It’s the dream of many aspiring athletes to play for the local professional team. With the remarkable growth of Southern California hockey, helped along by the recent (although not very recent) success of the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, the numbers of Southern Californians drafted into the NHL every season is growing.
It’s still rare, however, for a Southern Californian to be drafted by and then play for the Kings or Ducks, but it has happened. It may happen again with Anaheim Hills native Cam York looking like he’ll be picked in the first round. He may be ranked too low for the Kings or Ducks to select him with their first picks, but with York in mind, let’s check out some of the previous Southern Californians who were drafted by and played for the Ducks or Kings.
Bobby Ryan: From the Jr. Kings to the Ducks
Bobby Ryan’s story is well known. His name wasn’t always “Bobby Ryan,” he wasn’t born in California, and he played a part of his youth hockey career in New Jersey.
His given name was Bobby Stevenson until 1997 when his father beat his mother to the point where he broke four of her ribs, fractured her skull and punctured her lung.
After fleeing from the law and reconciling with his wife and son, Bobby’s dad, Robert, who changed his name to Shane Stevenson, settled his family in El Segundo, Calif, to enable Ryan to play for the LA Junior Kings.
Ryan was part of two U.S. national championship-winning teams as a Pee Wee in 2000 and a Bantam in 2002. In 2002, Ryan’s Jr. Kings defeated Phil Kessel’s Madison Capitals in the national final played in Colorado Springs.
Already a well-known name in amateur hockey, Ryan continued his career in Michigan to gain exposure to the University of Michigan. Instead, his move to the Wolverine State for midget hockey enabled him to play in the OHL for the Owen Sound Attack. Like Emerson Etem after him, Ryan lit up major-junior hockey scoring 351 points in 279 OHL games.
Ducks’ Lottery Luck
Going into the 2005 Draft, the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau had Ryan ranked as the third-best North American skater behind Sidney Crosby and Benoit Pouliot.
Unlike this year, the Ducks had excellent luck in the lottery. Due to the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, the lottery worked differently in 2005. All teams had a chance at the first-overall pick and odds were determined by playoff appearances in the three preceding years, and previous first-overall picks.
The Ducks had a 4.2 percent chance to win the first-overall pick compared to 6.3 percent for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers.
By the lottery’s end, the Ducks had the No. 2 overall pick, which they used to take Ryan. Ryan made his NHL debut at the start of the 2007-08 season playing 23 regular-season games with the Ducks and 48 with the Portland Pirates. He broke out the following season scoring 31 goals and adding 26 assists for 57 points.
He continued to increase his point production every season with the Ducks until 2010-11 when he maxed out at 71 points (34 goals, 37 assists), still his career high.
After the 2012 season, Ryan voiced his displeasure with some of the moves that Murray had made to the New Jersey Courier-Post, which former L.A. Times writer Lisa Dillman mentioned in her coverage of the controversy.
“I gotta be honest with you,” he said to the Courier-Post. “At this point, I don’t care. Move me … because it’s just tough going to the rink every day knowing that if something goes wrong, you’re going to be the guy moved.” (‘Bobby Ryan unhappy with Duck’ – The Los Angeles Times – 06/22/12).
Two weeks later, Murray sent Ryan to the Ottawa Senators for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first-round pick.
Emerson Etem: Following in Ryan’s Footsteps
Etem took the path that many from warm-weather climates take to ice hockey. The Long Beach native started playing roller hockey thanks to his older brother, Martin, who played both roller and ice hockey.
After taking up ice hockey, Etem played in the Quebec Peewee International tournament before going on to play at Shattuck St. Mary’s school, the U.S. National Development Program, and then the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.
Etem showed constant growth throughout his amateur career, increasing his offensive output every time he moved up in competition. Etem scored 28 points for Shattuck in one season, before moving onto the NTDP, where he spent most of his time on the under-18 team in the NAHL, scoring 19 goals and 14 assists.
His WHL numbers eclipsed his previous numbers each of the three years he played there. His first season saw him score 37 goals and add 27 assists, enough to make him a highly touted NHL draft prospect.
