14 March, 13:18

NHL Quick hit: 1-on-1 with surging Adam Henrique

By David Kerans

Everyone doubted Adam Henrique just 10 weeks ago. The New Jersey Devils were counting on the third-year center to chip in some extra scoring to help fill the void superstar Ilya Kovalchuk left when he bolted for the KHL in July 2013, but over the first half of the season Henrique’s scoring was down, not up.

More ominously, Henrique’s shooting statistics suggested that the slump was no accident. As Christmas approached, his rate of attempting shots was down by 25% from the previous season, and the average distance from which he was shooting was up by 30%. Those were disturbing numbers.

On December 21, we had a chance to see Henrique in action and sound him out about his development. What we found convinced us he was in very good form, and our feature article on Henrique concluded that it should not be long before he would be pulling more than his weight for NJ. Everything about his play looked right, and he was getting into good positions, creating chances for himself and his linemates. Adam himself appeared plenty confident about his prospects.

Henrique upright

Warming up, his slightly upright posture evident                        Photo credit: © VR

Sure enough, Henrique has contributed mightily to NJ’s playoff run over the last three months. He poured it on coming out of the Olympic break, scoring 9 goals in two weeks, and winning NHL number 2 and number 3 “player of the week” recognition in those weeks. His P1 (goals and primary assists) per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time has soared to 1.12, from 0.63 in mid-December and 0.88 for last season. His powerful production is all the more impressive on account of his spending most of his playing time alongside the mightily struggling Michael Ryder (no goals in 20 games, and counting).

Henrique glue

Got it glued to his stick    Photo credit: © VR

Henrique’s shooting stats over the 30 games since December 21 tell a persuasive story. He has delivered 66 shots on goal in that span, a rate 20% above what he managed last season, and has gotten in much closer before shooting: his average distance is down to 28.5 feet for the year, from 31 feet over the first half of the schedule. It makes perfect sense, therefore, that the puck is going into the net a lot more.

Henrique to net

Gets to net, scores (over Khudobin's left arm)    Photo credit: © Jim McIsaac, AFP

His coach has not been convinced about Henrique’s turnaround. Commenting on Henrique to journalist Randy Miller as the Olympic break was ending, coach Peter DeBoer doubted his centerman was more than a 20 goal scorer. Then, before the NJ-PHI game on Tuesday, DeBoer put Adam’s two–week scoring surge down to rest he got during the Olympic break, and Henrique showing “an aggressive mentality”.

We believe DeBoer somewhat underestimates Henrique. We don’t think Henrique needed any break. He was revving up already in December, and has been a force on the ice in most games since then. Notice how his physical left winger, Ryane Clowe, spoke of Henrique back in mid-January:

“His speed through the middle and his ability to get around the puck reminds me a lot of Logan Couture in San Jose,” Clowe said. “I played with Logan for 3 years. He’s a hell of a hockey player. “They have similarities when (Henrique’s) on the top of his game and playing with pace. You’ve seen the 3 goals that (Henrique) scored the last 3 games were all driving the middle with speed.”

And we think Henrique has the tools to score more than DeBoer foresees. One of those tools is visible in the video here: Henrique has bulked up. He is stronger than when he came into the NHL, and looks ready to ride a long wave of success.

We found Henrique in a relaxed NJ locker room, wedged between good-natured linemates Clowe (L) and Ryder (R), for a chat about his recent success, Wayne Gretzky, his relationship with former NJ assistant coach Adam Oates, and more.

NHL 1-on-1: the surging Adam Henrique

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