TAMPA — As Team USA head coach Don Lucia looked for somebody to be a difference maker, Adam Erne raised his hand.
When no one else volunteered for a shootout during an exhibition game against Finland, the 18-year-old forward stepped up to the challenge. Erne coverted two of three chances, lifting the United States a 4-3 victory during a junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in early August. That came on the heels of Erne tying the game in regulation to force overtime.
“I like going and being in pressure situations,'' said Erne, the Tampa Bay Lightning's second-round pick in the June draft. “He asked who wanted to go, and kind of surprisingly nobody said yes. So, I put my hand up and didn't hesitate. After that, he did the same thing, and by the third time I just kind of looked at him and he said, 'Go.' And I'm happy I got to go; I love going in shootouts.''
By all acounts, Erne had a strong showing at the USA camp and is a top candidate to be part of Team USA for the 2014 World Junior Championships in December in Sweden.
“I was pleased with how he played; I thought he was one of the more effective U.S. forwards,'' said Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who was on hand in Lake Placid. “What I really liked about him, he got the puck and made plays. He seemed to really have a good understanding of what to do with it, particularly in the offensive end.''
Erne will try to show that once again as part of Tampa Bay's rookie team, which opens play Friday against Nashville in a four-team prospect tournament at Saveology IcePlex in Coral Springs. Florida and Boston also are competing.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound winger finished his draft year with 28 goals and a team-high 44 assists for Quebec of the Major Junior Hockey League, which was coached by current Colorado Avalanche coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.
Erne is widely considered a power forward with scoring skill. But according to Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray, Erne is a versatile power forward capable of more than just putting up points.
“He does have the skill to be one of your top offensive players,'' Murray said. “Adam can come in and, if things are not going well for him with the puck, he can be a presence without the puck by being physical. He's a very smart player, he can play a two-way game.
“He can do a lot of different things on the ice, he doesn't have to score points to be an effective player for his team. We are anxious to see him both physically be a presence and put up some numbers.''
With few roster spots available at forward for the Lightning, Erne figures to return to Quebec this season, where he will be counted on to be a leader for the Remparts. In the meantime, he wants to put his best skate forward at the rookie camp and do enough to stick around when the main camp opens on Wednesday.
“I'm excited ... so far everything went well in my training and testing,'' Erne said. “I felt we had two good days of practices, so I'm just excited to see what happens.''