Veharanta of La Verne and Northeastern sophomore Kristi Kehoe of Bakersfield.
  • Bobby Ryan has been called up by the Ducks.
  • Defenseman Garrett Stafford of Los Angeles had a four-point week for Grand Rapids of the AHL.
  • And Tyler Maxwell of Manhattan Beach had a four-point game at Moose Jaw in WHL play.

Californians in the NHL and AHL in 08-09

The NHL and AHL seasons get in full swing later this week, and here is a list of players either born, trained or some combination thereof in the top two North American pro leagues.

NHL:

Atlanta – Left wing Brett Sterling made the club out of camp for the second season in a row.

Detroit – Defenseman Chris Chelios is back at age 46, but he’ll start the season on the injured list with a broken shin bone.

New York Islanders – Right wing Richard Park is in his second decade in the league with no signs of slowing down.

Toronto – Forward Ryan Hollweg has a new address this season after his trade from the New York Rangers.

The AHL ranks have expanded a bit from a year ago, but it would not surprise me in the least to see several of these players getting games in the NHL.

Grand Rapids – Defenseman Garrett Stafford is back even though he’s in Dallas’ organization instead of Detroit’s. The Wings are the primary affiliate of the Griffins. Stafford played his first NHL game last season for Detroit. He could get some more games if the Stars’ blue line experiences another run of injuries.

Grand Rapids – Forward Landon Wilson has several years of NHL experience and while he’ll bring experience to the Griffins, he can step in and help the Stars should injuries strike.

Iowa – Wing Bobby Ryan is in the AHL because of the Anaheim Ducks’ cap crunch, which is too bad after he had an outstanding camp.

Iowa – Defenseman Brian Salcido has a shot at getting his first NHL game this season. The Ducks’ carousel of veteran defenseman has the rapidly improving puck-mover in the minors … for now.

Lake Erie – Defenseman Raymond Macias is a likely fixture on the Monsters’ blue line after a good camp in Colorado.

Lowell – Forward Ryan Murphy is back with the Devils’ top farm team after going to camp in New Jersey.

Manchester – Forward Gabe Gauthier will be one of the Monarchs’ centerpieces this season, and given the parent club LA Kings’ youth movement, it would not be a surprise to see him get another NHL look at some point.

Springfield – Right wing Hans Benson spend has worked his way up to the AHL after stints in the CHL and ECHL. The Menlo Park-native brings plenty of toughness to the Falcons lineup and he played some preseason games for the Edmonton Oilers this year.

Toronto – Forward Robbie Earl was one of the Maple Leafs’ final roster cuts, and it’s a good bet he’ll be back up with the parent club this season, particularly if his defensive game rounds into form. Defense is a prerequisite to playing for new Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

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You can find my weekly report on California Alumni in hockey each Tuesday at www.calirubber.com

Training camp winds down

Several updates for you about Californians still in NHL camps as the exhibition season reaches its final weekend, and there is an interesting subplot as to why one player might have been sent to the AHL despite having a very good camp.

In Atlanta, left wing Brett Sterling is one of 17 forwards remaining in Thrashers camp. The Thrashers play back-to-back games this weekend to wrap up their preseason, and if Sterling demonstrates the scoring touch he did earlier in camp, when he had a two-goal game vs. the St. Louis Blues, he has a good chance to stick. …

In Toronto, forwards Robbie Earl and Ryan Hollweg are among 15 remaining forwards in Leafs camp. …As of this morning, it appears defenseman Garrett Stafford and forward Landon Wilson remain in Dallas’ camp. Stafford is one of 12 blue liners on the Stars’ roster while Wilson is one of 17 forwards. … Forward Ryan Murphy remains on New Jersey’s camp roster. …

The Thrashers’ opponent this weekend, Nashville, returned defenseman Jonathon Blum (Rancho Santa Margarita) to his junior team, the Vancouver Giants this week. Blum, the Giants’ captain, got in his first NHL exhibitions during camp. …

The Kings also sent center Gabe Gauthier (Buena Park) to Manchester of the AHL this week. There is a decent chance Gauthier could be the Monarch’s captain this season. … Colorado returned defenseman Raymond Macias (Long Beach) to Lake Erie of the AHL. …

And the Ducks’ sticky salary cap situation might have factored into why defenseman Brian Salcido was assigned to Iowa of the AHL on Monday, and why forward Bobby Ryan, who was expected to be a top-six forward in Anaheim this season, might join him. Check out this story from the Orange County Register.

California hockey weekend update

Left wing Brett Sterling (Pasadena) scored two goals for Atlanta in the Thrashers’ 9-4 preseason loss to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.

Weekend Notes

Defenseman Garrett Stafford (Los Angeles) assisted on Steve Ott’s third-period goal in the Dallas Stars’ 4-3 victory over St. Louis on Saturday. Stafford also played Sunday vs. the Chicago Blackhawks. … Defenseman Brian Salcido (Hermosa Beach) made his exhibition debut for the Anaheim Ducks on Friday in a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Salcido also played in Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Phoenix. … Ryan Hollweg (Downey) played and fought in both of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ games over the weekend. Hollweg, incidentally, is featured in a story on the Maple Leafs Web site.