By Jeff O’Connor and Dave Turner
#14- Adam Henrique- Center
2013 Season Stats
Games played: 42
Average Time on ice: 18:19
Points: 16 (11g,5a)
Season Grade: C
After injuring a ligament in his thumb in an AHL game while the lockout was going on, Adam Henrique returned to the Devils a few games into the abbreviated season. While he posted excellent numbers in terms of goals, his play for 2013 left a lot to be desired for the future. After having over a 2:1 ratio in assists to goals, the 23-year-old flipped the equation last season with more than double the amount of goals to assists.
One other encouraging sign from Henrique, is that five of his 11 goals came on specials. He netted three on the power play and two on the penalty kill.
Now that the Devils have inked Henrique to a new six-year deal worth $24 million, it’s time for him to produce. He has been rewarded long-term, essentially, for a pair of OT playoff goals and a Calder finalist season. The common notion in most professional sports, is that the third year of a player’s career is when their talent really takes off. A lot of heralded players have strong rookie campaigns. Then they either get figured out or became too fat off their first year success and slump in year two. Then, they put it all together in year three after understanding full years of ups and downs.
With the loss of so many key players in the last 13 months, Henrique is more important than ever to NJ. How will he thrive with a new set of linemates on the horizon? When Henrique thrived two years, ago he was mostly with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Not a bad pair of guys to go to war with. If I had to guess right now, Rico is going to play with a brand new pair pair of linemates. Last season, he played mostly with Patrik Elias and David Clarkson. My guess is Elias will play on the top line this year. That makes it likely that he’ll be with two of Ryane Clowe, Jaromir Jagr or Michael Ryder. Will he fit in right away with his new flanks or will it take some adjusting time? That’s going to be a big key to how much Adam flourishes for 2013-14.
This is a deal that’s either going to look great in a few years, or be an unwarranted cap hit. If Henrique is able to play to the level that we saw during his rookie season in 2011-2012, or even surpass that, it will be a very cap-friendly deal for years to come. If the former Windsor Spitfire isn’t able to elevate his game, the six years on his deal may be a long time to be paying for a player with little reward.
There is still such an unknown when it comes to Henrique. Was he a product of Parise? Can he be a player that can lead a team? To me, the biggest issue with the talented young center is that he needs to improve in the faceoff dot. He won only 49% of his faceoffs last year, and if he ever hopes to be a true No. 1 center, that’s just not good enough. We also haven’t seen enough from Henrique in terms of scoring, or playmaking ability quite yet. Is he a player that can pot 30-plus goals? Can he be a 40-plus assist man?
That being said, I think that with another full season under his belt, and the “sophomore slump” now in the rear view, we’ll begin to see exactly what Adam Henrique can be, during this season. I expect his numbers to be good, but not great. Something to the tune of 18 goals and 25 assists for a total of 43 points seems realistic to me. If he’s able to get over the 50-point plateau, that would be a huge boost for the team.
The fact is that Travis Zajac struggled last season as well, and the Devils are a team that is looking for someone to play their way into the #1 center role. Can Henrique take the next step and be that number one center? Only time will tell, but armed with a big contract extension, it’s now all on him to produce.
In case you missed them, here are the first six parts of the series: