Positioning himself at the far side of the net, Detroit Red Wings forward Adam Erne skillfully settled a bouncing centering pass with the in-blade of his right skate.
He was just getting started displaying his emerging offensive arsenal on the Red Wings’ lone goal in the 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last Saturday.
Avoiding the harassment from all-world goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, Erne, while falling, stickhandled the puck from his backhand to his forehand and, in fluid motion, stuffed the puck past the red line.
For fourth-line grinders everywhere, Erne must have seemed like he was showing off, scoring his career-high eighth goal.
Entering the season, few expected Erne to be nearing double-digits in goals, especially during a shortened regular season.
Fewer still would have believed he would emerge as one of the franchise’s key trade chips.
Emerging Red Wings Asset
Steve Yzerman drafted Erne in the second round for the Lightning in 2013, then traded for him as the Red Wings’ general manager. Now, he is undoubtedly collecting offers to ship Erne away.
With the NHL trade deadline approaching next Monday, established veteran forwards Luke Glendening, Bobby Ryan and Valtteri Filppula are being showcased for Yzerman’s peers to scout.
While injured goalie Jonathan Bernier remains Yzerman’s top deadline asset, Erne is giving Yzerman an additional dimension to his trade talks. Financially, Erne, who is skating on a 1-year, $997,500 deal, would prove to be an affordable grinder for a playoff contender.
After starting 2021 in an expected role, Erne, a restricted free agent this offseason, is becoming a bigger topic of GM conversations.
Increasing TOI, Expanding Offense
Much like his previous four NHL seasons, Erne opened the campaign by routinely logging around nine minutes of time on the ice (TOI). The next game, he’d get maybe 10 minutes. Sometimes 11. Possibly 12, if the bench was short.
But during the Red Wings’ 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25, Erne scored while recording a season-high 13:59 TOI. The next outing, he registered 14:06 TOI.
And over the past several weeks, Erne continues to earn the confidence of Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. He totaled 27 minutes 42 seconds TOI while collecting two assists, including a power-play helper, during consecutive contests with the Blackhawks March 27-28.
Then, during the Red Wings’ 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on March 16, Ernie’s stock swelled with two power-play goals and 19:09 TOI.
An extra minute or two of ice time may not sound like much, but to grinders like Erne, it is proving to be a dramatic increase in opportunity.
He’s not just showing off, either.