Prospect of the Week: September 24, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award this season, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for September 24, 2013 – our first of the season – is … Adam Erne, Tampa Bay (NHL) and Quebec (QMJHL).

Like we've been saying, it's Adam Erne's world.

When Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman passed on defenseman Seth Jones in the first round at this summer’s entry draft in favor of dynamic winger Jonathan Drouin, we figured Yzerman’s target in the second round would be a defenseman or power forward.

The Hall of Fame center-turned-general manager picked the latter at No. 33 when he chose Erne, a 6-1, solidly built winger from the Quebec Remparts. Erne was coming off a year in which he led the Remparts in scoring, but questions remained about his workout habits and hands. One draft previewer questioned Erne scoring only 28 goals on a team stacked with skill.

Someone forgot to tell Erne that he didn’t have goal scorer’s hands last week.

Erne made his NHL preseason debut on Wednesday in Orlando for the Lightning, scoring twice in regulation then adding the shootout winner in a 4-3, come-from-behind win over the Blues.

He scored on a deflection in traffic from the crease then later on a savvy move around NHL goaltender Brian Elliot. In the shootout he paused with the puck on his forehand before roofing a wrist shot into the top corner, stick side.

Unfortunately, he also took a bad check-to-the-head penalty, earning him a three-game preseason suspension. The Lightning, who likely didn’t have any intention of keeping him on its NHL roster anyway, quickly sent Erne back to Quebec to rejoin his Rempart teammates who had started the year 0-2-1-0.

Erne and his “suspect hands” had a hat trick in his first game on Sunday, a 6-2 win over Rimouski. It was the Remparts’ first win of the season. Of course, Erne also had four minutes in penalties in the first period. Someone probably questioned his hands and he retaliated.

Erne projects as a top-6 winger at the NHL level who is willing and able to go into the corners and high traffic areas to gain possession and score goals. His player type isn’t as common as it once was, but the good thing is his talent floor isn’t too far from his ceiling. At the least, he has the smarts and grit to be a third or fourth line NHLer. At most, a dependable, underrated scoring liner.

A smart draft pick for Yzerman.

We anticipate Erne leading or coming close to leading the Remparts in scoring again this year. We also think he can be among those fighting for the league scoring title – which would have been won last year by the aforementioned Drouin had he not played 19 fewer games than PEI’s Ben Duffy. Erne will miss some games, too, as he is expected to suit up for Team USA during the World Junior Championships after Christmas.

The future is bright for this Connecticut-born forward. His “Best. Week. Ever.” included six total goals in two games in two leagues… and now a Prospect of the Week award.

2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

May 1, Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse, AHL-USA
April 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse, AHL-USA
April 17, Nikita Kucherov, RW, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
April 10, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
April 3, Matthew Peca, W, Quinnipiac, NCAA-USA
March 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
March 19, Dylan Blujus, D, Brampton, OHL-Canada
March 12, Radko Gudas, D, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
March 4, Ondrej Palat, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
February 25, Ondrej Palat, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
February 19, Nikita Kucherov, W, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
February 12, Alex Killorn, C/W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
February 5, Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
January 30, Nikita Kucherov, W, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
January 23, Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
January 15, Artem Sergeev, D, Val-d’Or, QMJHL-Canada
World Juniors break
December 17, Alex Killorn, C/W, Syracuse, AHL-Canada
December 10, Nikita Kucherov, RW, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
December 3, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
November 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 20, Richard Panik, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 12, Alex Hutchings, W, Florida, ECHL-USA
November 5, Nikita Kucherov, W, Quebec, QMJHL-Canada
October 30, Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough, OHL-Canada
October 23, Dustin Tokarski, G, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 15, Cory Conacher, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 9, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
October 2, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia
September 25, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia