ANAHEIM – Emerson Etem’s fight to make an NHL roster and took on a literal tone against his former club.
The former Ducks first-round pick, who had two stints with them, is trying to make it with Arizona and his first chance to stay with the Coyotes came Tuesday at Honda Center. Etem had an assist on Clayton Keller’s goal and engaged in a rare fight, taking on the Ducks’ Korbinian Holzer in Arizona’s 5-1 win.
It is the latest chance for the 25-year-old Etem, the Long Beach native who signed with the Coyotes in July as a free agent in his goal to be an everyday NHL player.
When asked if he considered this a good, honest opportunity to make the team, Etem said, “At least for myself, for sure.”
“I’ve had good preseasons before but just the start of my season has got to get better,” Etem continued. “That was my goal, to come out not hot but just make sure my feet were moving.
“I thought I played a solid 60 and contributed on both ends. Great team effort. We were getting contributions from line one through four, including the goalies. It was great.”
The Ducks opted not to retain his rights following a 2016-17 season in which they claimed him off waivers from Vancouver. After just three early games, they sent him to their AHL team in San Diego.
One game into his stay with the Gulls, Etem hurt his knee, adding to the toll of other collisions suffered on it. Major surgery to repair ligaments and cartilage would ultimately be required. His season was lost and it wasn’t until a few weeks before the Coyotes’ camp when he started to feel right.
“I view it as I’m coming in here and trying to make a name for myself,” Etem said. “I really feel they’re giving me every opportunity to show what I got, which is great.”
At one time, Etem seemed to be in position to break through with the Ducks. He had a strong, effective playoff series against Detroit in 2013. And there was another three-goal performance during a postseason matchup against Winnipeg in 2015.
Consistency has always eluded him. Etem has been in the in-between, a big-time goal scorer in juniors who hasn’t produced enough in the top-six chances he’s gotten and a winger who isn’t a true grinder that can exist in a defensive bottom-six role.
It has been a bit of an odyssey – a trade to the New York Rangers and then another to Vancouver. His longest sustained stint has been 58 games between those teams in 2015-16. But on an Arizona team brimming with intriguing…