By Jesse Watts

November 21, 2013 (ISN) – Emerson Etem used to light the lamp with frequency during his three years playing in the Western Hockey League with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Now, the 21-year-old from Long Beach, CA, is establishing himself as an NHL regular in his own back yard playing for the Anaheim Ducks.

Selected in the sixth round, 11th overall, by the Tigers in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft, Etem made the decision to head north from the sunny beaches of California and lace up the skates in Medicine Hat. The speedy sniper established himself as one of the WHL’s most prolific scorers during his tenure with the Tigers, racking up 143 goals and 252 points in 202 regular-season contests.

During his final WHL campaign in 2011-12, Etem became the first WHL player in a decade to score 60 goal, netting 61 times in 65 games. He also accomplished the rare feat of scoring 50 goals in 50 games that same year.

Etem’s speed and goal-scoring prowess led his hometown Anaheim Ducks to select him 29th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. Now, the 6’1″, 206-lb winger is skating alongside NHL stars such as former Calgary Hitmen star Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and the ageless Teemu Selanne. Not only has he made it to the highest level in the game, the NHL, Etem has become a contributing member for the Ducks.

Though he may now be two years removed from his time in the WHL with the Tigers, Etem holds many fond memories of life in Medicine Hat and developing his skills in the WHL.


On playing in the NHL with his hometown team…

“It’s been everything I’d hoped for, and more. It’s always been a dream, and something I’ve worked my whole life for. It’s a great feeling knowing that all of my hard work has paid off. I’m not going to get complacent now, though. There is still a lot of work to do. It’s great to have my friends and family be able to come to games all the time, and it takes the pressure off and makes it more fun. I play literally 10 minutes down the road from where I grew up, so it’s pretty much my own back yard.”

On skating alongside many of the NHL’s top players…

“It’s awesome. The list goes on and on, in regards to all the veterans on this team. Some of these guys were here from the 2007 Stanley Cup team. Obviously, guys like Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu have been around for a long time, and have been mentors to me ever since I got here. They are all great guys, and we are able to joke around, but at the same time, they are open to talking to the young guys and help us out. We have a great team here, and having the guys we have has made it all the more fun and exciting.”

On getting used to the NHL level of play…

“In the WHL, I was always told to finish checks, and at this level you have to make sure you’re being physical and playing that way. As a young guy getting called up, you have to go out and create energy for the other guys, and you have to show you can be a presence out there. There is a lot less time and space at this level, so it forces you to work on things like making quicker plays and working on your shot. I always thought I had a quick release in the WHL, but I know now that I have to keep working on it because you don’t have that time and space.”

On his time playing with the Medicine Hat Tigers…

“I loved my time in Medicine Hat. It’s such a great city, and the people are so nice. I loved my billet family, who helped me out so much. The Medicine Hat Tigers organization treated me great. They did such a great job with letting us play and letting us have some fun off the ice, and I think that helped so much with our on-ice success. My first year there, I had Willie Desjardins as a coach, which was great to be a part of because of everything he has accomplished in his coaching career. Shaun Clouston came in and did a fabulous job. He’s let us have our fun, but we knew that we had to come to the rink every day prepared to work hard and contribute. Some of the best days of my life were spent with the Tigers, and if I had to do it all over again, there’s be no question I’d come to Medicine Hat and play in the WHL.”

On how his time in the WHL prepared him for the next level…

“It’s huge. Everything from the schedule to the travel, and facing the hardships helps prepare you for what you go through when you get to the NHL. Not only that, but it’s the style of play in the WHL that is very similar to what you face at the next level. You learn the defensive side of the game, you are taught to finish your checks, and it helps you learn to battle at a high level. I learned so much, and I wouldn’t change my career path because the WHL is such a great route to take.”