At the start of his career with the Detroit Red Wings, Adam Erne was in a unique position.
As the Wings gathered for training camp in the fall of 2019, he was one of the few players who had been brought in by Steve Yzerman, who had been named general manager that April. While Erne’s first year with Detroit disappointed, his second year has put him in a position that probably will lead to a longer-term stay.
Erne, 26, is a restricted free agent, but he’s just one year from unrestricted status. Given that, Yzerman is likely to sign Erne to a multi-year contract.
“I think we got a real good player who is a little bit of a different dimension for us,” Yzerman said in May, a few days after the 2020-21 season ended for the Wings. “He’s a big, thick kid who’s got pretty good hands and can play a lot of different situations. I think there’s a lot more there. But I really like Adam’s determination and his drive.
“He’s really driven, he wants to be a good player in the NHL, he puts the time in, the work in. It was good to see he earned a bigger role on the team and thrived in it.”
Erne maximized the opportunity he got — especially on the power play — after Tyler Bertuzzi was lost to a back injury Jan. 30. Erne recorded a personal best 11 goals — nine more than he scored in 2019-20 — and nine assists in 56 games.
“We all feel good for him,” Yzerman said.
Yzerman drafted Erne in the second round, at No. 33 overall, in 2013 while GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Four months after taking the job in Detroit, Yzerman acquired Erne for a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The Wings needed grit, and as Erne’s game has grown, he has more than validated Yzerman’s decision.
“Steve is a great guy,” Erne said. “He’s very honest. Doesn’t tell you what you want to hear; tells you what you need to hear. I respect that a lot. He doesn’t feed you anything that’s not true. I always take what he says to heart and just try to work to work on what he thinks I need to work on and always take his advice. He’s not over the top, either. He stays behind the scenes a lot, so when he does say something, you make sure you listen.”
Erne spent last year’s pandemic-prolonged offseason working on being better in front of the net and playing a 200-foot game.
“I just tried to build on areas of the game that I played the most,” Erne said. “I’ll try to bring that into next season, do that consistently throughout the year.”
Erne tied Anthony Mantha for the team lead in goals and tied Filip Zadina with six power play points. While other lines changed often because there were so many injuries, Erne spent most of the season on a line with Luke Glendening and Darren Helm.
“Those are two really hard-working guys,” Erne said. “A lot of nights we played against other teams’ top lines and we prided ourselves on not giving them much. We tried to keep it simple, get pucks behind their D, just kind of frustrate them, make them play in their zone.”
“Him, Glenny and Helmer had an identity to their line,” team captain Dylan Larkin said. “They played hard, they were physical, they spent time in the O-zone by grinding it out and using each other. To see him have a good year, we were all happy for him.”
Erne looks like he can be a solid complementary piece in the rebuild. He’s in the same age-group as Larkin, Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri and Jakub Vrana, and he fits nicely into Yzerman’s plan as a low-risk investment.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.