Californians dot NHL prospect camp rosters

Summer is a great time to go camping, particularly if you’re a hockey player. Several young players with ties to California made appearances NHL development camps in the past month or so.

Some, like Austin Ortega and Collin Delia, went to multiple camps. Most are NHL free agents, but a few were draft picks.

Here is the rundown by player of who went where.

Delia, coming off a sophomore at Merrimack College in which he went 8-12-6 with a 2.96 goals-against average, attended the Anaheim Ducks’ camp as well as the Chicago Blackhawks’ a few weeks later. The 6-foot-2 net minder is from Rancho Cucamonga and played for OC Hockey Club, the California Wave, Stars and Titans.

Ortega, who will be a senior at Nebraska-Omaha, led the NCAA in game-winning goals for the second season in a row, with eight (one season after bagging 11). He went to camp with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Escondido native, a former San Diego Jr. Gull and LA Hockey Club player, has 37 and 36 points in his past two college seasons.

Goaltender Thatcher Demko, a 2014 second-round pick of the Canucks, was in camp with Vancouver after being selected a Hobey Baker finalist after his junior season at Boston College. He posted an NCAA-best 10 shutouts and won 27 games for a Frozen Four team. His gas was 1.85 and he stopped nearly 94 percent of the shots he faced.

Fellow goaltenders Merrick Madsen and Ryan Ruck also went to camps.

Madsen, a 2013 pick by Philadelphia, was again at Flyers camp, but this time the Acton native and former California Heat player went on the heels of a stellar sophomore season at Harvard. Madsen went 18-7-3 with a .931 save percentage and a 1.99 gaa to go with his four shutouts.

No goalie in NCAA hockey may have been hotter than Ruck in the second half of his freshman season, when he went 19-2-2 to help Northeastern make a run into the NCAA Tournament. Ruck, from Coto de Caza and a former net minder for OC Hockey Club and LA Hockey, attended St. Louis Blues camp.

Tyler Moy, a Harvard teammate of Madsen’s, went to Nashville’s camp. Moy had 19 points during his junior year and was a 2015 draft pick of the Predators.

Defenseman Alec McCrea, like Moy and Demko a former Jr. Gull, went to Winnipeg’s camp. McCrea had an outstanding freshman season at Cornell, leading Big Red blue liners in points with 15.

Ortega was joined at Kings camp by former LA Hockey and Medicine Hat and Portland (WHL) standout Miles Koules, who played in the ECHL this past season.

Former LA Hockey forward Dennis Kravchenko of Laguna Niguel, who put up 28 points of Massachusetts as a sophomore, went to Calgary’s camp one summer after attending the Ducks’.

Forward Robby Jackson, who had 10 goals as a freshman for St. Cloud State, went to San Jose Sharks camp near his native Oakland. Jackson played for Santa Clara, LA Hockey and the Jr. Kings growing up.

Defenseman Scott Savage, who will be a senior at Boston College and who scored a career-high 18 points this past season, attended New Jersey’s camp.

A handful of players with ties to California clubs also made appearances.

  • Forward Nolan Stevens, a one-time Jr. King, joined his college teammate Ruck in Blues camp. St. Louis selected him in June’s Entry Draft.
  • Forward Josh Wilkins, a former Jr. King, attended Hurricanes camp in his native North Carolina.
  • Goalie Evan Sarthou, a Washington native who played for LA Hockey and the LA Jr. Kings and now plays for Tri-City of the Western Hockey League, went to Arizona’s camp.
  • Power forward Adam Erne, who played two seasons with LA Hockey but is from Connecticut, was in camp with Tampa for the fourth year in a row. Erne was a second-round pick of the Lightning in 2013.

But the best prospect camp story of the summer hands-down belongs to Savage’s former LA Hockey teammate Trevor Moore. Moore not only attended Toronto’s prospect camp but played so well that the Maple Leafs signed him to an entry-level contract before his senior season at the University of Denver. Moore, an All-American in 2014-15, had 44 points to help the Pioneers reach the Frozen Four.

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Pacific Districts leftovers – LA Selects edition

The LA Selects sent three of their AAA teams to the Pacific District regionals this past weekend, and while the Pee Wees and Bantams advanced to the USA Hockey Nationals, I wanted to start with the 16U team.

Coach Sandy Gasseau‘s squad lost a heart-breaking semifinal to the Alaska Wolves, 4-3, in quadruple overtime in a game that ranks with the most exciting I’ve watched at this level during the past four seasons. The Selects had several chances to win it, particularly early in multiple overtimes, and ultimately outshot Alaska, 46-34, in the semifinal.

The Selects, who got second-period goals from Ethan Somoza, Stefan Malmlund and defenseman Kyle Mitsunaga (who led the team with three goals and four points for the tournament), qualified for districts as the CAHA State champion. After two round-robin victories, they lost to the rival LA Jr. Kings, 3-0, to set up the semifinal against Alaska.

At State I had a chance to ask Gasseau about his team, and he told me the season had been an unpredictable journey. He had several players playing AAA hockey for the first time and wasn’t sure how they would adapt. He saw improvement throughout the campaign, despite the loss of captain Ryan Schlerf for more than half of the season due to a severe concussion.

The Selects’ 16s deserve a lot of credit for what they accomplished and the heart they showed.

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After the Selects’ Pee Wee 99s won the Elite Division of the Quebec International tournament, adding a district title would be no sweat, right? Not exactly.

The Jr. Kings led the Selects, 4-3, with 2 minutes to play only to see Brannon McManus tie and Vanya Lodnia, who was the MVP of the Quebec tournament, win it on a power-play goal just 11 seconds into overtime.

The Jr. Kings had taken a 4-3 lead with 4 minutes to play in regulation on Justin Ferrall’s second goal

“They’ve come through all year. This is a pretty resilient group,” Selects coach Shawn Pitcher said. “Never at any time did I feel they were in panic mode. They just kept plugging away.”

The Jr. Kings jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Casey Rhodes and Ferrall before the Selects rallied to go up 3-2 on strikes by McManus, Lodnia and Jake McGrew. The Jr. Kings tied it going into the third period on Nick Castro’s power-play goal.

“We knew (the Jr. Kings) were going to be hungry; it’s our rival,” Pitcher said. “Give the Kings credit, they didn’t give up.”

Meanwhile, the Selects’ Bantam 97s topped the Jr. Kings, 6-0, in the final to cap a weekend in which they outscored their foes, 35-4, and earned their first Nationals trip.

Robby Jackson led the tournament in points, while linemate Ty Comrie topped it in goals.

“Jackson was spectacular,” Selects coach Rick Kelly said of the center, who has nearly 200 points this season and is considered the top U.S. prospect on the West Coast among 97s. “I don’t think there is a player out there who wouldn’t have good chemistry with Robby. He is that good.”

Goaltender Evan Sarthou allowed just one goal all weekend.

“He was the MVP,” said Kelly, who has led numerous teams to Nationals. “It’s hard to spot the goalie when you win by wide margins, but he was just phenomenal. We started slow in our first game and he made one big save after another. He was the game-saver.”