Despite his young age, Indiana Ice left winger Adam Erne is turning heads in the United States League. And a lot of those heads need to be on a swivel if the kid is wearing the opposite jersey.
“I think he leads this team in hits; he’s not afraid,” said Ice coach Charlie Skjodt. “To see any kid contribute at 15 in this league is unreal.”
Erne is somewhat of an anomaly. A 2013 NHL draft prospect, he’s playing against opponents who are about to head off to college and, in some cases, have even returned after time in the NCAA. But with a stocky 6-foot, 197-pound build, the power-forward-in-training is holding his own. Erne has tallied nine goals and 14 points in 27 games for Indiana and is glad he made the jump to the USHL.
“I love it, it’s really tough,” he said. “I thought it would be the best opportunity for me. I thought playing with the older guys would be best.”
The USHL has had 15-year-olds before, but it is pretty rare. Last season, Waterloo boasted the duo of star defenseman Nick Ebert and big left winger Brady Vail. Both players are now with the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires, but Erne has chosen to go the NCAA route and is committed to Boston University for 2013. Indiana and Boston don’t seem like a natural geographic alignment, but Erne is from Connecticut originally and has never let distance get in the way of his hockey plans.
Though the youngster said he was “really close” to attending Avon Old Farms, a Connecticut prep school whose alumni includes Hall of Famer Brian Leetch and Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, he instead took his talents to California, where he played for the Los Angeles Selects. That billeting experience prepared him for life and travel in the USHL.
“It definitely helped having those two years,” Erne said.
The left winger began this season with the Jr. A New Jersey Rockets, but was quickly called up by the Ice and has never looked back.
“He’s got a good shot and good hands, he just needs to work on his initial burst,” Skjodt said. “He should be a hell of a prospect in a couple years.”
As for what he does best, the youngster is steadfast in the mold of player he wants to become and the fact Alex Ovechkin is a favorite of his shouldn’t be surprising.
“Probably rushing the puck,” Erne said of his top strength. “I feel like I’m a power forward rather than a finesse or defensive player.”
If there’s an early gap in Erne’s resume, it would be at the other end of the ice. On a very strong Indiana team, the kid is a team-worst minus-11, which can be forgiven based on his age, but is nonetheless something he would like to improve upon.
“Definitely my defensive side,” Erne said of his most pressing area of improvement. “I think my offensive game is pretty good.”
But of course Erne will have time to figure out those types of subtleties in the near future. He’ll likely spend at least two more seasons in the USHL and the way his coach tells it, focus will not be a problem.
“His whole life,” Skjodt said, “is nothing but and everything about hockey.”
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