Olympic hopes alive for trio of Californians playing in Europe
The NHL’s decision to not supply players for February’s Olympic Games in South Korea opened the door for a trio of California professional hockey players to compete for Team USA.
Defenseman Jonathon Blum and forwards Robbie Earl and Ryan Lasch (pictured) were part of Team USA’s squad that competed in the Deutschland Cup in Augsburg, Germany, from Nov. 10-12. USA Hockey used the tournament as one of its evaluation tools for selecting the Olympic team, which it is expected to announce in late December.
Each of the three is playing in Europe. Here is a closer look at each:
• Blum, a longtime California Wave player, is in his third season with Vladivostok Admiral of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. He was the team’s highest-scoring defenseman during his first two seasons. Blum, the highest-drafted Californian ever (No. 23 overall in 2007), played six seasons in the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild organizations, appearing in 110 NHL games. He was selected the CHL’s Defenseman of the Year in 2009 after racking up 84 points and going plus-53 for the Vancouver Giants.
• Earl, who played for the Bay Harbor Red Wings, Wave and L.A. Jr. Kings, is in his seventh season in Europe and third with Biel HC in Switzerland. He led Biel in scoring last season and was among the top 15 point-getters in the Swiss A League. A sixth-round draft pick (187th overall) of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2004, Earl spent six seasons in the Toronto and Minnesota organizations and played 47 NHL games. A U.S. National Team Development Program alumni, he was a member of Wisconsin’s 2006 NCAA championship team.
• Lasch played for the Wave and Yorba Linda Blackhawks and has piled up points at every stop in his eight-year pro career, capturing championships the past two seasons in Europe. The all-time leading scorer at St. Cloud State, Lasch helped Bern SC win the Swiss A League title last spring, one year after sparking Frolunda HC’s run to the Swedish Hockey League championship. He led the league in scoring last season and also led Finland’s top league in points in 2012.
— Chris Bayee
(Dec. 6, 2017)