When it came to the 2010 NHL Draft, it felt as if the hockey gods had a hand in lining up the fortunes of Etem and the Ducks. Anaheim GM Bob Murray, who had received Philadelphia’s first-round pick for Chris Pronger, among many other assets, saw that pick fall from as high as No. 10 down to No. 29 as the Flyers advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
At No. 29, the Ducks picked Etem.
Though he was not the highest Southern Californian selected by a local team (that would be Ryan), he was the highest to be born in SoCal. To add to the goosebumps, the NHL held the draft at the Staples Center, home of the Kings. The eruption of cheers drowned out the boos from the rival fans.
Etem’s Promising Career Fizzles
Etem made his NHL debut two seasons later, following two more full seasons in Medicine Hat, which included two appearances for Team USA at the World Junior Championship and two games with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
In his rookie season of 2012-13, Etem split time between the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals and the Ducks where he scored three goals and added seven assists. Etem spent three seasons with the Ducks organization, playing in both Anaheim and Norfolk. His best performance for the Ducks came in 2013-14 where he contributed seven goals and four assists.
At the 2015 NHL Draft, the Ducks shipped Etem to the Rangers in the Carl Hagelin trade. Etem spent 2015-16, his most productive seasons between the Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks, where he was traded midway through the season. He compiled seven goals and eight assists for 15 points.
He was claimed by the Ducks again in 2016-17 after Vancouver waived him, playing his final three NHL games for the team that drafted him. He spent two more seasons in the AHL and Europe before retiring following the 2018-19 season.
Though Etem never lived up to the expectations fans and the organization had for a first-round pick that lit up the WHL for 167 goals and 129 assists in 236 games, it may have been an injury that hampered his development.
In a March 2019 Instagram post, Etem showed video footage of a horrific collision he had with Raffi Torres in a preseason game. The caption he included read,
“I’ve never made excuses on what should have been. Life throws so much at us both good and bad, I know it’s truly meant to make us stronger. This was a non televised 2013 preseason tilt and wasn’t on live T.V. Myself, and Raffi Torres got into a collision. I had a great playoffs the year before and was playing great hockey up until this. I battled for years after this, just trying to put something together.”
He finished his post by saying. “For all of you that didn’t reach your full potential due to injury, I’m with you!”
Brian Salcido: Anaheim’s First Southern California Duckling
Brian Salcido holds the distinction of being the first Southern California native to play for the Ducks. The Hermosa Beach, California native, played for the Jr. Kings like many Southern California youth players with professional hockey aspirations.
From there, like Etem, he moved to Faribault, Minn, to play for Shattuck St. Mary’s and then to Colorado College, where the Ducks drafted him in 2005, No. 141.
Following his final season at Colorado College, Salcido spent two full seasons with the AHL’s Portland Pirates before his debut with Anaheim in 2008-09 where he appeared in his only two NHL games, assisting on one goal.
According to the Orange County Register, Salcido signed a one-year contract with the Ducks in July 2009 but had a disappointing training camp and landed on waivers. (from ‘Salcido likes opportunity overseas’ – The Orange County Register – 07/16/10).
After spending 2009-10 with the Manitoba Moose, Salcido looked to Europe to continue his career. He made stops in the Czech Republic, Russia, Finland, Germany and Sweden. His best season in Europe came with Saimaan Pallo of the Finish Liiga, where he had 12 goals and 23 assists.
Though the odds aren’t high — both the Ducks and Kings first picks are probably too early for it to be worth drafting York, and Anaheim’s second first-round pick is probably too late — if the Ducks or even the Kings draft York and he makes the NHL, he will be one of 45 NHL players born in California. There are many more, like Ryan, with California ties. Even if York doesn’t end up in Anaheim or LA, there is certain to be another Southern Californian to play for them in the future.
All stats taken from Hockey-Reference.com
Anthony Ciardelli grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire but now lives in Los Angeles. Though he was raised a Bruins fan, he quickly came to enjoy the hockey culture in Southern California and the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks. He covered USC Athletics while pursuing his journalism masters there. He also enjoys doing play-by-play for USC Trojan Hockey.