With the Kings playing both the Sharks and the Ducks in the playoffs, it’s clear California is a state to be reckoned with. Here’s how far the grassroots movement has come in the state.
The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks already have a Stanley Cup each under their belts and there’s a decent chance one of those teams will do it again this year. While actual California natives are scarce on those rosters (Emerson Etem being the exception, plus Matt Tennyson and Matt Nieto in San Jose), the state has started producing a wealth of talent.
But there is still no feeder team in the Golden State. I have long been an advocate of Division 1 college hockey coming to California and though there are off-ice obstacles involving funding, scholarships, rinks, etc., the talent is there already. In fact, I thought it would be fun to put together a depth chart of what a hypothetical Southern Cal or UCLA roster would have looked like in 2013-14.
For the record, this is all hypothetical, so players who left other schools early were included, as are major junior players. Because we don’t know what decisions they would have made if they had the chance to play NCAA hockey in their home state and more importantly, because I’m just having fun here.
What is important is how stacked this roster would be: California is churning out talent. Filling the schedule would be easy, because even as an independent, how hard would it be to convince Notre Dame or Michigan to fly out to L.A. in the dead of Midwestern winter? All the players below were either born and/or raised in California. Ian McCoshen, for example, moved to Wisconsin when he was still young and Joona Kunnas was born in Finland, but lived in Orange County and played high school hockey there before college. They are listed with their 2013-14 squads, or who they could have been playing for based on unused eligibility. Etem and Nieto for example, would both be seniors on this dream team, even if they left for the pros early in real life.
Beau Bennett (left University of Denver early for Pittsburgh Penguins)
Matt Nieto (left Boston U. early for San Jose Sharks)
Emerson Etem (WHL Medicine Hat Tigers)
Nic Kerdiles (Wisconsin; Anaheim Ducks pick)
Rocco Grimaldi (North Dakota; Florida Panthers pick)
Chase Balisy (Western Michigan; Nashville Predators pick)
Chase De Leo (WHL Portland Winterhawks, 2014 draft)
Matt Leitner (MSU-Mankato)
Miles Koules (WHL Medicine Hat Tigers)
Cory Kane (Ferris State)
Liam Stewart (WHL Spokane Chiefs)
Trevor Moore (University of Denver)
Adam Reid (Northeastern)
Shane Sooth (Northern Michigan)
Gabe Levin (University of Denver)
Chad Ruwedel (left UMass-Lowell early for Buffalo Sabres)
Ian McCoshen (Boston College; Florida Panthers pick)
Garrett Haar (WHL Portland Winterhawks; Washington Capitals pick)
Scott Savage (Boston College)
Joona Kunnas (UConn)
Wade Bennett (University of Denver)
Brandon Carlson (Alabama-Huntsville)
Thatcher Demko (Boston College, 2014 draft)
Eric Comrie (WHL Tri-City Americans; Winnipeg Jets pick)
Brendan Jensen (USHL Fargo)
2014-15 Recruiting Class: Nolan Stevens, Blake Weyrick, Nikolas Olsson
Roster updated based on reader input