Ducks prospect Emerson Etem is attempting an unlikely journey from Long Beach to the NHL
Wednesday, 07.14.2010 / 4:14 PM / Features
|“The growth in hockey here is mind-blowing,” Etem says of his hometown. “When I started (playing) here, there wasn’t much to see. But now I’m back and I think I fit right in here. This is the most impressive organization I’ve ever been around.”|
Special to Anaheim Ducks.com
Mention the name “Jeff Spicoli” to Emerson Etem and you’ll see his face light up like Honda Center on game night.
Despite the fact that Spicoli, the lead character in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, hit the big screen a decade before Etem (pronounced EE-tem) was born, the Ducks’ 2010 first-round draft pick counts the movie and its hero among his personal favorites. And when you get to know Etem, it’s easy to see why.
In the film, Spicoli plays a legendary California surfer. In real life, Etem plays a Californian who surfs and hopes to become a legend. But that’s where the comparisons stop.
While it’s poetic that Etem has landed in Orange County given that this is the very territory where he learned to surf (he calls Anderson Street in Sunset Beach and 56th Street in Newport Beach his favorite places to shred), he’s returned to dominate water in a different form.
|Etem's Favorite Things|
How many spectacular athletes has Long Beach given us? Legends (Tony Gwynn, Billie Jean King), Olympians (Misty May-Treanor), local heroes (Tim Salmon), and champions (Willie McGinest). And with the emergence of the Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson, it appears that a new breed of Long Beach stars is upon us. Is Emerson Etem among them? It sure looks that way.
|“It’s been pretty hectic,” Etem said about his week at prospects conditioning camp. "I got the chance to go out to some of the roller rinks and tell my story."|
Etem left Long Beach four years ago, at the age of 14, to attend Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota. Why there? It’s simple: Shattuck-St. Mary’s has developed into something of a factory for elite NHL players, counting Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and New Jersey’s Zack Parise among its recent alumni. Last year, during his rookie season with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers (who play just to the southeast of Calgary), Etem led all rookies with 32 goals and was fourth among first-year players with 56 points.
Articulate, respectful, and interminably likable, Etem’s demeanor off the ice seems to sharply contrast his style on it. A right winger with explosive speed and a nose for the net, he possesses one of the most distinctive skating strides we’ve ever seen: flying up the boards, Etem hunches down and leans all the way forward, virtually willing his body to go faster.
“That’s the style of skating I’ve always used,” Etem says. “I keep a low center of gravity and I’ve really grown used to it. It helps me, and I’m definitely going to keep it in my game.”
It’s that promising game that boosted Emerson to as high as eighth on the NHL Central Scouting final ranking of North American Skaters going into the draft. And when he was somehow still available when Anaheim made its second pick of the first round at No. 29, the Ducks brass snatched him up in a hurry (delighting both Etem and the 100 or so supporters sitting with him in the stands at Staples Center). In doing so, the Ducks got what many experts felt was their second steal of the first round, along with defenseman Cam Fowler with the 12th pick.
|“That’s the style of skating I’ve always used,” Etem says. “I keep a low center of gravity and I’ve really grown used to it. It helps me, and I’m definitely going to keep it in my game.”|
Etem was among the most sought-after Ducks during last week’s prospects summer conditioning camp by both fans and media. He did numerous interviews following the workouts and three scrimmages held during the week and managed to fit in an appearance at the AAU Inline Hockey Junior Olympics at THE RINKS – Huntington Beach Inline.
“It’s been pretty hectic,” Etem admits. "I got the chance to go out to some of the roller rinks and tell my story."
It’s a story that’s already pretty intriguing. And if it ends with him wearing a Ducks sweater on a nightly basis, it’s even better.