You can over-think these things, you know.
There were 10 people at each draft table on the Staples Center floor. These men spend an entire calendar year picking apart 17-18 year old kids, trying to find their weaknesses, their faults, doing anything they can to give their team a reason NOT to pick that person. When you look that closely into anyone, you can find something wrong with them. Just ask Cam Fowler and Emerson Etem.
Cam Fowler was overwhelmingly considered the best defenseman in his draft class and the 3rd best prospect overall for the entire season. Fowler averaged a point a game for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League and was named Best Defenseman of the World Junior Championships while representing the United States. The 6’2", 190 lbs. defenseman was lauded for his vision and playmaking ability, as well as his pass out of the defensive zone and his solid defensive instincts. As time went on, however, and as people analyzed Fowler more and more, you could hear whispers about his game. "His shot isn’t very good," "He’s too soft," "He doesn’t’ dominate enough." When the final rankings from the NHL Central Scouting Bureau came out, Fowler had dropped from 3rd to 5th. When the draft came about, Fowler dropped to 12th. Right to the Anaheim Ducks.
Emerson Etem was not analyzed his whole career like Fowler. Etem traveled up the ranks, from the YMCA in Long Beach, CA to Minnesota high school hockey to the U.S. National Development Team and finally to the Western Hockey League. Everywhere Etem went, he excelled. He led all rookies in goal scoring this season with 37, showing speed that was unmatched by anyone in this year’s draft class except maybe Taylor Hall. Etem was ranked as the 8th best North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau and was thought to go in the first half of the first round of this year’s draft class. As time went on and the draft got closer, however, you could hear whispers about his game. "He doesn’t move well without the puck," "he’s too soft defensively," "He hasn’t proven himself long enough." People refused to believe their eyes and just assumed that someone like Etem couldn't be as good as he appeared to be. While Fowler fell because he had been watched too closely for too long, Etem fell because hadn’t been watched too closely for long enough. Etem dropped all the way to #29 in this year’s draft, again right to the Anaheim Ducks.
An overabundance of imagination caused Cam Fowler to drop and a lack of imagination caused Etem's fall. Both players are very good and have proven themselves among their peers, yet they fell while others less accomplished and with less physical tools were taken ahead of them. Fowler was criticized because he’s too soft, but in reality he was criticized because he’s too big to be soft. Guys like Lubomir Visnovsky and Scott Niedermayer can get away with being soft because they are small, but players over 6 feet tall who prefer to use their stick to separate the puck from the man are often criticized. Fowler will team up with current Ducks prospect Luca Sbisa to form a duo that should rival anyone else's outside of Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis and LA. Etem is a physical specimen who works hard and I think he’ll grow to become a dynamic offensive player. He’ll take a while a la Bobby Ryan but he’ll make an impact when he finally gets to Anaheim. Both will eventually prove their critics wrong and people will wonder, "How did those guys fall so far?"
Like I said, you can over think these things.
(Note: Probably the best moment of the night was when Etem was drafted. When the Ducks went up to the podium they were showered with boos by Kings fans, while Ducks fans in attendance started up a "Let’s go Ducks!" chant. Both fanbases then united to cheer Etem, a Southern California kid who grew up loving the Kings while living 20 minutes from Honda Center. We may have our differences but we can all agree that a good California boy should never have to live anywhere else.)