Emerson Etem’s potential

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Note from Dave: Pat’s our newest writer. He’s written a couple of guest posts before. He will be contributing regularly with the rest of the team here. Welcome aboard Pat!

Emerson Etem filled in for Viktor Stalberg against Calgary on Sunday night following the latter’s head injury sustained against Philadelphia. The young winger acquired in the Carl Hagelin trade with Anaheim showed the kind of potential that might force some difficult lineup decisions upon coach Alain Vigneault. Etem demonstrated his offensive sensibilities, leading the team with four individual scoring chances and two high-danger scoring chances, recording a Corsi +/- of +8, and notching an assist on Dan Girardi’s goal (Girardi’s 200th career point). In putting forth such an offensive effort on the fourth line he highlighted his speed and size, playing a strong forechecking game during his 11.9 minutes on the ice. Justin has covered the tricky case of what to do with Etem in the past, but his performance the other night against Calgary, as well as his past performance in Anaheim, might indicate that the third line could be a good fit for the young winger.

First let’s take a look at some of what we saw from Etem the other night against the Flames. In this first GIF we see Etem use his speed to carry the puck along the boards before getting the puck down low, then using his size to make a drive to net.


He didn’t score here, but he spread the defense out and created a decent scoring opportunity. He also tossed away the defender with ease.

In this next gif Etem finds himself in good position to receive the puck as it’s kicked out from a battle along the boards in the Rangers’ own end, then carry the puck from the Rangers’ zone into Calgary’s (Etem is a little hard to see along the bottom of the frame in this one. The gif is a little choppy as well, best I could do with the online feed. Sorry about that.) before setting up Ryan McDonagh for a scoring chance.


Finally we have Girardi’s goal, on which Etem picked up an assist.


With this kind of game we can see that given the opportunity to play Etem has some pretty solid potential as a bottom six player, something borne out by a closer look at his last season in Anaheim. In 57 games last season for Anaheim Emerson Etem recorded a modest 13 points and a 51.9 CF% while averaging 11.1 minutes on ice per game. It’s worth noting that in the 24 games in which he played more than his average, he recorded 11 of his 13 points and had an average CF% of 55.5. This is a huge contrast with his two points and 46.8 CF% in the 33 games where he played less than his average time on ice.

While the argument could be made that part of the reason he played less than 11.1 minutes in those games was poor play, I think the evidence here, taken with what we saw on Sunday, gestures towards solid potential as a bottom six winger. His HERO chart, seen below, would similarly seem to indicate his potential as a third liner.

Dashboard 1 (2)

The question then becomes what to do with him. It’s my personal opinion that sheltered minutes on the third line would do him well, that his strong forechecking and offensive sensibilities would complement Kevin Hayes’ notable playmaking skills. He’s not going to get the kind of ice time or deployment necessary to unleash his full potential on the fourth line.

Once again, as Justin has noted before, the Rangers are in a tough spot with regards to fitting him into the lineup, especially given the performances of players like Oscar Lindberg, J.T. Miller, and Jesper Fast. If Etem continues to play the way he did against Calgary, taken together with what we know about him historically, then he could force some tough lineup decisions and potentially be a good fit for the third line.

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  • A trade sounds like a possible option here. Get some picks or prospects or a rental upgrade to make space for Buch to come over for the latter part of the season. Too many quality players is never a bad situation.

    • As you say, “too many quality players is never a bad situation”….exactly the reason the team should not make a trade and stay status quo. As the Stalberg situation points out, a trade would put us an injury away from Glass being back up with the big club. Right now we should be very content with our 13F situation.

    • 50 man roster limit is up to 49. Leaving space for Buchnevich gets you to the limit. This means the Rangers have to make room just to bring in players like Steven Fogarty & Boo Nieves after their senior seasons. So no prospects(which would be lateral moves at best,) only picks.

  • I gave the answer to the problem the other day, so here we go again. Miller moves to the second line, where he played very well with Step, and Kreider in the PO’s.

    Move Eten to the third line with Hayes, and Oscar.

    Fast is better suited for the fourth line duty, would fit in well with Moore, and Stoll, while creating a terrific checking line, that would also chip in with offense.

    Hay AV, if you read this site, why not try these moves??????? You can’t manage to keep lines together even after they have proven to be effective!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Rotating door of Stalberg / Etem / Stoll depending on recent play, matchups, etc. If we ever see a 3rd line of Etem / Hayes / Lindberg clicking then Stalberg and Stoll rotate on the 4th.

