Of the 48 American players selected in the 2022 NHL Draft, three are California natives. Center Zakary Karpa, a sixth-round selection of the New York Rangers, was born in Newport Beach, and came up through the US National Team Development Program. Both of the other two California-born players were not only born in San Jose, but played for the San Jose Junior Sharks program for several seasons.
Center Garrett Brown went in the fourth round (99th overall) to the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, that’s Brown as in Curtis Brown’s kid — his father was traded to the Sharks in 2004 and remained with the team through 2008, playing 128 games and tallying 15 goals, 18 assists and 72 penalty minutes. Now he can be seen on the local Sharks broadcast as a host for NBC Sports California. Garrett is his middle child, and he left San Jose in 2021 to join the Sioux City Musketeers, where he scored 4 goals and 12 assists in 62 games. He’s committed to the University of Denver for the 2022-23 season.
And if you were wondering, Curtis Brown’s oldest son Gage is 19 years old and played with the Anchorage Wolverines in the NAHL last season. His youngest, Griffin, is 15 and is playing with the Junior Sharks, putting up 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 41 games at the 14U level last year. Curtis previously served as head coach with the Junior Sharks program for three seasons between 2015 and 2020.
The San Jose Sharks may not have drafted the younger Brown, but they still snagged a former Junior Shark with their final pick of the draft at 217th overall. Forward Reese Laubach played around the same time as Garrett Brown, though he played in a higher level. He also left San Jose earlier, joining the Northstar Christian Academy in 2020 to play 18U AAA hockey for the last two seasons. Laubach made a brief appearance in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms, but has committed to Minnesota State University, Mankato to play in the NCAA Division I next season.
Though Laubach isn’t a nepotism baby, he’s still a product of the Sharks in a way. After his dad took him to his first Sharks game, he insisted to be enrolled in hockey. Born in 2003, Laubach says he was around 3 or 4 years old at the time, which would’ve made it likely that he watched the same team Curtis Brown was playing for, one regularly making it into the second and third rounds of playoffs.
The success of California hockey in the 2000s is felt in this group. Even Karpa is not immune — his father, Dave Karpa, played for the Anaheim Ducks for several seasons in the late 90s and maintained roots there until his twin sons were born in SoCal in 2002.
As hockey in nontraditional markets continues to thrive (or ... whatever it is that the Arizona Coyotes are doing), more of these hometown stories will continue to pop up through the league.