It wasn’t that long ago — not even one month, in fact — that the Detroit Red Wings’ power play was listless. From Jan 30 through February 27, the team failed to score a single power play goal, a span of 40 attempts with the man advantage. It was frustrating, embarrassing, and frankly, the talk of the town.
Then Adam Erne stepped in.
Erne, an unheralded acquisition from the Tampa Bay Lightning in August of 2019, has been on fire lately, specifically on the power play. His presence has given Detroit a major boost in recent games, helping the team win three of its last four games, despite relatively low playing time.
Erne Breaks Through Despite Little Ice Time
Erne has made the most of his appearances this season, recording seven (four goals, three assists) in his last ten games. He ranks eighth on the team in points (nine) and sixth in goals (five), despite averaging 12:26 of ice time over 23 appearances this season. To put that into perspective, that’s 26th on the team and is dead last for anyone who has appeared in nine or more games this season.
Still, Erne has helped the Red Wings along when they needed it most. The former second-round pick has breathed life into the power play, and his last five points have all been with the man advantage; Two goals and an assist against the Carolina Hurricanes, a goal against the Lightning, and an assist against the Chicago Blackhawks. In all, he has either scored or assisted on Detroit’s last four power-play goals.
The team’s recent success on special teams has been more in tune with what fans typically hope to see. Detroit has scored seven power-play goals in its last nine games, converting on roughly 28 percent of its man advantages. That’s a far cry from its season average of 12 percent, and Erne, despite his relatively low playing time, has contributed greatly. His offensive point share of 0.7 has him tied for fifth on the team with Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Bobby Ryan. It should also be noted that he has won almost 54 percent of his face-off attempts, which is an important stat considering the Red Wings start in the defensive zone 61 percent of the time when Erne is on the ice.
Make no mistake, he has also benefitted from the skilled players that he shares power play time with. His last three goals were assisted by Filip Hronek (three), Filip Zadina (two), and Larkin (one). Hronek himself is no stranger to dishing out apples, as he leads the team in points (18) and assists (17).
Erne acknowledged his linemates in his post-game comments after Tuesday’s win over the Hurricanes, which snapped an eight-game win streak for Carolina.
“The power play is really clicking right now,” Erne said in his postgame remarks. “I think the communication is good and we know what we want to do. We’ve got a lot of skilled players out there and we’ve gotten it rolling.”
Erne Having One of His Best Statistical Seasons
Erne’s NHL journey has been an interesting one. Selected by then-Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft (33rd overall), he appeared in 114 games with the Lightning before being traded to Detroit in Aug 2019 in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round pick. That reunited him with Yzerman, whose faith in the young forward has been rewarded as of late. Erne’s current deal expires after this season, though he remains a restricted free agent.
Erne is primed to have his best season to date, despite the NHL’s shortened season. Statistically speaking, his best season was a 65-game, 20-point campaign in 2018-19, but the 25-year-old is just two goals short of his career-best in goals scored, and despite his low playing time, appears to at least be solidifying an everyday spot in the lineup.
Yzerman and the Red Wings continue to plow through a complete rebuild, and throughout the process, players like Erne are important to have on the roster. He’s embraced his status as a role player, which is the type of attitude any team in rebuild mode needs to keep progressing forward. It’s become clear that he is establishing real chemistry with his teammates and will likely be in a good position to remain with the organization at a reasonable cost if he continues to supply this level of productivity.
What has been your recent impression of Erne or other role players on the Red Wings? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.