Local Boy, All-Star Captain, CJ Stretch
Today we’re going to take a look at All-Star and local hero, CJ Stretch. Stretch is homegrown talent, coming from Irvine (okay, not IE talent, but So Cal talent). He is playing his third season with the Reign and has garnered the attention of the King’s organization as well as the Houston Aeros.
Stretch is not the biggest player on the ice (being just 5’11”), but he has the the talent to make his size not an issue. He plays the center position and has been developing his game on both sides of the puck. He can catch a charging player from behind to steal the puck and then bring it the other way. Once in the offensive zone, Stretch has the ability to score his own goal (he currently has 20 the season) or set up one of his wingers to score their own goal (his 30 assists are testament to that). While not looking to always deliver the crushing hit, he is not shy about throwing the body around if needed. Stretch is not known for his fighting (I’ve seen him in one fight, and we saw why he doesn’t fight) or his agitation skills, choosing instead to let his scoring speak for itself. Stretch spent his entire junior career with the Kamloops Blazers where he recorded 85 goals and 163 assists in 341 games. His scoring increased consistently from year to year, with is final two seasons being the best (29 goals + 57 assists & 30 goals + 51 assists). At the end of the 2009-10 junior season, Stretch signed with the Reign and scored his first professional goal in the only game he played.
Stretch resigned with the Reign for the 2010-11 season, playing 46 games while totaling 9 goals and 12 assists and rating a -8. Over the 2011 summer, Stretch was invited to the King’s training camp where development coaches gave him some pointers on growing his game (the King’s are stacked with centers, having six on their current roster, so they might not be CJ’s best option to advance). The 2011-12 season with the Reign saw him step into the role of first line center and respond accordingly. He played 45 games racking up 20 goals and 30 assists while rating a +9. Those who remembered him from the previous season saw a player more willing to go in the tough areas or take a hit to make a play. His improvement gained him a couple of call-ups to the Houston Aeros (they kept returning him for a game, then calling him back up). Stretch played a total of 23 games for the Aeros, picking up 6 assists and rating a +2 (whiel having one goal disallowed and scoring a game-winner in the shoot-out). The Reign made the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season that year. Stretch played in all five playoff games, picking up 1 goal and 3 assists while being an even +/-. So far this season, Stretch has picked up 21 goals and 24 assists while being a +19.
His play earned him a spot in the ECHL All-Star game where he was elected Captain of the All-Star team. His team lost the skills competition to the Colorado Eagles, but won the game 7-3. Stretch picked up one assist during the All-Star game and had a pretty sick goal during the skills competition.
Stretch has continued his trend of increasing his scoring each year and we expect that he will light the lamp quite a few more times if left with the Reign this year. We also would expect to see him called up when injuries in the NHL or AHL create opportunities.