Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Who Exactly Is the New Jersey Devils' Adam Henrique?

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IMay 27, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 25:  Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils celerbates after scoring the game winning goal in overtime against Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers to win Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final and advance to the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on May 25, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For our friends out West and those whose teams might have either not made the playoffs or played the Devils this postseason, we need to talk about Adam Henrique.

The first thing you should know is that Henrique is a draft steal. Chosen 82nd overall in the third round of the 2008 draft by the New Jersey Devils, Henrique was projected to be a bottom-six grinding center, who could chip in offensively.

Ten to 15 goals and around 30 to 40 points was being generous when talking about what kind of potential Adam had as offensive player.

All such projections and speculative analysis is history and can be considered bunk.

In his rookie campaign with the Devils, young Henrique had the privilege and pleasure of playing with two of the NHL's most dynamic and dangerous forwards in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Centering the first line with the Devils superstars, Adam picked up 16 goals and 51 points. His numbers earned him a Calder Trophy nomination as the NHL's best rookie. Henrique goes up against the heavily favored first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado's human hitting machine, Gabriel Landeskog.

If voting had not ended before the playoffs started, Henrique would have garnered 100 percent of the vote, with a zero-point margin of error.

A physical center, Henrique only picked up eight penalty minutes, which showed that the young Devil had a knack for playing the game the right way straight out of the gate. If Adam keeps playing like that he'll be a sure thing for future Lady Byng consideration.

So now for the really interesting part.

Nobody pushed the Eastern Conference Champion Devils further or harder in the playoffs than the third-seeded Florida Panthers. A completely rebuilt and revamped team filled with veteran and Cup-Finals experience, the Panthers took the Devils to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

After Marty Brodeur made several key saves in double overtime, Henrique's line managed a key turnover in Florida's zone. Henrique moved over the circle into the slot and fired a wrister past Jose Theodore to seal the deal and send the sixth-seeded Devils into the second round for the first time since they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning several years ago.

While the Ontario native did not register a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in a quick five-game series, he did provide some crucial offense, providing four assists.

During the New York series, Henrique was once again serving the role of the playmaker, setting up three goals before scoring the biggest goal of his career.

Moments after overtime started, there was a mad scrum in front of the New York net. Henrik Lundqvist couldn't find the puck, Brad Richards was either trying to kick the puck out of the crease or block it.

As Ilya Kovalchuk and and Alex Ponikarovsky poked frantically at the puck, Henrique, calmly placed at the right side of the net, scooped up the puck and pushed into the net toward the New Jersey faithful, which celebrated behind the glass.

It was Henrique's second series-winning OT goal.

How quickly things can change in the playoffs. When we talk about playoff MVP consideration, Henrique definitely has to be in the discussion.

Currently the team is lead by star sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, who leads all NHL players with 18 playoff points.

Although Martin Brodeur's numbers haven't been as sexy as those of Jonathan Quick or Mike Smith, he has played at as high a level as anyone. Even though he only has one shutout, nobody's highlight reel from this year's playoffs is going to look better than that of the forty-year-old legend.

Then there's Henrique, who's tied for 10th place with eleven playoff points.

Oddly enough, Henrique and defenseman Bryce Salvador have identical stats with three goals and eight assists a piece, although Salvador has a clear edge in plus-minus with a +10 rating.

Viewers from the United States and Canada are in for a real treat to see Henrique in action on hockey's biggest stage.

We should all be so lucky every year.


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