QUEBEC — As if the Tampa Bay Lightning don’t have enough goal-scorers, now they have Adam Erne on the way.
The Quebec Remparts left winger has been on fire all season and has been even hotter in the post-season with 22 goals in 23 games.
But when the New Haven, Conn., native turns pro next season, he will join an organization already loaded with skilled forwards who can put the puck in the net.
The Lighting have so much talent that they have barely used 2013 third overall draft pick Jonathan Drouin in their march to the NHL Eastern Conference final. Erne was picked in the second round, 33rd overall, in the same draft.
“I’m a different player than (Drouin),” Erne said Sunday at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. “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.”
The six-foot-one 218-pound Erne had 41 goals and 86 points in 60 regular season games and followed with 21 tallies in 22 playoff games as Quebec reached the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, only to lose in overtime in Game 7 to the Rimouski Oceanic.
The Pepsi Colisee crowd groaned when Erne left with an apparent knee injury in the first period of the host Remparts’ opening game of the Memorial Cup on Friday.
But the 20-year-old returned five minutes into the second frame and ended up scoring an empty-net goal that proved to be the winner in a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. He declared himself ready to go for a game Sunday against the Oshawa Generals.
It was not all fun and success this season for Erne, according to coach Philippe Boucher.
“He was tested this year,” said Boucher. “He didn’t stay long at the NHL camp, didn’t make Team USA.
“He wanted to be our captain but he understood the decision we made to put (Kurt) Etchegary back as captain. And, through all that, he’s been one of our best, if not the best player we’ve had all year.”
Erne played for the United States at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, so it was a surprise he was among the first cuts from this year’s squad, which was beaten by Russia in the quarter-finals in Montreal.
Boucher lauded the Lightning scouting staff’s eye for talent. He feels Erne’s versatility will earn him a role with the NHL club.
“What a job they’ve done drafting great kids,” said Boucher. “They come up one after the other, and Adam’s going to be one of them I’m sure.
“Sometimes it takes a little longer on a team that deep. Or, I hate to say it, but there’s room in the NHL for a guy like him and if it’s not there he’ll play before long (on another team). He’s an offensive guy here but he can be a physical presence, he can kill penalties, he can play on the third or fourth lines. So he’ll find his way.”
Erne plans to train hard in the summer and try to crack the Bolts lineup next season.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press