These are good times for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Just one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 11 years, the Lightning are also starring at the Memorial Cup courtesy Quebec Remparts sniper Adam Erne, the club’s second-round pick (33rd overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Erne, who has 22 goals in 23 playoff games thus far — including one in the Remparts’ tournament-opening win against Kelowna — has always been closely tied to another of Tampa’s top prospects, Jonathan Drouin. Drouin went No. 3 overall in that same ’13 Draft class, and the two were involved in an incident during last year’s QMJHL campaign, when Erne concussed Drouin with a hit from behind.
It’s physicality that sets the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Erne apart. While Drouin is an elite-level skill guy, Erne projects to be more of a banger-and-crasher at the NHL level — which could make for a smoother transition than what Drouin, a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs, has experienced trying to get minutes in Tampa Bay’s top-six.
“I’m a different player than (Drouin),” Erne explained, per the Montreal Gazette. “Obviously, he’s a special player, but at the same time, there are so many guys on that team that are really skilled, smaller guys.
“Fortunately for me, from what they’re telling me, they’re looking for a guy who plays my way. A bigger guy, playing a power forward role. It’ll take a lot of work on my part, but at the same time, fortunately for me, it’s something I think they need.”
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Erne fits in Tampa Bay. He’s rebounded well after some setbacks this season — he was cut early from training camp, and failed to make Team USA for the World Juniors — and could be in line for a bottom-six role with the Lightning next year, possibly replacing pending UFA Brenden Morrow.
That said, a trip to the AHL seems most likely, given all the success the organization’s had with grooming players in the American League.