Ducks fans clamoring to see some hockey showed up early at The Rinks – Anaheim Ice for an opportunity to see the club’s future on display.
|“I feel I’m a lot more mature,” Etem said. “I just try to set a good example and move my feet every time I get the puck. I feel a lot stronger and faster. All the guys are good out here and trying to make a statement.” |
Anaheim’s annual conditioning camp, where most of the club’s prospects gather, began on Thursday with the lone scrimmage of the six-day training program. Split into two teams, the group played two 25-minute periods of 4-on-4 hockey at the practice facility. At the end, the team headlined by 2010 draft picks Emerson Etem
(first round, 29th overall) and Devante Smith-Pelly
(second round, 42nd overall) skated to a 9-6 victory.
“Everyone is just trying to show what they have,” Etem said. “A lot of guys haven’t really been skating, so we were trying to get the legs going this first skate here. Everyone was excited and it was a lot of fun out there.”
Twenty-two players in all, from parts all over the globe, are attending the camp. Etem, a Long Beach native, had the shortest distance to travel of the bunch. Since his season (45 goals, 80 points) with Medicine Hat of the WHL ended, the 19-year-old has been back at his childhood home in Southern California.
Etem has been doing a lot of off-ice training in his time back home, working with TR Goodman at Pro Camp Sports in Venice Monday thru Saturday. The effects of that work and another year of hockey under his belt showed during the scrimmage. The right wing scored two of his team’s goals and showed good speed throughout.
“I feel I’m a lot more mature,” said Etem, who signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Ducks on May 19. “I just try to set a good example and move my feet every time I get the puck. I feel a lot stronger and faster. All the guys are good out here and trying to make a statement.”
Playing alongside Etem for much of the scrimmage was Smith-Pelly, who is just weeks removed from a deep playoff run with his own junior team, the Mississauga St. Michael Majors (2011 third-round draft pick Joseph Cramarossa
was also on that club).
|“I’m trying to take everything in and I’m learning from the strength and conditioning coach,” Smith-Pelly said.” I’m learning what it takes to get to the next level. I’m going to take that home with me, use it and come back in September ready to go.” |
Also in his second conditioning camp with the Ducks, Smith-Pelly (36 goals, 66 points with Mississauga) said he will soak up all the knowledge with an eye toward his next visit to Anaheim.
“I’m trying to take everything in and I’m learning from the strength and conditioning coach,” he said.” I’m learning what it takes to get to the next level. I’m going to take that home with me, use it and come back in September ready to go.”
Defenseman Justin Schultz
, a second round pick in 2008, is now in his third year at conditioning camp and said he gets a little more comfortable with each visit. With seasons like he had in 2010-11, Schultz could very well be staying in Anaheim permanently soon.
Schultz was arguably the best blueliner in college hockey last season with the University of Wisconsin. In 41 games with the Badgers, he led all collegiate defensemen with 47 points. His 18 goals were the most by a d-man since 2002-03. At season’s end, he was the only defenseman in the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (won by Andy Miele of Miami University).
“I had a great year,” Schultz said. “Whenever you can put points up like and have a solid year, your confidence goes up. I’m going to try to bring that to this camp and next year at UW.”
He decided to return to the college ranks next season instead of turning pro in an effort to gain even more experience and strength. When Schultz does finally sign on the dotted line of his first contract, he wants to be as prepared as possible.
“I just think another year and I will feel like I’m 100 percent ready to make the jump,” Schultz said. “The biggest thing for me is getting stronger during the summer in Madison. I’ll be working on my defensive game throughout the year.”
|“I had a great year,” Schultz said. “Whenever you can put points up like and have a solid year, your confidence goes up. I’m going to try to bring that to this camp and next year at UW.” |
The newcomers to conditioning camp this year are all seven of Anaheim’s selections from last weekend’s NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota. Rickard Rakell
, the club’s first round pick (30th overall) could not participate in the morning scrimmage because his equipment had not yet arrived. But that did not stop him from being at Anaheim Ice during the game and smiling throughout his talk with the media afterward.
“It feels very good,” said Rakell, who calls Sundbyberg, Sweden home. “Seeing what a normal day for an NHLer looks like makes you want to come get it. This is the first time I have seen palm trees for real. It’s great. Warm weather and playing hockey, it can’t get any better.”
Still a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, goaltender John Gibson
(drafted 39th overall) is the youngest attendee at the camp and was also in awe of his surroundings on the first day. Like all the prospects here until July 5, he is getting a small dose of what the future can entail in the NHL with the Ducks.
“This was a dream of mine,” said Gibson, who will play at the University of Michigan. “I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy it. Out here in California is a nice place to be. It’s a great organization. You can’t really ask for much better than that.”