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Etem Alive in Syracuse

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Adam Brady

After scoring an incredible 61 goals with Medicine Hat of the WHL, Etem is trying to make his impact with Syracuse.
When Emerson Etem was sent back to his junior team in Medicine Hat coming out of Ducks camp last September, he hardly looked at it as a disappointing demotion.

Instead, he relished the chance to reunite with teammates he had played with since he was 17 years old, and proceeded to turn in a season for the ages.

The 19-year-old winger scored 50 goals in his first 50 games (watch the 50th) and went on to lead the Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) in goals with 61 in 65 contests. In doing so, he became the first WHL player to score 60 goals in a season since 2000-01, when Swift Current’s Layne Ulmer scored 63 goals in 68 games.

Etem, a native of Long Beach drafted by the Ducks 29th overall in 2010, had seven goals and six assists in seven playoff games with Medicine Hat, including a five-point game on March 24 and a hat trick on March 27 in the first round vs. Saskatoon. While while the Tigers were swept in the second round by Moose Jaw, it hardly marked the end of Etem’s season. He was almost immediately summoned to the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse, where he scored a goal in his second game with the Crunch and helped them lock up a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Crunch finished the season with an astounding 15-3-1-1 run that locked up a seventh seed and a first-round meeting with the St. John’s IceCaps that starts Friday.

After a Tuesday afternoon practice in Syracuse, Etem took some time to reflect on his incredible season and what’s to come for him.

What are your thoughts on this season in Medicine Hat?
I got off to a hot start and I just kind of kept going. I think I had 25 goals in 15 games, and I just really wanted to keep playing a consistent game and shoot the puck a lot. I really wanted to stay at or above a goal per game, and I ended up getting pretty close to that, so I was really excited.

How much did 60 goals mean to you?
It definitely meant a lot to me. My linemates Hunter Shinkaruk and Dylan Bredo did a great job all year of creating open ice for me, so hats off to them. They did a great job as well this year. 

That 60th goal was an empty-netter (watch the 59th and 60th), and you were able to grab the puck right away.
"The guys have been really good to me since I’ve been up here. There are older guys there, but they took me in as a younger guy and kind of showed me the ropes. It’s been really good here. They’ve been very good for the last 20 or 25 games, so it’s great to come on with a close-knit group of guys."
Yeah, that was cool, and I put that in with like 0.3 seconds left on the clock, so that was a close one.

Is there a goal from this year that stands out for you?
Well, I think 10 of them were game-winners. So if I can go back and be close to remembering how each one of them were, they were big goals in crucial games, so those are pretty special.

What was your feeling when the Ducks sent you back to juniors out of camp in September?
It was exciting, actually, to be back with all the guys that I had been with since I was 17. I’m excited to go back to Medicine Hat every year. Obviously you want to play in the NHL and do it soon, but at the same time when you can go down to juniors and develop, and be with guys you’re close with, it’s really fun.

What did they tell you when they sent you down?
They told me I needed to work on the defensive side of my game, stop-start, none of the big curls anymore, and finish all your checks. Those were my goals for the year, and I try to do that every game.

Did you feel like you wanted to go down there and dominate at that level?
Exactly. I actually used the word “dominate” quite a bit this year. Through mental preparation, it was all about dominating. I just wanted to go back to juniors and prove that I was ready. The most important thing is consistency all year, and I think I did that.

What was your reaction when you heard you were being sent to Syracuse for the playoff push?
It was bittersweet because I had to leave all the guys to come over here. It was tough, it being my last year in juniors, and being knocked out of the playoffs like that. But at the same time, the Crunch were in a playoff push and I wanted to help them out. It was tough, but now we’re in the playoffs, so it’s back to fun again.

A Little More on Etem

Favorite Spot in Southern California
17th Street pier in Huntington Beach

Favorite SoCal Restaurant

Favorite Player Growing Up
Pavel Bure

Best Movie You’ve Seen Recently
Contraband with Mark Wahlberg

Music You’re Listening to Lately
A lot of ska and reggae. Bands like Revolution, Iration, The Expendables
Were you pretty welcomed in by the guys there?
For sure. The guys have been really good to me since I’ve been up here. There are older guys there, but they took me in as a younger guy and kind of showed me the ropes. It’s been really good here. They’ve been very good for the last 20 or 25 games, so it’s great to come on with a close-knit group of guys. That’s the biggest thing, you can tell they’re really close. Now we’re trying to make a playoff push, so it’s really exciting.

Were you nervous that first game in Syracuse?
I was really nervous. It was my first professional game, and I was trying to make an impact right away. I put a lot of pressure on myself, especially the first period. But after that, I felt like I was able to keep up skating-wise, so it was good from there.

Which Ducks do you talk to the most?
Definitely Devante Smith-Pelly. He’s a buddy of mine from when we were growing up playing summer hockey together at 12, 13, 14 years old. We text back and forth, we tweet each other quite a bit. He’s a close friend.

What’s your feeling going into next year’s camp?
My summer training and preparation for camp is going to be more intense than ever. I’m definitely going to try and make their decision tough, but I’m not thinking about it too much right now. Right now my focus is on the Crunch and the playoffs.

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