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Pens Weekly: Erkamps Brings Physical Presence To New Team

December 30, 2018
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Pens Weekly: Erkamps Brings Physical Presence To New Team

WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli admits he didn’t know much about Macoy Erkamps when the defenseman was traded to the organization three weeks ago. What he’s learned is the 23-year-old plays with an edge and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, and that’s exactly the first impression Erkamps has tried to make with his new team. Included in the deal that also sent Ben Sexton to the Penguins and Stefan Elliott and Tobias Lindberg to the Ottawa Senators organization, Erkamps finally made his team debut last Friday in Hershey and was back in the lineup the following two games thanks to the glut of injuries that have hit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s defensive corps. The 23-year-old delivered a number of big hits and hasn’t been afraid to mix it up with opposing players, mirroring the “gritty” style he said defines his game. The British Columbia native has yet to establish a foothold in the AHL, however, splitting time between hockey’s premier minor league and the ECHL since starting his pro career in 2016. He’s hoping a fresh start in Wilkes-Barre puts him on that path. “Last year, I was in the (AHL) pretty much the whole year, but I didn’t play as many games or as much as I really was hoping for,” Erkamps said Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. “I see this as a new opportunity, so I’ve got to try to make the most of it and show up every single day and be consistent.” Erkamps said he was “a little shocked” by the trade, but is happy to be part of an organization that has produced notable NHL talent over the last decade. He might be young, but Erkamps does bring a prior track record as a team leader. He was captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings major junior team that won the Western Hockey League championship in 2015-16. That squad was littered with budding professional players. His defense partner was Ivan Provorov, who scored 17 goals for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, and other teammates included future No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick and current Florida Panthers forward Jayce Hawryluk. Erkamps benefitted greatly from playing with Provorov, a really good friend whom he still keeps in touch with regularly, and the rest of the group. He had a gaudy 71 points (13G-58A) on the blue line and still only ranked fifth on the team. “We had a confident group,” Erkamps said. “I was playing with a lot of confidence, and we had a real offensive group of guys. I just moved the puck up, and points were just coming.” However, that kind of production doesn’t match the bread and butter of his game. Erkamps places an emphasis on finishing his checks and moving the puck up ice. “I’m not a guy that’s going to go end to end with the puck,” he continued, “but get it in the hands of my forwards and maybe jump (into the rush) the odd time. Playing in my own end is a priority for me and being physical.” That includes delivering a big hit when the time calls for it. Early in the first period of last Saturday’s game in Syracuse, the Crunch were trying to transition through the neutral zone when Erkamps flattened Alexander Volkov with an open-ice check. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was able to take possession and skate the opposite direction. That toughness has come in handy for Erkamps, who has already had to face Penguins archrivals Hershey and Lehigh Valley during intense divisional games. On top of that, this recent stretch marked his first AHL appearances of the season. He had played 21 games for the ECHL’s Brampton Beast prior to being traded. Erkamps credited his teammates and coaches for helping him adjust to the team’s system with their communication in games and during practices. He hasn’t been perfect on the ice — Lehigh Valley’s Connor Bunnaman got behind him for a game-tying breakaway during Wednesday’s loss — but Erkamps is already showing he can be just as important an acquisition for the Penguins as Sexton. “He’s been consistent,” Donatelli said. “I’d never seen him play, and he brings that physical edge and keeps it simple. He’s been really good for us. Overall, he’s made an impression.” Contact the writer: tpiccotti@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPiccotti on Twitter

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