Emerson Etem, C/LW Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Born: June 16, 1992 in Long Beach, California
Scouting report: Blazing wheels and a scorer's touch are what put him smack dab in the middle of the first round as a classic high-risk/high-reward prospect, because overall game is still very much a work in progress.
Strengths: Comes from a family of elite athletes and high-level competitors. Explosive skater who ignites the ice surface when he takes off, getting up to top gear instantaneously and able to back defenders up with his pure speed. Strong on his skates; uses his low center of gravity and strong legs to maintain puck possession even when opponents get a piece of him. When it comes to offense, he's all go-- loves to take the puck and not afraid to shoot it from just about anywhere. Extremely effective at shooting off the rush; will accelerate into the offensive zone with the puck and unleashes a laser that goalies have a tough time picking up. Wrist and snap shots are NHL-caliber already-- he wires them off the blade of his stick quickly and can put the shot anywhere he wants it to go. Embraces the role of go-to guy on offense; wants the puck on his stick and isn't afraid to play aggressively and take chances in order to generate scoring opportunities. A hard-worker who progressed rapidly from roller hockey player in SoCal to legtimate ice hockey prospect because of his willingness to make sacrifices and keep moving up the ladder of elite competition. Intelligent and mature; wants to succeed and has challenged himself at high levels of play enough to earn a first-round grade.
Weaknesses: Has average height and may not have much more growth left in him. Not as agile or good laterally on his skates as he is in a straight line. Defensive game is not very polished at this stage and he'll have to show some dedication to improving in that regard. Some scouts feel he has some bust potential in the NHL because he doesn't handle the puck particularly well, nor does he do enough away from the puck to engender the confidence that he can take a regular shift when the game is close.
Style compares to: Phil Kessel, Marian Gaborik (Etem)
Draft prediction: 16th overall to Ottawa. Etem has a lot of boom potential (to go with the bust) and he's such a dangerous scorer that the Sens will likely snap him up here and have the confidence that he can work on his flaws enough to reach his potential. Other options for Ottawa: Nick Bjugstad, Mark Pysyk, Dylan McIlrath and possibly someone like Beau Bennett, but he'd admittedly be earlier than most have him. I also like Jaden Schwartz here, although some would say 16 is too early for the small, but very dynamic scorer who tore up the USHL with Tri-City this year. Etem could be the guy Boston grabs at 15, though. He doesn't have the size, but he has the speed, skill, character and blood lines that the B's tend to gravitate toward. He's a bit of a polarizing figure, but if you're into the high-reward types and aren't afraid of the potential to bust, then he's likely your guy in the middle of the opening round.
Projection: Etem's a first- or second-line scoring center (or maybe wing will suit him better in the pros) with 35-40 goal upside if the concerns about his hockey sense and defensive game are unfounded. Unlike another high-scoring Medicine Hat Tiger from the 90's who never made it to the NHL (Henry Kuster, who was Boston's second-round selection in the disastrous 1996 draft) Etem can skate and has the speed to burn that Kuster didn't. If he can get a little better on his edges and make tighter turns, then he'll be even more dangerous offensively. He's shown a willingness to work, so now he must prove that he'll address the other aspects of his game with as much gusto as he shows when taking off up the ice and ripping a shot past a hapless goalie (as he did in the CHL Top Prospects Game in the midst of what was a pretty quiet game for him otherwise).
Background: 8th-ranked North American skater on Central Scouting's final list. Born and raised in Long Beach, California. Started playing roller hockey at 3, by 6 was on ice. Outstanding athletic bloodlines run throughout his entire family: Parents are Rick and Patricia "Pat" Etem. Pat was a member of the 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic rowing teams (and rowed in four national championships), while Rick was on the U.S. Naval Academy rowing team. Older brother, Martin, (Syracuse University) got him into hockey and is a member of the U.S. national rowing team (23 and under). Older sister, Elise, is a junior (redshirted as a freshman in 07-08)rower for the Cal Bears (varsity) in the NCAA (she also competed on the swim team in 07-08) . Played minor hockey with Jason Zucker in the Los Angeles Hockey Club. Close friends with Chase Balisy ('10 draft prospect and NTDP member) and Matt Nieto ('11) from rollerhockey days at the local YMCA growing up. Left home at age 14 for Faribault, Minnesota and Shattuck St. Mary's. Joined the U.S. NTDP Under-17 team in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 08-09 before moving north to Medicine Hat. Named Medicine Hat's rookie of the year in 09-10 after scoring 37 goals and 65 points. Travels more than two hours by train to Venice Beach to work out with famous trainer T.R. Goodman as part of a group of NHL players (including Chris Chelios) in the offseasons. Favorite NHL team growing up: Los Angeles Kings Favorite NHL player: Ilya Kovalchuk
"I think Emerson Etem (Center- Red Line's 10th overall player for Nov.) is a real riser. He left the U.S. team to go to Medicine Hat of the Dub, and I thought it would take him a while to get used to the physical aspects of the WHL, but he's come through like a champ. He's scoring a lot of goals and competing hard, which is something I just didn't see him do a lot playing on the U.S. Under-17 team because he was more talented than a lot of the players he skated with and against. But, to his credit, he's been bringing a high effort level so far, and you're seeing it pay off for him on the scoresheet."- Red Line Report chief scout and publisher Kyle Woodlief to Bruins 2010 Draft Watch; November, 2009
"He's had a real quick adjustment. He really wants to be a player. He worked hard in the offseason so he's in great physical shape. He knew a lot about our league coming in. He studied it, he researched it, he knew what he was getting into. He's adjusted real quickly."- Medicine Hat Tigers coach Willie Desjardins to NHL.com; December 2009
“A 37-goal scorer with a good Medicine Hat team. He handles the puck so well at full speed. His crouch style belies his 6-foot stature. He looks smaller out there on the ice, but he's not small in productiveness. How about this -- he moved from Long Beach to Minnesota's Shattuck-St. Mary's to Medicine Hat, Alberta, all in the space of three developmental junior years.” - E.J. McGuire, Director of Central Scouting to NHL.com
"No real red flags with this guy, but enough yellow flags to make me wonder. I could live with the bad turns and somewhat soft play, but the overall hockey sense is the big concern for me. But 44 goals in 84 total games in his first stint in major junior is really hard to ignore. That kind of ability to put the puck in the net usually translates to the next level, but I can't reconcile the problems I see to the numbers on the stat sheet. In the end, this guy is going to go higher than where I'd consider him."- Red Line Report scout Mike Remmerde in his NHL Draft Notes blog; June, 2010
"I felt that I do want to make it to the next level, and the quickest way possible is playing in the Western league. This organization, I think it's going to help me a lot. It feels like everyone is watching here. It's a lot of pressure but I like to feel that pressure. I set high standards for myself."- Emerson Etem to NHL.com; December, 2009
"Yeah, I think I'm definitely a speed guy. I like to utilize my speed in all situations. I think I'm a great transition player. Through the neutral zone, I try to look for options, whether it's to go wide or drive hard at the net. I like also to just be around the net and bear down on chances that my linemates create. That's where I'm best is trying to put the puck in the back of the net and find places where I can do that. If I can choose one guy to model my game after, it would definitely be Marian Gaborik."- Emerson Etem to NHL.com
California Kid Etem Could Hear Name Called Early