When right winger Emerson Etem was drafted in the 1st round of 2010 NHL Entry Draft (29th overall), the most frequent description of the right winger was that he was fast. When he showed up to camp that year, he showed Anaheim why. This year, he has done what seemed impossible and has gotten even faster.
Last year Etem showed potential, but also looked like he had a ways to go before making it to the NHL. His speed was astonishing. When he got the puck in open ice, he was gone. However, he had trouble getting past the tight-checking NHL defensemen he faced in the preseason. As a result he took more than a few punishing hits, though he got up from each one no worse for wear.
After being sent back to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the CHL, Etem set his mind on improving his physical game. He finished more of his checks, played more in the dirty areas in front of the net, and even ended the season with his first fight.
At this year’s conditioning camp, his work and his experience were noticeable as he appeared to take on a leadership role in the camp. He skated hard every shift, once again displaying his blazing speed. Etem has a distinguishable, unorthodox skating stride that is easy to notice. His upper body is crouched and leaning far forward, allowing his powerful legs to propel him with speed. Last year it led to him being run roughly into the boards by defenders, but this year the young forward displayed much better agility and puck control, allowing him to get around defenders.
It should be noted that the scrimmage was played 4-on-4, lending more open ice to Etem’s bread and butter style of play. The scrimmage was also lacking in physicality and Etem was playing against the younger White team, so it is hard to judge from this performance how he will fare against NHL-caliber defensemen in a game setting.
However, there is no denying Etem’s talent, which seemed to be at a higher level than his fellow prospects. Etem ended the scrimmage with two goals, including a very impressive between-the-legs move to get around defenseman Tim Heed and cut to the net before tucking the puck between goalie Iiro Tarkki‘s pads. He also has a mind for getting open in putting himself in great scoring areas. He worked hard throughout the scrimmage to open himself up for one-timers and rebound opportunities. After dominating in the CHL with 45 goals and 35 assists in just 65 games, Etem has developed experience and confidence that made him stand out at the conditioning camp.
It will be very interesting to see how he performs at the Ducks’ main camp when he is playing among elite NHL players. For Etem, it is either the NHL or back to Medicine Hat, as he is ineligible to play for the AHL due to his young age. Another year of dominating in the OHL would be beneficial to the winger’s development, but it would also be exciting to see him crack the NHL lineup as soon as possible.
Etem is effective in all three zones: he is quick to backcheck, has incredible speed through the neutral zone, and is deadly on offense. He is also defensively responsible, spending plenty of time on the penalty kill last year and racking up an incredible 9 short-handed goals and ending the season with a +41 rating. His speed, scoring prowess, and all-around game will be a welcome addition to the Ducks’ lineup, whenever that may be.