Following a rather up-and-down set of preseason games, plenty of speculation has surrounded the question of who, on the Anaheim Ducks roster, will have a breakout season.
Some consider Heatley and Kesler possible individuals to spark a new resurgence, even late in their very illustrious careers in the NHL. Now, as much as I have begun fan-girling for Dany Heatley, I don't know if either he or Kesler will fall into that sensational of a rhythm to have career best seasons. (Note: I would love for them to both prove me wrong.)
Others believe that people like Jakob Silfverberg or Patrick Maroon will hit the peaks of their careers, especially with the strong possibility for them to be found flanking Ryan Kesler on the second line of forwards.
On both accounts I respectfully disagree. My choice? Emerson Etem.
Emerson Etem, at just 22-years-old, has genuinely caught my eye in all the right ways during this roller coaster of a preseason. Collectively, in the six preseason games, Etem tallied two goals (one against our defensive stalwart rivals up in Los Angeles), 18 shots on goal, 11 hits, two blocked shots, and an impressive amount of both power play and shorthanded time on ice.
Granted come the regular season, I am not expecting him to get a much PP ice time, but I expect his PK minutes to stay pretty steady.
One of the biggest up-sides to seeing some of these preseason games is witnessing some of the new chemistry forming amongst the players. Honestly, I think the chemistry that Etem has sparked with fellow young up-and-coming forward, Devante Smith-Pelly, was some of the best I have seen in a long time.
Smith-Pelly, who earned many more nods of approval during his play during last season's playoff stint, seriously helped boost Etem up a bit closer to his full potential during this year's preseason games. I vividly remember texting my good friend and saying that Etem and DSP looked like the "new age bash brothers," because they were followed by such an invigorated team. The duo are clearly not afraid to throw their bodies around, and created some fantastic turnovers and legitimate scoring opportunities.
On the penalty kill Etem was a huge force and an amazingly reliable presence, even when he was given the nod in 5-on-3 situations. That strong defensive mindset, coupled with the offensive prowess to net two goals in six games (often being surrounded by rookies or players who aren't expected to make the standard NHL roster) shows that Etem is truly ready to contribute on both ends of the ice. He has always seemed to have the makings of a decent two-way player, however these preseason games seem to show that he's making absolutely fantastic progress toward his full potential as an NHL calibre player.
Etem clearly took the training during off-season very seriously, and seems to be coming out hungry for more ice time than previous seasons. With both he and Smith-Pelly dropping to lower numbers (Etem from 65 to 16, DSP from 77 to 12), clearly these boys have grown out of the "rookie" title and are seeking to prove that they are ready to put the future of the organization on their backs and carry it onward and upward.
Another younger player who Etem seemed to vibe with very well was 21-year-old Rickard Rakell, who could, unfortunately, be one of the last players cut before opening night. If, best case scenario, Rakell does make the final roster, Etem has another partner with whom he has some pretty stellar chemistry.
In the first game of preseason at Honda Center, half of the Anaheim Ducks squad faced off against half of the roster from the Colorado Avalanche [Ed. Note: Allegedly -CK]. Two of the names on the home team were Etem and Rakell, who were on the same line during even strength play, as well as during penalty killing intervals.
All of these positives should dispel some of the questions surrounding Etem who is looking to cut back on his flying miles compared to his first two seasons with the Ducks. In both of his previous two seasons, he played in 38, then 29 games in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons respectively. There's no doubt that he is looking to make the team for all 82 games this season and build his reputation in the big boys' league.