Is that a white seersucker dress shirt he paired with that pink satin tie? Kid's got style.
The temptation to draft Californian for drafting Californian's sake struck the Ducks in the 5th Round in 2005. Having already taken Bobby Ryan, a New Jersey native who played for the Junior Kings after moving to California, they were confronted with the opportunity of taking his former teammate, Brian Salcido. The young prospect had also played for the Junior Ducks and was born in Hermosa Beach, which would make him the first California born and California developed player to play for Anaheim.
He did indeed make it to the ice at the Pond, earning a start the old fashioned way i.e. three full and successful years in the AHL, and the Ducks seemed as enthusiastic about him as they've ever been about a fifth-rounder. However, that enthusiasm seems to have faded, and Salcido took a serious injury in the AHL this year, making his two game stint feel more like a publicity stunt.
The temptation to draft Californian will rear its ugly head again this year (and in a Draft held at Staples Center, no less), as the Ducks will be confronted with two first rounders (in a year when they have two first round picks) and one late rounder that all hail from Southern California. UPDATE: At WCHBlog's suggestion, I've added defensemen Taylor Aronson and Brandon Underwood to the list as late round possibilities. After the jump, I'm going to take an extremely cursory look at the players, and just leave you with the simple question, is it important to you that the Ducks draft a Californian?
ISS Ranking: 18th (April)
Central Scouting: 8th
Etem was born in Long Beach. As you heard in the video above, he learned how to play roller hockey at the Y, and despite going to Shattuck St. Mary's for high school, he keeps his offseason regimen in California. He's also a big Kings fan. Feel free to be conflicted about that in the comments.
If you've seen him, you know the kid's got jets. He was also fourth in scoring (65 PTS) and second in goal scoring (37) on Medicine Hat as a rookie, and he led the team in scoring in the playoffs with 7 goals and 3 assists. Reportedly very fit with a solid work ethic, he could have a great showing at the Combine. There's no reason he couldn't be the Ducks' man independent of his place of birth.
6'0" 173 lbs.
ISS Ranking: No longer in the Top 30 (April)
Central Scouting: 32nd
Bennett is a native of Gardena (illest hockey player from here to Gardena?), and like Etem, he's a big Kings fan. He actually played for the Junior Kings, and I kind of wish I watched him there, as he's moved on to the BCHL, and I still haven't seen him play.
moved on to the BCHL
Ahem, let me rephrase that. He's moved on to rip the BCHL in half in his rookie season to the tune of 41G 120 PTS in 56 games. From trying to follow him online, I get the feeling that a lot of people haven't seen him at his best, as many have fallen into the temptation of comparing him to Kyle Turris and Tyler Bozak, who also tore up the BCHL, but whose non-statistical similarities to Bennett are rather unclear.
He's committed to Denver, and staying near California seems to be important to him for now. If he's there when the Ducks use the Flyers pick, I don't see why they don't go with Bennett. The Ducks could use a dynamic scorer in the cupboard.
5'10" 191 lbs.
Central Scouting: 68th Domestic
Fallon hails from Riverside and is a former LA Select. WCHBlog has a good profile of him with some good links. The bottom line is that while scouts seem to like him and the University of Michigan seems to like him, it's not all that clear why, and he's had a disciplinary issue in the face of so-so numbers.
The Ducks have two sixth round picks this year, but picking Fallon may be as hollow a gesture as taking Salcido. Yes, the Ducks passed on the opportunity to take a 5'10" Californian before when they passed on Rhett Rakhshani in the 3rd Round in 2006, but I think Fallon might be available even if he does pan out. How much is the team that drafts him going to ask for a playmaking 5'10" two-way forward?
6'0" 196 lbs.
Central Scouting: 88th Domestic
Another former Junior King, Aronson is the only Orange County player on the list, coming to you from Placentia. The defenseman played his rookie season in the WHL this year, and there's a quote about him from USA Today's Red Line Report that's gaining a bit of steam:
Taylor Aronson (Portland) — Has big-time natural talent and lots of upside if he decides he wants to be a player. We hated his complete lack of passion the entire regular season, but wow, has he ever turned it up in the playoffs. - USA Today 4/18/2010
His complete lack of passion the ENTIRE regular season? Well, if scouts hate him, he's probably on Madden's board somewhere. And really, despite the fact that I missed the Winterhawks this season, I can't help but think the quote is a bit hyperbolic. Even before he led the Portland defenseman in scoring in the playoffs (2G, 7A), he put up 5G, 25A and 65 PIM in the regular season. Is the guy fighting in the regular season here so much less passionate than the guy fighting in the playoffs here? The Ducks have no third round pick and their last four picks consist of 4th, 5th and 6th, 6th, but if they pick up extra late round picks in a trade, I could definitely see them giving Aronson a good look.
6'3" 210 lbs.
Central Scouting: 196th Domestic
A big bruiser from San Marcos, CA, Underwood actually grew up a Maple Leafs fan, taking after his father who hails from Toronto. Despite being a couple of hours south, Underwood made the trek to play with the Junior Kings.
He's got a pretty good fight card for his two years in Kamloops of the WHL, and he was actually second on the team in PIM this year. Still, the Ducks haven't had a 7th Round pick since the Joakim Lindstrom trade, so I don't know how seriously they've examined late round tough guy possibilities. If a team takes a flier on Underwood, I doubt it would be the Ducks, Southern Californian or not.
With picks like Holland, Palmieri, Vatanen and Bobkov, Martin Madden seems to be the kind of guy that wants the most value possible at each pick level. Not the most value guaranteed, but the most value possible. If other scouts are finding reasons to pass on guys, you won't find those reasons on Madden's board. And picking in a vacuum, I have to believe there will be better players than Etem at 12 and maybe better players than Bennett at the end of the First. Does Murray pull the trigger anyways to go with a California kid, the same way the Wild have to consider a Minnesota kid or the Canadiens have to consider a French Canadian? Would you?
Also, bear in mind that Matt Nieto (5'11" 180 lbs), who is currently committed to Boston University, is available next year. He, too, learned hockey at the Long Beach Y and ended up at a Prep School (Salisbury in Connecticut). So it's not like this chance won't come again.