After a season where he led the AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals in scoring, Emerson Etem appears to be ready to participate in the NHL at a more consistent level than usual. Etem has been splitting time between the NHL and AHL for the last two seasons and this year in the minor leagues he started to manifest his talent to the Ducks organization, showing them that by producing the way he did, his game can hopefully be translated to the NHL level.
Etem was better than a point per game player in Norfolk last season, scoring 54 points in 50 games. At the pro level he recorded 11 points in 29 games. He began to show the Ducks that he was an encouraging young player in the 12-13 season when he played 38 of the 48 games that season and played all seven playoff games scoring five points in those seven games.
The NHL experience may have paid dividends to him. The season subsequent to 12-13 was when he recorded those 54 points in 50 games. And if you’re into analytics, Etem’s FF% in the NHL increased from the 12-13 season when he improved it from 46% to 49% (even strength).
The Ducks would love to see Etem translate his offensive game to the NHL to help provide secondary scoring for the team. It’s uncertain what his role will be with this Ducks team but what I would assume is that he will likely be a third liner to start the season. If he gets off to a good start, then we could see him in a top-six role. And with all the line juggling Bruce Boudreau is notorious for, we might even see him play alongside Getzlaf and Perry. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Etem is known for his speed and skill offensively. He has a knack for the net and loves to score goals. The other valuable part to his game that will be appreciated in the NHL is he can play very well from his off-wing (RW) as he is commonly a left winger. His versatility could come in handy when playing on different lines this season.
What he needs to improve on, however, is his physical game and the ability to use all of his 6’1 205 pound frame. Playing in a substantially physical Western Conference, the ability to play physical and use your big frame is crucial down the stretch of a regular season and playoffs. Especially with the way teams like the Kings, Sharks, Blues and Blackhawks play. Also, using his big body could help his offensive game expand even more.
What else could help him expand his game offensively? His surroundings. There are some different line combinations that he could be situated into. He might play with his buddies from the minor leagues, Rickard Rakell and Devante Smith-Pelly. Playing with the same players who were teammates with him in Norfolk could provide a continuation of chemistry that could be brought to the NHL.
All three of those players are in similar situations and stages of their hockey careers. This year all of them will be auditioning to play for a full season and if in fact they all play together, the familiarity of each others game could help all three of them translate their games to the NHL and help provide the Ducks with speed, some size and scoring.
Etem may also be on the fourth or second line to start the season. I highly doubt he will start the season playing with two of the best players in the world on the first line. If he’s on the fourth line he could help spread offense throughout the whole lineup and may improve his physical game by playing a fourth line role that would see him playing more physical situations. He could also play on a second line that may see him with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg and those players could help take his offensive game to a new level slowly throughout the season.
His versatility of being able to play both sides of the wing could help him play on any line and might give him an advantage over the other young players on the team trying to compete for a spot.
Etem is still only 22 years old and still has room to develop his game so if he starts the season in the AHL again, he could play his way up to the NHL and by the end of the season and going into the playoffs his confidence could be at a point where he is ready to help the Ducks down the stretch of the playoffs.
His current situation with the Ducks is very similar to the one of Tanner Pearson of the Los Angeles Kings who spent time in the AHL last year, lighting it up in the minors and then ended up as a full-time player in the playoffs for the Kings and was a significant part of their team, playing with Jeff Carter at the end of the playoffs.
The Ducks could do the same with Etem this season by placing him in the AHL for a short stint, allowing him to gain confidence and readiness for the NHL so when he is eventually called up to play in the NHL, he could be given an opportunity to play with Ryan Kesler depending on where his game was at.
He’s got a ton of offensive upside and the Ducks would love to see him take a huge step forward next year by translating his offensive game to the NHL level. Like any young player, he still has to make improvements. But if in fact he can take a step forward next season, then maybe the hometown Long Beach, CA., native can quietly be a big part of the Ducks success.
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