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Fowler, Etem both hope paths end up at same spot

by Sergei J. Feldman /
One was born in Windsor, Ont., and raised in Michigan. The other was born, raised and figures to be spending many years in California.

And now, neither is in Kansas anymore -- instead, Cam Fowler and Emerson Etem, the Anaheim Ducks' first-round picks at the 2010 Entry Draft, find themselves in the heart of Southern California preparing for their first NHL action, at the team's development camp.

As different as their respective backgrounds are, their paths to the NHL have been equally as diverse.

Projected by most experts to be a top-10 pick at worst, Fowler, a highly regarded defenseman with the Windsor Spitfires -- NHL Central Scouting had him No. 5 on its final ranking of North American skaters -- spent the night of June 25 waiting far longer than expected, as he slipped to the 12th pick before hearing his name called by the Ducks. But rarely has anger transformed into jubilation as quickly as it did for the highly talented defenseman.

"Obviously, I was a little disappointed at first," Fowler said. "You hear people say where and when you're going to go and you wait and that's tough. But the Ducks are such a great organization. The smiles on all the faces when (I heard my name) said it all."

Not far from where Fowler sat at the Staples Center in Los Angeles sat Etem and his family, which made the short journey from his home in nearby Long Beach.

His projected destination had a slightly larger range than Fowler's -- Etem was No. 8 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking. But as the first round neared its end and Etem remained available, the Ducks flocked to the podium, called his name and got their steal.

"I didn't know when I was going to go," Etem said. "I just tried to keep an open mind. But there's no better place to play than for the Anaheim organization. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such high-class people and such a high-class organization."

Both players feel fortunate to be in the position they're in, and both are hanging their proverbial hats on different sources of motivation.

The dip in draft selection, for instance, lurks in the back of Fowler's mind as he starts his NHL career at development camp.

"I want to prove to everybody who passed on me that I can play this game," Fowler said. "It's kind of a chip on your shoulder. I had higher expectations. Now, the biggest thing is to be the best I can be for the Anaheim Ducks."

The biggest thing for Etem is representing California, a state traditionally unattached to the game of hockey, until now.

"(California) is not as popular as some of the other states like Minnesota or some of the East Coast states," Etem said. "But it's exciting to see the growth in hockey in California and I'm glad to promote the game any way I can."

That effort is under way.

"I got the chance to go out to some of the roller rinks (in California) and tell my story," he said. "It's been pretty hectic so far. I thought it'd slow down."

While the promotional tour very well might, the hockey side of things will only intensify. That's already been witnessed by both players.

"A lot of the guys haven't skated in a while and during the summer," Etem said. "The toughest is trying to get the legs back under me. Just jumping into a high pace is tough, but I'm definitely learning and getting experience."

Going one-on-one against pretty stiff competition certainly will make you learn quickly. Just ask Etem, who's had his share of battles with Fowler already.

"He's hard to get by," Etem said. "He's a great skater and he stands out on the ice."

The standout, meanwhile, is enjoying the whole process.

"It's great to be out here," Fowler said. "Every day is a challenge. It's all about pushing yourself."

Both figure to have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

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