With the likely return of Saku Koivu for Friday’s contest against the Calgary Flames, the Anaheim Ducks have assigned both Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.
With more players returning, it became a numbers game with Etem and Smith-Pelly, and with the roster space limited – and playing time even more so, it made sense to send your younger players to a place where playing time wouldn’t be a problem.
Drafted in the first and second round, respectively, of the 2010 NHL Draft, Etem and Smith-Pelly have had a hard time finding a consistent groove in their game, likely to the lack of playing time. Smith-Pelly was a healthy scratch in the Ducks loss to the the Dallas Stars, and according to head coach Bruce Boudreau it ‘was going to be Emerson’s turn’ next to sit.
For two prospects with so much upside, that’s not something that you want to do, especially with them struggling to find any consistency.
Etem scored 143-goals in his three year career with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, 45 of which came on the power play. This year Etem has one power play goal – and only averages 38-seconds of power play time a game. It’s hard to become the scoring threat that made him a first round pick in the first place if he doesn’t get the chance to play there, and with the star power above him on the depth chart – that wasn’t going to happen right now in Anaheim.
I wrote the kind of impact Smith-Pelly can have, and the strong stretch of games he played on the Ducks’ long road trip earlier in the season. But he hasn’t registered a point in five games and his only goal was the last day of October against the Boston Bruins.
Both Etem and Smith-Pelly have bright futures in this league, and spending some time in the AHL could help round out their games as they will get chances to play in roles they don’t in Anaheim. While short term the Ducks will miss Etem’s speed and the purely tenacious forechecking from Smith-Pelly, long term they will get a better return.