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.
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.