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Erne could fill void at power forward for Lightning

by Corey Long

BRANDON, Fla. -- Adam Erne knows that his performance at Tampa Bay Lightning development camp likely won't earn him a spot in the lineup this season, but the No. 33 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft hopes he gave the Lightning staff something to think about.

The Lightning appear set at forward. Last week, they signed free agent wing Erik Condra to a three-year contract and extended a qualifying offer to center Vladislav Namestnikov, moves that seemingly fill out Tampa Bay's bottom-six group for the 2015-16 season.

At 6-foot-1 and about 220 pounds, Erne is a true power forward. If the Lightning are looking for a physical presence as the season progresses, Erne has a big body that is tough to move.

"They have a lot of skilled guys on the team, great skaters," the 20-year-old left wing said. "And from me they are looking for a guy that's bigger and can play that power-forward role. I'm continuing to work hard to be that guy, and it's a process."

Erne's improved offensive game likely has caught the attention of the Lightning coaching staff and general manager Steve Yzerman. He had 41 goals and 45 assists in 60 games with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season after he 21 goals and 41 assists in 48 games in 2013-14. He then scored 21 goals in 21 QMJHL playoff games in 2015.

"I really wanted to focus on being more of a threat around the goal, and it was a good season," Erne said. "Overall, the goal was continue to get better than I was last year. Just get bigger, faster and stronger. I definitely want to be part of what's being built here in Tampa."

Also working in Erne's favor is the fact that young players Cedric Paquette, 21, and Jonathan Drouin, 20, were able to get in the Lightning lineup and play for much of the season.

Erne said he's followed Drouin's progress; the two were in the same draft class.

"I think he's going to be a special player," Erne said. "He has a lot of talent and he's going to get better. It was good to see him play in a lot of games this year."

But Erne, like many of the players invited to the Lightning's June 30-July 4 development camp, realizes it will be difficult to make the NHL roster this season. Tampa Bay, after all, brings back most of the team that came within two victories of winning the Stanley Cup last season.

"It's tough to crack the big lineup," Lightning director of player development Stacy Roest said. "I think Steve [Yzerman] has done a good job of building a winning organization here. If you go in and put your time in, it's proven that you'll get a chance."

Roest said Erne is progressing well; he expects the New Haven, Conn., native to come into training camp with the goal of making the Lightning lineup.

"He had a great year in the Quebec league," Roest said. "Unfortunately he didn't make the under-20 national team. He had 41 goals, I think, and he had 21 in the playoffs. I loved going in there to watch him play. His work ethic has really come along. He's a big kid, a thick body. He can skate and shoot and pass. I think he is reflective of the type of players that are coming through the organization."

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