        If AV keeps Stalberg (assuming ready for action soon) on the 3rd unit, then Etem/Stoll would be the likely 4th line winger rotation.

        It’s a tough call, we have depth and our bottom 6 has been playing well for the most part.

    • Fast played pretty well on Stepan’s wing with Kreider. How many important goals was he a part of in the Caps series? He’s great defensively and he’s got the skating ability this team predicates its offence around.
      With Miller in that spot instead, there isn’t a single right handed winger on the top six. Miller plays well with better teammates but he’s not the greatest defensively and half the top six’ zone starts are in the Dzone.
      Tough decision to make with Etem but it’s a good problem to have I think. It’ll sort itself out.

  • Let’s not anoint Etem the savior just yet please. He played like a guy who wants more minutes – that’s it. Without our stars scoring goals, we all look to the 2nd and 3rd tier players to produce more. Fact is that Nash, Stepan, Kreider, Zucc and Hayes need to play harder and make things happen. This blog loves to criticize the Girardi signing, but shouldn’t we also start criticizing the Stepan contract? If Girardi is now a 2nd pair defenseman, then Stepan is playing like a 2nd or 3rd line center. He is NOT making the players around him better.

    • Sal

      Your right on all counts.

      The point of my post is that the kid Etem is better suited for 3rd line, vs 4th line checking duties. Isn’t that the reason people say he was miscast while with the Ducks?????? Bottom line, he has certain skill sets that Fast doesn’t, and we should take a long look at what, if anything, he can contribute to our team !!!!!!!!!!!

    • Not to nitpick, but the article explored “his potential as a third liner”. It did not “anoint Etem the savior”.

      As far as Stepan….. out of the gate he has been playing much better than Brassard. While Brassard does have a couple power play goals, he looks pretty lost at evens. I’d wager it has a lot to do with being moved away from Zuc and Nash, as downgrading quality of linemates can definitely turn your game to stale bagels. In any case, Stepan hasn’t dominated but has certainly been the more assertive of the two in the early going and it is nice to see that he is shooting (his 24 shots nearly double Brassard’s 13 through 10 contests).

      • The article clearly was a pro-Etem article. You can stand behind your fellow bloggers if you so choose, but the truth is “Pat” went out of his way to praise Etem. He played well-enough to warrant another game – thats it.

        Sometime folks (here) have rose colored glasses on when it comes to Stepan. While Brassard isn’t playing well either, he get dirty. Stepan has turned into a perimeter player, not getting his hands dirty enough (IMO) for a 1st line center.

        • Sal, what on earth are you talking about. You are saying the exact same thing as Pat is….. ‘Etem had a strong game, let’s see what he can do with another start’. Not ‘put him on the pp’ or ‘man he’d look good with Stepan and Nash’.

          “Pat” wrote a very appropriate article on Etem, given how the Stalberg injury allowed for him to dress allowing us to get a look at his game. And he had a good one. The 3rd line narrative is something which we’ve all been looking forward to since the trade was announced in June. Dave, Walt, myself, countless others have expressed that we would like to see if Etem can excel in the 3rd line sheltered minutes / more OZ starts role.

          • Figured I would rant a bit until the meds kicked in. Now that they are in – Pat is great, Hatrick is great, Dave is great. Remember – giving me thumbs down here means you disagree, lol.

          • You mean it’s not a SNL sketch? That’s what the quotes bring to mind here

        • Howdy, I think we’re probably more on the same page here than it might seem. While I’ll definitely admit to being a fan of the way he played the other night, and I’m excited about his potential as a depth player, I didn’t mean to come off like he’s any kind of savior. I agree with you that he played the kind of game to warrant another one – my point is simply that he might play better if given the kind of substantive, sheltered minutes and offensive zone starts of the third line, as opposed to the fourth. I think this makes sense given his skill set and past history.

        • Bravo for laying it out on Etem…I thought the trade was awful and keeping a higher priced Hagelin made us a better team and if the Rangers had dumped slow and sitting McIlrath and one or two other players on the margins we could have found a way;
          having said that, it’s too late, but EE is another player whose career will be a bunch of GMs lamenting talent unfulfilled…he is more suited for surfing than scoring and will be in the AHL or on another team in the near future…would rather use a low rent Wolfpacker for the 4th line

          • It would have been virtually impossible to keep Hags. Dumping McIlrath doesn’t do anything to accomplish that, and by its very definition, players on the margins typically have salaries on the margins. You have to have some cap space available in case of injuries. The math doesn’t work.

