The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the recall of winger Adam Erne from the Syracuse Crunch. This is Erne’s first recall to the big club since joining the organization. Brian Boyle left the game Saturday night with a lower body injury during the second period and did not return. Erne’s recall is likely a sign that Boyle will at least miss the Lightning’s next game Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.
If Erne plays on Tuesday, he’ll be the 10th different player and 8th different forward to appear for the Lightning that was not on the opening night roster. Obviously a lot of this has to do with the plethora of injuries that the Lightning have had to deal with this season. Injuries have stressed the organization nearly to the breaking point with the team struggling to maintain a full roster in both Tampa and Syracuse.
Why so many different callups?
This past week, the Raw Charge staff had a discussion regarding Erne and why he had not received a call-up yet. We speculated that general manager Steve Yzerman is auditioning players for next year’s roster, which would explain why we have seen some players called up that otherwise were not expected to be at the top of the depth chart.
For example, on my personal depth chart, the top forwards for recall are Cory Conacher, Erik Condra, Joel Vermin and Tanner Richard. Conacher and Vermin fill needs for scoring wingers. Condra fills in as a fourth line winger. Richard could come up if there was a need for a fourth line center. All four of them have gotten call-ups to fill exactly those roles.
Michael Bournival, Adam Erne, Matthew Peca, and Tye McGinn were all in the next tier for me. Bournival and McGinn are fourth-liners with NHL experience. Erne and Peca are young prospects with a future in the NHL as middle six players, with Erne having a little more offensive upside and Peca capable of playing center. McGinn is the only one of that group yet to be recalled.
The next tier, and the players I didn’t expect would get a call-up at all, were Yanni Gourde, Mike Halmo, Jeremy Morin, and Gabriel Dumont. While there is some NHL experience sprinkled in there, all four have the look of being career minor leaguers.
To have Gourde called up to Tampa over the likes of Conacher and Vermin was a surprise. The need is there for him to play on the third line, and his offensive skills make sense. In his second game of the year, he was shifted down to the fourth line, but played limited minutes.
All of that, along with Erne’s recall, lends credence to the idea that Yzerman is auditioning for next year. With salary cap issues looming as well as the expansion draft next summer, we might see a radically different roster come 2017-18. One or more of these forwards will likely be in the mix next training camp to make their way to the NHL full time.
As for Erne, he has earned his way up to this recall. His rookie season in Syracuse was marred early on by a broken hand. He missed time later in the year with other injuries. He finished the year with 29 points in 59 games with 14 goals. So far this season for Syracuse he has scored eight goals and 18 points in just 31 games. If not for hitting an inordinate number of posts, his goals and points totals would look even more gaudy.
The 2nd round pick from 2012 is a power forward that measures 6’1” and 209 pounds. I won’t be surprised if he takes Boyle’s spot on the line with Valtteri Filppula and Jonathan Drouin. He has decent skating ability and a stocky build that lets him play a power forward game. He has the strength to power his way to the front of the net and isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice. Boyle was playing the same kind of role on that line. Hopefully, the success that Boyle was having will be continued by Erne.
With the Lightning calling him up now, he’ll have an opportunity to travel to Tampa and be in practice tomorrow for the Lightning. We should find out after practice where he might be playing in the line up.