DRAFT COVERAGE: Frozen Royalty was at LA Live in Downtown Los Angeles on June 24 to interview some of the top prospects in the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft. The following is a look at the emotional side of the draft for these young players. Audio interviews also available.
LOS ANGELES — The top prospects in the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft have been here in Los Angeles for the past couple of days, soaking in the atmosphere and local color.
Indeed, they got the grand tour of Hollywood, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Wax Museum on June 23.
Later that day, they attended the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game at Anaheim Stadium where they met legendary former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and took batting practice before the game.
After a day out on the town, the eve of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft came on Thursday, June 24, and after a morning clinic with local youth hockey players, the top prospects faced the media, answering all the typical questions about the type of player they are and about their dreams of playing in the NHL.
Perhaps equally typical, like all top NHL prospects come and gone, they shared rather anxious feelings about how their lives would be changing in mind-blowing, Earth-shattering fashion starting Friday evening when they are expected to be selected by an NHL team.
To say that becoming part of an NHL franchise would be a tremendous life-changing experience for an 18-year-old would be a huge understatement, but it is an aspect of the game fans rarely think about, if ever.
“It’s going to be absolutely huge,” said defenseman Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). “My life is going to change so dramatically from now on. I’m essentially starting a career at the age of 18, which not many people do.”
“It’s what I’ve worked towards for many years and I’m definitely prepared for it,” added Gudbranson, ranked fourth by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) among North American skaters.
The second-ranked prospect who is likely to be the first overall pick on Friday shared similar sentiments.
“A lot of different feelings—excitement, nervous,” said left wing Taylor Hall of the 2010 Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. “But at the same time, it’s just another day. It’s what I’ve been looking forward to my whole life and it’s going to be really good for me and my family.”
Some were still sorting out their feelings about the experience.
“It’s pretty surreal to finally be here in LA,” said defenseman Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “It’s my first time in LA. It’s an honor to be here.”
“As players, we’re honored to be here,” added Gormley, ranked sixth among North American skaters by CSB. “We’re having a lot of fun with it. It should be a good event tomorrow.”
Still others exuded an air of confidence.
“What I’m trying to do is show them the player I am, that I can play at the next level and I’m prepared to play there next year,” Gudbranson emphasized. “I’m going to [join whatever team selects him], play my game, play tough, be a leader out there and show them what I have.”
“I’m thinking [that I can make it to the NHL] next year,” the rather brash Gudbranson noted. “I really am. I say that as humbly as possible. I do understand that I do need to put some weight on, speed up and get stronger, but I do think I can make it next year.”
One prospect was right at home in the rarefied air of the swanky Target Terrace at LA Live’s Club Nokia in Downtown Los Angeles, but not because of the fancy surroundings.
Indeed, right wing Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League is a Southern California native, born in Long Beach, approximately 25 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles.
“[The 2010 draft is] in my backyard here in Los Angeles,” said Etem, ranked eighth among North American skaters by CSB. “I’m just taking it all in. To have my family and friends here, it’s going to make it that much more special. It’s an exciting time for me. It’s just so humbling.”
Etem started playing hockey in Orange County before leaving home at the age of 14 to further hone his skills.
“I started out with the Huntington Beach Sun Devils,” he explained. “Then I moved to the Long Beach Junior Ice Dogs and then the LA Hockey Club. All that happened before I turned 14 when I left to [play at] Shattuck [St. Mary’s High School in Faribault, Minnesota].
“I’ve learned so many things each step of the way,” he stressed. “I’ve had so many stops and it’s so important having all those aspects added to my game and as a person, learning all that at Shattuck and at different places. I learned so much and I’m thankful for that.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School should ring a bell for Los Angeles Kings fans, as defenseman Jack Johnson is a product of the legendary high school hockey program and former head coach Andy Murray was once their head coach.
Like all prospects, Etem stated that his dream is just to play in the NHL and that he would be happy to play for whichever team that selects him.
But how about coming back home?
“If they were able to do whatever it takes, it be a huge honor to play here in [Southern California] and put on a Kings jersey or an Anaheim jersey, or [to play] for a California team in general,” Etem said, tactfully and diplomatically.
Although he would love to play for any of the three NHL teams in California, Etem was a Kings fan growing up.
“It would be a dream come true,” Etem said about the remote possibility of being selected by the Kings. “But at the same time, I just want to be an NHL player, so, for me, any team would be special.”
Raw Audio Interviews (unedited)
Goaltender Jack Campbell (ranked second among North American goaltenders by CSB – 4:17)
Brett Connolly (ranked third among North American skaters – 3:50)
Emerson Etem (5:51)
Brandon Gormley (2:20)
Erik Gudbranson (3:16)
Mark Pysyk (ranked seventh among North American skaters – 3:55)
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It would be exciting if they traded up to get Emerson Etem.
It would be cool to get to root for a local kid for a change, and it sounds like he and Wayne Simmonds have become close. It wouldn’t surprise me at all and you have to love his work ethic!
Great thoughts in your article! I’m always stoked for the NHL draft and excited to see what these young up and comers will do in the future. Could you check out my blog as well because I really wanna hear your opinion on my thoughts. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/toronto-maple-laughs/