            It’s early yet obviously, but so far, the Rangers seem to have the depth to cover for his loss–which is exactly what you have to do in a hard cap world.

            Whether Etem proves to be a good acquisition or not remains unkown, but I have no idea how you can say that a 23yo former first rounder (Etem or McIlrath) is already beyond hope.

      • Stepan has also been dealing with dental issues and having the screws removed from his jaw. Here’s the dilemma as I see it. We have 4 quality 3rd line wings- Lindberg, Stralberg, Fast and Etem. I agree Fast has better 3rd line abilities. That still leaves us with an odd man out. Do we rotate based on who we play against? Same can be said to bring in McIlrath on D. We need to rotate players in to rest the vets, and those not performing, and keep the young guys pressing the envelope. My opinion anyway.

        • This is the bigger issue as those forwards are more 3rd liners than top 6 and not really gritty enough for 4th line. Jay Tea should play up in top 6 as he showed in the POs. Thought Stalberg has the game and size for 4th but Fast is a little fragile for that duty game in / out.

          In an AV world there doesn’t seem to be much grind which is fine from Oct – Feb but not so good in the second season.
          Etem looked fine against an inferior team, let’s see him slot in against Craps or Brooklyn’s Best.

  • Well I don’t know who this Pat person is (maybe the Pat from SNL fame? LOL) but this is the type of piece that keeps me reading this blog. The writing is concise and to the point. Pat uses a perfect mix of media and stats to support his (or her) opinion and keeps the tone positive.

    This certainly gives us some food for thought and something to watch as the season progresses.

    Also, I don’t always agree with Walt’s opinion, but when I do he’s usually spot on…as he is in this case. 🙂

    • Apologies to Pat. I just noticed the previous post introducing him as a guest writer. My bad for not remembering that….old age is a b1tch. LOL

    • Well said Snake… agree on all counts. Also, you don’t have to be old to forget things, just ask my girlfriend

    • Thanks so much! It might seem kind of weird to say, but your kind words really mean a lot to me! Thanks for reading, I look forward to writing more stuff you might enjoy as well!

  • No reason to touch the 3rd line as it has been the best line so far….why fix something that needs not fixing…Etem stays on the 4th line and 13th forward once Stalberg returns. He has not earned a spot on any of the other lines. If the team goes into a funk….then and only then should a look be made with Etem and Kreider centered by Stepan. Let’s hope that day never comes.

  • Pat, welcome aboard! This is an excellent piece of writing and a very thorough analysis.

    A few thoughts….

    We are fans, therefore subject to quick knee-jerk reactions to players. No one is safe from this. When Lundqvist came back after his injury last year and had a rough first game, we had people on this blog screaming that Talbot should remain the starter. And that’s a future HOFer we are talking about taking a back seat to a guy who, while he was certainly very good, had never played (and still hasn’t, btw) a critical game in his NHL career.

    Etem had a rough camp. McIlrath a solid, if unspectacular camp. But based on that very brief impression, many on this blog instantly concluded– McIlrath needs to be a starter, and Etem should be waived or traded.

    Now, we have ONE game where Etem played very well, and now we’re talking about how he should be in the mix for more time! Kind of crazy! It’s a reminder to all of us or why we are fans (short for “fanatics”, which by definition implies a lack of objectivity or reason) and not GMs or coaches!

    We have two 23yo former first round picks. Both highly touted. Both taking, as I think maybe Chris brilliantly said a few weeks back, the “scenic route” to becoming legit NHL players. Granted, Etem and McIlrath have had different paths with different kinds of obstacles to overcome, but the fact is, both remain unkown work-in-progress types of players. Neither can be considered difference makers–yet.

    It sounds like, behind the scenes, both players are getting a lot of classroom work–Studying lots of tapes of AV’s system. Etem is only in the lineup because of an injury, therefore likely ahead of AV’s projected schedule for him. We need to see several more games before we can make any judgment. We’re not in practice so we don’t know, but we have no idea where McIlrath is in terms of level of game readiness. Defense is much, much tougher to master. I wouldn’t expect to see much of him right now, especially with so few games coming up.

    And, as I said in a prior post, I think they are giving Boyle, as a veteran, every chance to show if he can actually be consistently productive. Let’s not forget, he was the Rangers most productive defensive point producer last season in the playoffs. For a team that often struggles to generate offense, that’s not an asset you want to very quickly toss aside. If, after another 10 games or so, Boyle shows he just can’t do it, then AV can have that very tough conversation that eventually happens with most aging players. And in the meantime, McIlrath continues to learn and get ready for his chance.

