Off the Ice with Calder Candidate Adam Henrique

A year ago at this time, Adam Henrique was playing for the New Jersey Devils’ AHL team (the Albany Devils) and posting a 50-point (25g-25a) effort over 73 games in his first season as a pro. He earned a call up for New Jersey’s final game of the season (April 10, 2011 vs. Boston), giving him a sample of what NHL hockey is all about. Fast forward to March 18 of this season; Henrique is now firmly entrenched as New Jersey’s number one pivot, centering two superstars – Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise — quite a change for a guy that was barely on the Devils’ opening night roster.

Some say he is even a candidate for rookie of the year (Calder Trophy), and his stats would back that up. He has registered 46 points (15g-31a) in 64 games, including four shorthanded goals and three game-winners. It seems sometimes that he came out of nowhere, but he was a star in Junior hockey with the Windsor Spitfires, playing regularly with the first overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers. When Windsor won the Memorial Cup, it was Henrique and not Hall that won the Wayne Gretzky Trophy (playoff MVP) by tallying 25 points (20g-5a) in 19 games.

Hockey scouts see a nice upside for the recently turned 22-year-old from Brantford, Ontario: “He leads by example, has two-way intelligence and a high hockey IQ. Can play center or wing and plays his best in pressure situations. He must continue getting stronger in order to maximize his two-way acumen at the highest level.”

Recently I was able to slow down the speedy Henrique to ask him a few questions about his career and off-ice interests.

The Devils selected Henrique 82nd overall (3rd round) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and although he was happy just to be selected, he was excited that it was New Jersey that chose him. “(I knew I was going to be drafted), it was just a matter of when, and to what team,” recalled Henrique of that afternoon in Ottawa. “It’s a huge honor to be drafted into this league, and it was special to experience that; having my family there. To be picked by New Jersey, it was a great fit for me – three and a half years later — it couldn’t have worked out better for me.”

After making the big club out of training camp, because the team’s top center Travis Zajac was sidelined indefinitely while recovering from an Achilles injury, Henrique was sent down to Albany on October 14 after two uneventful games played and a healthy scratch for another. Eight days later he was recalled as the Devils were shuffling the lineup, still trying to offset the loss of their number one center, Zajac.

Three games after being recalled he registered his first NHL point, an assist on October 27 in Phoenix, and three games after that he scored his first goal; the first of four goals over three games. “We were in Philly, and it was a little frustrating for me up to that point,” he revealed. “I had hit a few posts, I was getting chances and it just seemed like one was never going to go in.”

“There was a turnover and it was a two-on-one with myself and Kovy. Being on a two-on-one with that guy, you just keep your stick on the ice and at any point he’s going to throw it over. So I just tried to get to the net, he put it right on my tape,” said Henrique before smiling and adding, “It was Merry Christmas from there,” even though it was only November 3.

Some of his closest friends in the league aren’t necessarily on his team just yet, but he was joking with current teammate Petr Sykora pretty good at the start of this interview about Henrique’s missed opportunities during the game against Colorado where his peer made some great passes that were flubbed by the 22-year-old.

“I think the other day I counted thirteen guys that I played with in Windsor that are in the NHL right now or played this season,” said Henrique. “I was talking with my good buddy (Eric) Wellwood of the Flyers, he just got called back up a little while ago. Obviously there’s Hall, Anaheim’s Cam Fowler and Florida’s Scott Timmins to name a few. Any time you see those guys or they get called up its pretty cool. I try to stay in touch with most of those guys over the year. It’s nice to see so many guys from that Windsor team make it.”

If Henrique’s career becomes anything like that of the player he idolized growing up, and the Devils can keep him on the team, they could be adding some more Stanley Cups to their collection of three. “Growing up I loved Steve Yzerman from Detroit,” said Henrique, “I always enjoyed watching him play and he had a tremendous career. I always liked the Wings growing up and he was the man; I had a chance to meet him and talk to him a few times and that was really neat to be able to do that.”

Away from the rink, he has taken it easy in anticipation of the grind that is known as the marathon 82-game NHL season. “I relax,” he said with a chuckle, “I enjoy the time away and relax a lot. Since turning pro last year, you realize that you have a lot of free time. It’s a long year though, you learn to take advantage of that rest and relaxation, enjoying your time to yourself as much as you enjoy your time at the rink.”

Some of his interests while he’s relaxing include soccer, baseball and rugby watching along with watching a lot of the TV show Modern Family, Prison Break and Lost, as well as listening to whatever Top 40 music is on the radio and “Zubie (teammate Dainius Zubrus) always has a good playlist on the locker room iPod. I loved country growing up,” he said, “but no rap for me.”

He hopes to stay in New Jersey for the foreseeable future, and the way he has played this year the fans and management probably would agree. “This whole year has been a blast, coming in and not really knowing what to expect or where I’d be. Obviously I’ve tried to gain the trust and respect of the coaching staff. I want to play here whether it’s with Zach and Kovy or if it’s on the fourth line.”

He paused, smiled and added, “Things worked out and hopefully it continues in the future.”

 

Thanks for reading, if there is a player you would like read an interview with submit your suggestions and also questions:

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com