Thursday, June 24, 2010

Time to Climb Aboard and Ride the E Train

It has been an interesting day so far in Los Angeles as the NHL gets ready for the Entry Draft on Friday and Saturday. Having missed last years, I had forgotten what I missed in skipping the event. It is one thing to watch a prospect perform in front of you using the scouting forms but when you get a chance to ask someone directly some key questions about themselves then it helps clear things up.

I got plenty of chances to talk with Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen during the year so I knew what they had to offer. Sadly they will not be there by the time the Rangers make their pick at 10.

Neither will Brett Connolly who I got to spend time talking to during a media lunch/greet the prospects session this afternoon. One can see why if not for injuries why Connolly was thought of as a Top 1-2 pick.

Connolly is not going to last past 5-7 not with the level of maturity he exhibited during the interview time. One thing that does seem to set top of the draft players from the rest is the way they handle everything including mass media sticking DVRs in their faces.

All of this leads to who I know believe is the perfect fit for the Rangers in Emerson Etem. Etem I knew as a teammate of Tomas Kundratek last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers so he was a known quantity to begin with.

As a player there is no question that he has the skill sets to become a star player in the NHL. A pure goal scorer which is exactly the Rangers need but when he gets praise from 2 people I have serious respect for then it helps. (courtesy of the draft card)

NHL Central Scouting Director E. J. McGuire

“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.”

Medicine Hat Tiger Coach Willie Desjardins

“Emerson is a great skater who opens up the ice real well. He is a real professional already. Everyday he prepares like a pro. His biggest strength is he wants to improve as a player. When you tell him something he is prepared to do it.”

But it was speaking to Etem today that sealed the deal as I listened to how he answered the questions thrown his way and learned of his hockey journey that took him from Long Beach all the way to Medicine Hat. As he has progressed up the next level of play his adjustment period was next to none.

Much has been made about Etem coming from an athletic family which does make sense since it did help develop his work ethic. Etem works out during the off-season with known workout fanatics Chris Cheilos, Mike Comrie and Mike Commodore.

Even better was discovering that while playing at Shattuck-St Marys; Etem was not only a teammate of soon to be Ranger Derek Stepan but was his linemate. When asked about the possibility of being drafted and getting to play with his old linemate Stepan; Etem just had a huge grin on his face and thought it "would be fantastic to play with Derek again"

But the other factors that play into why to stronger consider using the 10th pick on Etem is that he grew up in Long Beach so he knows how to handle living in a big city. Let us be honest being a young player in New York can be an intimidating experience so someone already used to being on the big stage helps.

That Etem is like Stepan a diehard hockey addict who works out like a fiend during the off-season also helps too because you have to consider his work ethic as one of his bigger strengths. When I asked him what he felt he needed to work on during this off-season; his response was "everything as I can always get better at what I am supposed to be doing".

One look at Etem also will sell you on him as I would love to see what his body fat content percentage is as of the 10 prospects on display for the media; Etem clearly had the best body of them. Unlike other prospects who you always have to say things like "needs to fill out his body" or "add to his upper body" there is not saying that with Etem.

But the final piece to the puzzle for me was how his mindset about being an NHL player is. Close my eyes and I thought I was talking to Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek, Michael Del Zotto, Stepan or Ryan McDonagh.

You do not teach someone to have a drive or fire and Etem has one that is burning inside him. He wants nothing else but to become an NHL player and he will be one; just hopefully like the Rangers.


Got an email from USA Hockey which pointed out the number of Americans taken in the first 2 rounds of the NHL draft. It is interesting to see how since 2002 the number of American born players has been in double figures and it will not be a surprise to see that trend continue.

Given  the major improvements of the United State's hockey program I would not be shocked if the record of 21 American take in the first 2 rounds (done in 2007) gets broken. The USA Hockey program is actually developing high quality prospects so I think if 25 Americans go in the first 2 rounds (I think 14 in the first can happen) then it will signal that America's investment in their hockey programs are paying huge dividends.


Don't forget to check out the live chat at Blueshirt Bulletin tomorrow during the first round as I will be reporting live from the draft floor and answering your questions.

(Etem courtesy of WHL/Medicine Hat Tigers/Marissa Baecker) 

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