    Of course, there are a couple of potential monkey wrenchs in this plan as it pertains to McIlrath. What if Boyle DOES pick it up? I think AV values what Boyle at his optimum brings to the table more than what he perceives McIlrath can bring. And then there’s the little matter of Raphy Diaz. Our understanding is that he either wants to be back with the big club, or wants to be released so he can play back home in Switzerland. Check out Rick Carpiniello’s blog on Really lays out the defensive logjam issue very well. It is entirely possible that AV isn’t comfortable letting Diaz go, may not be ready to trust McIlrath, and may opt to bring Diaz up as an 8D rather than lose him. This way, if Boyle shows he doesn’t have it, or if a guy like Girardi struggles or needs a day off, he would have an option that he trusts in Diaz if McIlrath isn’t fully ready. This scenario bears watching in the days ahead. And of course, looming perhaps do the road, is how or if Brady Skjei fits in this year.

    Some have mentioned with Etem, and by extension McIlrath, that the best thing to do is to rotate the players. We all know AV likes to tinker early, and while that has benefits, you can also argue that it doesn’t allow the players to get into any kind of rhythm. So while you might see some of that now, too much tinkering may run counter to AV’s stated desire of a fast start. I really think he wants to wrap up a playoff spot, while not mathematically obviously, as early as possible so that he can start resting guys, let’s say in February. So I wouldn’t expect too much resting and rotating now, especially on defense.

    As for Stepan, I think the criticism is unduly harsh. wayneg is right, he’s been dealing with significant oral surgery that’s caused him to lose ten pounds. That can’t be good for his game. To me, he deserves a pass right now. If we are going to criticize him, he will have a lot of company, since other than Zuc, pretty much everyone on the top two lines have been sub-standard thus far.

    While there are tough decisions ahead, this ultimately is a good thing. The Rangers have organizational depth and plenty of options–a very good problem to have!

    • Btw, Stalberg’s been cleared to play, but will be a healthy scratch. Makes Friday a potentially very important game for Etem.

    • I think that things are simpler than they seem to us. By and large, I think AV is going to play who he wants to play, generally speaking playing the 18 skaters he thinks gives him the best chance to win that game. Occasionally, he’ll play his reserves, either to give someone a break, to keep them fresh, or just to experiment and see what he has. However, I suspect developing Etem and McIlrath won’t be primary motives for his lineup decisions.

      Likewise, Gorton will choose the roster. I agree with you that AV would like to keep Diaz and would make him 8 d. No way that Gorton lets that happen because of cap considerations. I suspect Ranger management is comfortable with Summers as 8 d, but of course hopes that some of the kids are even better options.

      • You may be absolutely correct about Diaz. But then you have to wonder, if the report is correct and he does in fact have an agreement to go back home, why he’s still around?

        • For what it is worth, the Wolfpack played three games in three nights last weekend. Diaz played the first game, but was scratched the last two. I’m not sure if we can read anything into that or not.

          For the record, the Pack have eight good defensemen, dressed seven in each of the first five games, but only six in games 6 and 7 (the first two times Diaz was scratched).

          I think Diaz may very well be the best defensemen that the Pack have, BUT I also think he is in the way. Everyone but Diaz and Summers is officially a prospect and you want to get your prospects playing time.

    • Eddie, lets not also forget Boyle was accountable for many of the oppositions goals during the playoff run, not to mention giving a game away to the Caps, because he thought time had run out!! His best days are far behind him..

      • and worst of all the shorthanded Boil-St Louis fiasco; just horrendous.

        Boil is a very one dimensional player at this point in his career and presents some challenges in deciding who is his partner.

      • The Boyle play you mention (dying seconds of game 1 when he was hit by Backstrom) was more McDonagh’s fault than Boyle. Everyone hit the snooze button there.. but watch it again. McD should have played that one better

        • I was referencing the Bolts series when Boil passed St Louis and let to the SH goal by Johnson in Game 2.
          Agree McD and the entire team fell asleep at the end of Game 1 in Craps series.

  • I am a regular listener to NHL radio on sirius radio. They had the Anaheim announcer on as a guest. He raved about Etems potential , stated he never was given the opportunity while with the ducks. He said Etem was their best skater since Teemu Selanie . The kid has future superstar potential.

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