New Syracuse Forward Erne Focuses on Present, FutureĀ 

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Adam Erne knows his days with the Syracuse Crunch are numbered.

With six games left in the Crunch’s season, the 18-year-old is soaking in his first professional experience. Next year, if the 2013 second-round pick doesn’t make the Tampa Bay Lightning, he returns to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, who are hosting the 2015 Memorial Cup tournament.

“I guess it’s more preparation for camp this year in Tampa,” said Erne, who signed an entry level contract with the Lightning and an amateur tryout with the Crunch last week. “I know a lot of these guys are going to be there, and it’s going to be a lot of the same skill set. Obviously, there’s a jump to the NHL, but this is as close as it gets. It’s good preparation for camp.”

Erne, on the opposite wing of fellow 2013 pick Joel Vermin, spent his first pro game on a line centered by Cedric Paquette and registered an assist on Paquette’s 20th goal of the season Friday. Former first-rounder Vlad Namestnikov centered Erne and Vermin on Saturday.

Crunch coach Rob Zettler was impressed with the 6-1, 206-pounder’s first two performances.

“I thought the first game he was really good -- very involved and made some offense happen,” Zettler said. “(He was) a little quieter on Saturday night, but generally he fits in. He has the strength of a pro player.”

Erne, a native of New Haven, Conn., registered 206 points in 203 games over the past three seasons with Quebec. This season alone he piled up 21 goals and 41 assists over 48 games before being sidelined by a lacerated spleen in February.

“It was just kind of a freak accident,” Erne said. “It was just a bump, and I came off the ice and thought I bruised my ribs or something. Then I went out the next shift, came off the ice and just started throwing up and stuff. So I went to the hospital and they told me I lacerated my spleen.”

Erne recorded a goal in his return, but Quebec was eliminated from the playoffs by Rouyn-Noranda.

“It’s tough to watch (the team) getting down in the first round of the playoffs,” Erne said. “There’s not much you can do. You come back for one game, it’s away and you haven’t played in six weeks.”

The final stretch with the Crunch provides Erne with a chance to end the season on a better note, as well as allowing him time to adjust to the pro game.

“I gained some confidence, and there are a lot of great guys on the team, it’s been really good so far,” Erne said. “I think I fit in pretty well. It took some adjusting to get used to the speed of the game -- the passes are faster, the shots are harder -- but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well.”