The Emerson Etem experiment didn’t turn out the way they had hoped it would in New York (to much surprise) and thus Etem finds himself on his third NHL team in his young career.
He struggled to find a solid place in both the Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers systems, buried by the depth that those teams had accrued. He’s now a member of the officially rebuilding Vancouver Canucks organization and that may bode well for both parties. The Etem trade was an attempt to get Vancouver moving faster up and down the ice and gives Etem a mixed bag of players to work with including world-class veterans and comrades-in-development.
The Canucks have been involved in a deliberately slow deconstruction of the Gillis Era corps and Etem will be given a long and hard look by Canucks management as a piece that the team can carry into the future.
The Etem Trade to Vancouver
The swap that took place on January 8th, 2015 between the Canucks and Rangers saw Etem, the 29th pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, traded to Vancouver in exchange for Nicklas Jensen, the 29th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and a 2016 6th round draft pick. It was actually a relatively silent trade that might be brilliant on Jim Benning’s part.
Nicklas Jensen found his way into Vancouver’s lineup just 24 times in his first four and a half years after being drafted. In that time, he’s recorded three goals and three assists. On the contrary, Emerson Etem, was featured in an NHL lineup 131 times and notched 34 points in that stretch.
Inconsistency Led to Etem Trade…Twice
The inflated ego that comes with being an 18-year-old first round pick in the NHL is inevitable and with Emerson Etem it might have come on a little too strong. After a dazzling junior career, the California product has never been able to translate his WHL scoring to the NHL, at least not at the same rate. And that’s led to both Anaheim and New York making an Etem trade long before Etem’s potential was met.
Some of that ego and lack of scoring comes from what Etem himself tags as an inconsistent work ethic,
“I think my work ethic has dwindled a little bit here and there and that shows with inconsistency,” ~ Emerson Etem via NHL.com
But when Etem has played with confidence he’s been an absolute monster on the ice. His speed is hard to match and his offensive awareness is top notch. Just take a look at this goal he scored during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Unfortunately, Etem’s tenures with both Anaheim and New York weren’t filled with plays like that. Instead of filling the shoes of a first round pick, Etem’s play was often average. At 23-years-old he’s maturing into an adult and his professionalism is following closely behind. Etem has acknowledged that just because he scored in the WHL doesn’t mean he can expect that to transfer to the NHL. And more than that he’s already addressed the suggested conflict of interest between him and his former WHL and current Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins.
“It’s not going to matter if Willie was my coach back in the day. This is on me to come in here and show I can get in on the forecheck and create a spark” ~ Emerson Etem via NHL.com
And that point was proven when Desjardins left Etem off of the roster for Saturday’s tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After the Etem Trade: Canucks Locked and Loaded
The Canucks have armed themselves with a group of very unsuspecting but potentially dangerous NHL-ready young forwards. Bo Horvat (20), Jared McCann (19), Emerson Etem (23), Jake Virtanen (18), and Sven Baertschi (23). Down in Utica (AHL) there are a few more names that are close to taking NHL positions, Cole Cassels (20), Hunter Shinkaruk (21) and still developing through the college system is Brock Boeser (18).
Emerson Etem could find himself leading the pack of these young forwards should he find his footing and, as he puts it, show he can create a spark. It’s often the case that players that scored at the junior level don’t have the gritty characteristics required for being a scorer at the NHL level. Being in the presence of career-long goal scorers like Daniel Sedin, Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows should help Etem build a balanced approach to scoring.
Last but not least, with the Canucks openly shopping left winger Chris Higgins, Etem will most likely fill his spot in the lineup. It’s likely that if Higgins finds a new home that a few other players will follow him leaving Etem with even more of an opportunity to solidify his NHL career.
What he ultimately does with his newest and, most likely last, opportunity is up to him.