The Halifax Mooseheads are the odds-on favourites to take the Presidents' Cup this season as QMJHL champions, thanks in large part to their dynamic duo up front of Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon will get back into the Mooseheads lineup tonight after sitting out 14 games due to injury.
MacKinnon and Drouin were selected at No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft, although MacKinnon, originally drafted by the Baie Comeau Drakkar, held out and publicly discussed making a move to the NCAA ranks. His hometown team in Halifax ponied up the resources to trade for the 15-year-old phenom centreman.
One of those resources was the young Adam Erne, selected at No. 22 by Halifax. The Mooseheads traded Erne to the Québec Remparts for picks that they used to obtain the rights to MacKinnon from the Drakkar. Halifax general manager Cam Russell used every available advantage to get into the 2011 season with both MacKinnon and Drouin in tow, including the admiration Remparts general manager Patrick Roy held for Erne.
In an interview with NHL.com's Mike Morreale on Wednesday, Erne said that he was never going to play for any QMJHL team except for the Remparts. Russell took a huge risk by using a high second round pick:
"I told every [QMJHL] team I wasn't entering except Quebec," Erne said. "Somehow, Halifax found out and because they were pursuing options to somehow acquire [Nathan] MacKinnon, they drafted me in the second round [No. 22]. They then completed a three-team trade to get MacKinnon."
On July 11, 2011, Halifax general manager Cam Russell dealt Erne to Quebec in exchange for a second-round pick and two first-round picks. That gave Halifax five first-round choices over the next three years.
Two days later, MacKinnon's rights were traded to Halifax by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar for two players, first-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013, and Quebec's first-round draft pick in 2013, previously acquired by Halifax.
"I ended up where I wanted to be in Quebec, so it worked out," Erne said. [NHL.com]
Of course, if Erne told every QMJHL team that he'd only play for the Remparts, he can't exactly act surprised if Russell found out that Patrick Roy really liked Erne. Then with the Indiana Ice of the USHL, he scored 18 points in 45 games as the youngest player in the league. Had he been taken by any other team, apparently he would have ended up going to play for the Boston University Terriers of the NCAA. He had originally commit to the Terriers before being pursued by Patrick Roy.
It has been a rough year for the Remparts. They started out on an impressive streak and were definite contenders, but Roy had to juggle the services of imports Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Kucherov and Nick Sorensen. After trading Kucherov to Rouyn-Noranda, Grigorenko left to the Buffalo Sabres at the conclusion of the NHL lockout. Erne now leads the team in scoring, although he was scoring a lot more points before Grigorenko left the team to play for Russia at the World Junior championship. Erne had 18 points in October, 11 in November and 15 in December, but just 9 in January, 7 in February and 4 so far in six March contests.
Erne, like most other prospects from the 2011 QMJHL draft, is eligible this season. As a lower ranked prospect, his ranking varies from outlet to outlet. The latest "consensus rankings" compiled by NHLNumbers.com's Derek Zona listed him at 13th in the upcoming draft, the third ranked QMJHL player behind MacKinnon and Drouin and second highest American behind Seth Jones.
The Remparts are fifth in the QMJHL, although Erne has been every bit the player they've traded for.