By Jeff O’Connor
It is fair to say that almost everyone affiliated with the New Jersey Devils — including the fans — sees center Adam Henrique as a big part of the organization’s future. Because of his vast success in a short time, and his confidence and poise on the ice, the sky certainly appears to be the limit for No. 14.
Lately, however, there has been a growing bit of angst among fans because Henrique has failed to record a point in his last four games. But should there be? I’m afraid too much pressure has been placed on this young man. Allow me to explain:
Henrique is 23-years-old. He’s a third-round pick. He’s played JUST 86 regular season games. He’s making just $525,000 this season. Sure he had 51 points in 74 games last season, but before we expect this kid to put in 25 goals and have 70 assists every year, is it OK if we let him mature and get some more experience and repetitions under his belt?
It’s not uncommon for guys to light the league on fire in their first year, struggle in their second year and adjust to the league afterwards for the long-term future. See fellow center, Jordan Staal.
Is Henrique putting too much weight on his shoulders? He’s done many autograph signings with fans dying to see him over the last 10 months. He said before this season that his goal in Game Six against the Rangers still brings a smile to his face because he still hears about it from both fanbases. Is he feeling the need to re-create such big moments again this season? I don’t think so, but he’s just a kid. It’s tough to tell where his mindset is at so early in his career.
Just an aside, everyone forget that this guy just recovered from thumb surgery less than three weeks ago?
I’m afraid Devils fans have built up Henrique so much in their mind, that he may not be able to live up to their highest of hopes. There’s no doubt his two series-clinching goals last spring had a lot to do with this. If, for example, someone like Kovy scored against Florida or Elias against New York, we definitely don’t view Henrique in the light we currently do.
He also has to be the most hyped, non-first round pick, offensive talent in the New Jersey Devils’ system since who? Brian Gionta in 1998? Probably more like Patrik Elias in 1994. That’s the reason the fans are pumped about this guy.
But let’s not put too much get on him this early. Let him grow. He should not be the one this team leans on when they are struggling. Instead, that load should be placed primarily on Ilya Kovalchuk and Elias, with Travis Zajac and David Clarkson following them.
Henrique’s expectations should be exactly what they are for a player with his resume: a complementary player in the present and hopefully a superstar in the future.