It's the holiday season and plenty of people are turning their attention to the great gifts they received this year. With a holiday theme, I have to talk about some of the best gifts NHL fans have seen so far this season.
The best gift the League has received is that all three California-based teams are playing great. It's had a great impact on the state from a business level but also at the grass-roots level. There are a lot of great, young minor-league players now playing in California. That talent in California has been spurred by the great performance from all three California NHL teams.
The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks have been so great this season that it's almost impossible to look at a major League statistic and not find a California-based player. At the Christmas break five of the top six players in plus/minus were Ducks: Hampus Lindholm, Francois Beauchemin, Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The only non-Duck in that group is another California-based player: Anze Kopitar of the Kings, who is tied with the Ducks' Dustin Penner for third at plus-20. Just about any category you look at right now there is a California-based player at the top. Look at 34-year-old Jumbo Joe Thornton, who leads the League with 35 assists at Christmas.
It's great for the League. And it's not only flourishing on one level in California; it's flourishing on every level. We're starting to see NHL draft picks who are California-born players. That state has 30 million people; Canada has 35 million. It just shows how great this can be for the game as a whole.