Development Camp Just Another Stop on Adam Erne's Road to the NHL

Monday, 07.08.2013 / 11:44 AM
Mark Pukalo

Adam Erne’s journey to the NHL Draft took him through his native New England, California, the Midwest and French-speaking Quebec.

Erne soaked up every bit of the experiences along the way and that has given the power forward a chance to settle in another part of North America in the near future.

The Lightning scooped up the 6-0, 210-pound Erne, ranked 13th by The Hockey News, early in the second round June 30 and could add him to the lineup soon.

“He’s a skilled player in a big body,” Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray said. “He plays a big man’s game in front of the net and he can be a playmaker and a scorer. He brings a lot of components with his game. We have a lot of skilled guys, but we’d like to get a little bigger, a little stronger and little harder to play against.”

Erne, 18, can be part of that plan. He compares his style to Philadelphia Flyers wing Scott Hartnell, who can score 20-30 goals and plays with a physical edge.

The diverse teams and coaches he has worked with over the years have helped him expand his game and Erne has learned to transition through a variety of environments off the ice.

“It helped me mature, living away from home,” Erne said. “I had to become more of an independent person. Going to play juniors for the first time, some guys take it better than others. I think moving away at an early age just helps you adapt.”

Erne was born at Yale-New Haven Hospital, but spent the first 10 years in nearby North Branford. He often skated early mornings at the town rink -- Northford Ice Pavilion -- which opened in 1998, and later played for the Mid-Fairfield Blues based in Stamford.

After moving to New Hampshire for two years, Erne had an opportunity to travel to California to play for the L.A. Selects when he was 13. He lived with Selects goalie Eric Comrie and his family in Newport Beach, Calif. Eric, who went on to play with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, was picked by the Winnipeg Jets late in the second round.

“We were stacked,” Erne said.

Erne originally committed to Boston University, but after a season playing for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League near Indianapolis, the opportunity to play major junior was too hard to pass up.

Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy, then coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, liked Erne’s game and acquired him before the 2011-12 season.

“It has always been my dream to play at an early age [in the NHL] and I thought this was going to be the best route for me,” Erne said.

Erne, a left shot, posted 28 goals and 55 points over 64 games his first season with the Remparts and followed that up with 28 and 72, respectively, in 68 games in 2012-13. The left wing played a lot with Buffalo Sabres’ 2012 first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko and Nick Sorensen, who was picked by Anaheim in the second round last month. He also played a little with Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov before he was traded.

Playing in the USHL and the Quebec League was a contrast, which Erne took full advantage of.

“I was young in the USHL and I learned more about the physical side of the game,” Erne said. “There’s a lot of fighting, hitting and there’s a lot more tough guys to play against.

“Playing in the Q, you learn a bit more skill. I’m known more as a power forward with good skill, so I think I’ve got a good mix. It helps me play in different situations. I can play on any line and that helps me fit wherever I’m needed.”

Erne was projected as going anywhere from the middle to the end of the first round, but in one of the most talented classes of the draft there were no certainties.

“It kept you on the edge of your seat,” Erne said. “You never knew what was going to happen.”

Murray said the Lightning considered trying to move up into the first round from pick No. 33 as Erne slipped past the 20th spot. Few teams were interested in moving down though. When the draft moved to the final selections in the first round, Murray said the staff had three solid players they really liked on their list and felt confident one would be there at 33.

“We talked to him quite a bit with the hope that we might be able to move up and pick him,” Murray said. “The way things work sometimes, those players fall to you.”

Erne was invited, along with fellow Lightning prospect Dylan Blujus, to the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., Aug. 3-10. The camp is an audition for the World Juniors team that will compete Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014 in Malmo, Sweden.

Before that, Erne is getting a taste of his future at the Lightning’s Development Camp this week. He is here to learn and make an impression.

“I just want to prove that I can be NHL-ready sooner rather than later,” Erne said. “I want to show that I am going to do whatever it takes to play and I can hang with anyone.”

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