Anaheim Ducks forward Emerson Etem takes a shot on goal during practice. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Emerson Etem has all of five days to make an impression that will either place the 20-year-old Long Beach product on the Ducks' roster or return him to the team's minor league Norfolk, Va., affiliate.
That's why Etem was the last Duck off the ice Monday after extra shooting practice, hand-scooping the dozens of pucks hit aside by teammates and gathering them in a plastic milk bucket.
"I'm a younger guy; I wanted to stay out as long as I can, practice my shot and get better," Etem said.
The Ducks have 28 players on their training camp roster but will trim it to 23 by the time they leave town Thursday to play their season opener Saturday in Vancouver.
Etem, a 6-foot, 206-pound right wing, is on the bubble, a 2010 first-round pick (29th overall) who led all juniors in Canada last season by scoring 61 goals in 65 games for the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat team.
As the Ducks were locked out by management, Etem played in Norfolk and scored nine goals in 34 games.
Now the team has to weigh whether it should keep Etem on the roster, giving him limited minutes on the fourth line, or send him back to the minors for more seasoning.
"He looks like a man out there," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said following Monday's practice, and after praising Etem's skating skills in Sunday's long session. "He has a powerful stride. He looks determined. He may need [more seasoning]. I'm not saying he does. I'm quite impressed with him."
In what will be a grinding sprint of a shortened season, Etem would give the Ducks young legs and the draw of a local, promising talent who was chosen higher in the NHL draft than all but two other Southern Californians. Yet, with each of the 48 games so crucial in the standings, will the team opt for a more experienced veteran?
"I try to pay attention, work as hard as I can in practice, make no excuses and just battle," Etem said.
"My puck protection is pretty good. I shoot the puck as hard as I can. I'm not looking at the roster to see which spot I can fill. I just want to show them I can move my feet right with these guys, use my speed, play a solid two-way game and score."
In other news, the Ducks sent goalie Viktor Fasth to Norfolk following Monday's practice.