National Hockey League Central Scouting must see something special in the 13 games Kurt Etchegary has played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.
Despite not having dressed for a game since late October due to injury, the Quebec Remparts centre was ranked 52nd among North American skaters when Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings earlier this week. He is the only player from this province ranked for the June 30 draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
"It feels awesome. I found out at the rink, and it wasn't just me, there were a couple of guys from the team as well," Etchegary said. Fellow Remparts Adam Erne (No. 13) and Nick Sorensen (No. 27), often his linemates on the team's second string this season, are ranked along with Anthony Duclair (No. 35) and Alexandrew Boivin (No. 176).
"In the end, it's only a mid-term list and I've been injured, so I can't really take much from it until I go out and prove myself on the ice."
Out of action
The 18-year-old from St. John's, a 5-11, 185-pound product of the Caps' minor system, has been out of action the last three months following two athroscopic surgeries to repair hip joints that have been bothering him since a collision with a teammate two years ago during his AAA midget season with Montreal's Lac St. Louis Lions of the Quebec provincial major midget circuit.
"I wasn't sure if I would need surgery then, so I kept playing. I actually played in the 2011 Telus Cup (in St. John's) with it and I played last year, too," Etchegary explains. "This year in training camp, the pain got worse and at the beginning of the season I started to feel it more and more to the point where I couldn't really skate.
"The bone inside the hip is supposed to have a circular shape, but mine is more oval. So I would have needed the surgery later in life just to keep my hockey career going."
He had his first surgery on Nov. 8 and the second procedure a month later on Dec. 7.
The first operation was to his left hip, one doctors believed was a chipped bone requiring screws. But once inside, an arthroscopic camera revealed it was just badly torn cartilage.
As it turns out, because the injury wasn't as serious as initially thought, Etchegary will be back in the lineup sooner than originally planned. He started skating last week, had his first practice without contact this week and is expected to return to the lineup as early as Feb. 9 for a game against the Victoriaville Tigres.
"At first they were telling me that my season might be over, or I might make it back for the last couple of rounds of the playoffs.
"But the recuperation has been going way better than expected and I've been following the rebab procedures correctly. That's good news, especially considering it's my draft year, the biggest year of my hockey career to date."
When he went on the injured list, Etchegary was enjoying a solid sophomore season playing his gritty two-way game.
In his 13 games, he had five goals and six assists, nearly on par with his entire rookie season output of 14 points in 61 games.
Etchegary isn't concerning himself with whether the extended layoff caused his stock to drop, or if it will result in his stock dropping when the next ranking list is released at season's end.
"If I'd played, I think I could have been around the same spot, or hopefully a little higher," he said, adding, "It doesn't mean much if I don't come back and do what I was going before. I've got to pick up where I left off."
When one Googles Kurt Etchegary, the sixth hit in the search results is a fight from the St. John's native's rookie season with the Quebec Remparts.
"A lot of people ask what I was thinking there," the 5-11 Etchegary says of his spirited bout with the 6-7 Samuel Morin.
"Earlier in the game, he had given (Alexander Comtois) a knee-on-knee hit, which was pretty dirty. The older guys hadn't stepped up and none of the fighters really dropped their gloves."
So Etchegary took it upon himself to challenge Morin.
"His arms were 10 feet longer than mine. When you fight a guy that big, you've got to get in close. Unfortunately, he had the reach on me and was holding me out."
To his credit, Etchgary holds his own for the first 30 seconds of the fight, even landing a couple of punches on his oversized opponent. But at 34-second mark on the video, Morin lands a vicious right hook that dropped Etchegary to the ice.
"They call it a knock out, but I don't know why. I wasn't lights out," says Etchegary, who was kept on the ice by the referee as a precautionary measure and only allowed on his feet after being attended to by the team's trainer.
It wasn't his first fight, and it won't be his last. Not even against Morin.
"If one my teammates got hit like that again by him, I would happily go back at him again.
"But I'd try to get in closer this time," he says with a chuckle.
Check out the fight at youtube.com/watch?v=WKXPCch0dFU.