It has been two months since the Anaheim Ducks played a game. It will be more than two months until pre-season begins. Needless to say, diehard Ducks fans get a little restless about now and any hockey is good hockey.
The Ducks prospects took to the ice for a scrimmage to open up their conditioning camp on Thursday at Anaheim Ice. There were several hundred hockey lovers in attendance, happy to see guys in Ducks uniforms, even if one of them was only 17 years old and newly drafted last weekend.
Goaltender John Gibson, who won’t be 18 for a couple more weeks, shared net responsibilities with Iiro Tarkki, who happens to be the “eldest” camp attendee at age 25 (26 on July 1).
All seven prospects from this year’s entry draft were in Anaheim, although Rickard Rakell was not on the ice for the scrimmage. Hard to be on the ice when your equipment is still en route. Igor Bobkov, the third goaltending prospect, was not even in Anaheim yet due to flight delays.
The rest of the young hopefuls were on the ice and battled four on four to a 9-6 victory by the team wearing black jerseys. Included on Team Black were last year’s draft picks, Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly and Chris Wagner. All three players got on the scoreboard. Wagner had four goals, Etem two and Smith-Pelly one. Smith-Pelly continues to impress with his skills. He is strong with the puck and has a nose for the net. There was no checking in the scrimmage, but if there had been, Smith-Pelly would have led that charge as well.
Etem remains a low to the ground, speed demon and has developed nicely over the past year. If he and Smith-Pelly continue to work hard and take to heart the conditioning and nutrition information given to them, they will both have a very strong training camp in September.
After the scrimmage, there was more on and off ice conditioning and camp is expected to run through July 5. Each one of the 22 participants hopes to make it to the NHL someday, and this is just one step in that process.
For the eight kids, about ages 10 – 12, who stood wide eyed at the railing for the entire scrimmage, you can see the same hope in their eyes that maybe, they, too, can be scrimmaging in Southern California in a Ducks uniform in about eight years from now. It was not that long ago that the prospects were those wide eyed kids, and for someone like Etem, who hails from Long Beach, the dream is clearly within reach.