(This is the 21st in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster. Up next: Steven Stamkos)
TAMPA — The Lightning knew it needed a grittier style of play this season.
Enter Adam Erne, a 6-foot-1, 214-pound wing who often played on the bottom two lines with some of Tampa Bay’s more hard-hitting players.
It didn’t take long for Erne to show his purpose on his team, but he also had to grow into that purpose, learning how to play with physicality while not going over the top.
He logged 159 hits in 65 games in his first full season with the Lightning. That’s 42 more hits than Cedric Paquette had in 64 games in his first full season five years ago.
It’s a great mark for Erne in his first season. Just look at where Paquette was this year, 269 hits and five away from matching the franchise record. It’s hard to snark at that.
And it’s not out of the question that Erne could reach Paquette’s level of physical play in the seasons to come.
Erne’s presence served the Lightning well this year, helping fulfill a need for it to get back some of the rougher style it had lost over past seasons. Erne’s play also helped take some of the pressure off Paquette as Tampa Bay’s go-to player on the physical front.
“I think playing in that kind of role, you have to be more physical,” Ryan Callahan said about Erne early in the season. “He’s a big body, obviously, and you can see when he throws his body around, how effective he is to create some space for himself and his teammates.”
There’s a fine line between playing a physical game and taking penalties. Learning how to walk it comes with experience. But Erne seems to have found how to do that.
“He’s playing hard, and he’s not finding himself in the box,” Callahan said.
Erne had 40 penalty minutes this season. His only majors were a misconduct (one) and for fighting (two). Of his 10 minor penalties, four were for roughing.
Erne can be a restricted free agent this summer, having finished his three-year entry-level contract at $874,167 per season. Lightning executives will be faced with another hard financial decision, with re-signing center Brayden Point, who also can be a restricted free agent, a priority.
Erne’s ability to stay out of the box and his physicality helps his case.
High: He had two three-point games, at Philadelphia on Nov. 17 (one goal) and against Montreal on Dec. 29 (two goals).
Low: He had a season-high 15 penalty minutes against Pittsburgh on Feb. 9, five for fighting about halfway into the first period and a 10-minute misconduct toward the end of the game.
By the numbers
7 Hits versus the Islanders on Jan. 13, a season high
20 Points this year (seven goals)
65 Games played
159 Hits, third highest on the team behind Cedric Paquette (269) and rookie Erik Cernak (198)
10:33 Average ice time
Contact Mari Faiello at [email protected]. Follow @faiello_mari.