Chances were slim that Adam Erne would stick with the Tampa Bay Lightning this year, but Erne did all he could to make the Lightning’s decision tougher than it was supposed to be. Unfortunately, Erne’s bid was effectively cut short when the NHL handed him a three preseason game suspension for illegally targeting the head in Wednesday’s preseason opener against the St. Louis Blues. The Lightning announced today that Erne has been returned to his QMJHL team, the Quebec Remparts.
Erne, the 33rd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft, opened a lot of eyes over the summer.
He was a star in the rookie tournament the Bolts took part in earlier this month, and in his first preseason game in the NHL, Erne scored two goals in regulation and added the shootout winner to cap off a come-from-behind victory over the Blues.
With Brett Connolly, Tyler Johnson, and Richard Panik, to name a few, all vying for NHL roster space, it was unlikely that Erne would be able to win a spot this season. But he did all he could to win the graces of Coach Jon Cooper and General Manager Steve Yzerman. Erne plays an intense, physical style of game that will one day make him an intriguing option to play alongside the likes of Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin, and, if Father Time can be subdued long enough, Martin St. Louis.
For now, Erne will return to the Quebec Remparts where he’ll benefit from playing loads of minutes, and minutes in key situations. Simply, he’ll have a chance to develop that he wouldn’t get with the Lightning. He’ll have time to mature as a player and as a person, and return to next season’s camp further along in his progression, and confident.
Erne led the Remparts in scoring last season with 72 points in 68 games. But with several of the team’s older, best offensive weapons set to move on to either minor league hockey or to the NHL (Buffalo Sabres’ prospect Mikhail Grigorenko being the main one — Grigorenko scored 54 points in just 33 games), Erne will shoulder a much larger load this season. The conditions are right for him to acquire some invaluable experience as his team’s leader and go-to guy.
Despite being returned to junior, what Erne accomplished this summer is significant. He put himself on everyone’s radar, and possibly even cut all the way to the front of the line for next season. Most players in Erne’s position are looking at at least 2-3 solid years of development (have a look at the Syracuse Crunch roster for proof), but with such an outstanding showing, Erne has forced himself to the forefront of the minds of both Coach Cooper and GM Steve Yzerman – not to mention the minds of Lightning fans, if they’ve been paying attention.