Last offseason, Adam Henrique was a restricted free agent for the Devils and fans were trying to nail down exactly what he should be worth to the team. While he was in the Calder conversation his rookie season, he followed that up with a lackluster sophomore campaign where he only put up 16 points in 42 games. Last May, John put together a post looking at possible comparables for the young forward to get an idea what he might be worth. The debate was whether or not the Devils would sign him to a short, "bridge" deal to have him prove himself or lock him in for a longer term.
When Henrique eventually signed his deal last summer, I think most were at least a little bit surprised by how long the term was on his contract. It wasn’t necessarily that people didn’t think the contract could end up having good value, it was just that giving a guy six years based on a very limited track record is a risky proposition. Still, Henrique already had "playoff hero" on his resume at age 23 and the team was likely still feeling some of the sting of the Parise/Kovalchuk departures, so with the cupboard pretty barren at forward for the organization, getting the well-rounded young forward locked up was an understandable priority. So one year into a 6-year contract, how are things looking for Henrique and the Devils?
From a pure production standpoint, it was a fairly good season for Henrique on the scoresheet. He bounced back from his sophomore slump to put up 43 points in 77 games, but wasn’t quite able to match his overall 51-point output from his season between Parise and Kovalchuk in 2011-12. Much of the inability to return to that 2011-12 level involves his assist totals.
Since putting up 31 assists in those first 74 games, he has only tallied 23 assists in the 119 games since then. Part of that obviously has to do with having inferior linemates after that first season, but there is reason to expect his number of helpers to see a bit of an uptick going forward, given his teammates’ dreadful shooting while he’s been on the ice for the past couple seasons.The 5.8% his teammates shot at evens was just about the worst on the team, save for the fourth-liners. Even on a team of crummy shooters like the Devils, that number is way low and should be expected to bounce back at least to the 7-8% range.
As a goal-scorer, 2013-14 was Henrique’s best season to date. His 25 goals on the season were good for a career high, as well as the team lead. Henrique’s goals/60 have now increased in each of his seasons, with him now putting up over a goal for every 60 minutes he was on the ice (which also led the team by a fair margin). That good news does come with a caveat, though, as he also enjoyed his highest shooting percentage to date with a robust 18.2%. With a career shooting percentage of 14.9%, it seems likely that Henrique is a relatively above-average shooter, but based on how shooting percentages regress, his true talent isn't likely to be too far over the 12% mark.
As far as his shot output is concerned, his numbers have been pretty steady, if underwhelming, overall. He has put up about 6 shots/60 minutes at 5v5 in each of his three seasons, an okay-ish number but certainly one that could stand to improve going forward, as he lags toward the back of the pack on an already shot-challenged team. If he cannot step up the amount of pucks he gets on net, I would expect his goal output to take a step back in the coming seasons.
In his short career, Henrique has established a bit of a reputation as a two-way player, but his posession numbers took a bit of a hit this season as he bounced around between lines. He finished with a respectable 52.9 5v5 Corsi%, but that landed him around a -2% in terms of relative Corsi. His most common linemate on the season was Michael Ryder, whom he has better stats away from, but still, his stats and his WOWYs don't indicate a guy who was a big time play-driver overall.
As far as competition and deployment, Henrique was middle of the pack, relative to his teammates. He saw 51.7% O/D zone starts and had the fifth toughest competition among forwards, so it's hard to say that either of those things had much of an effect. Maybe factors like being juggled around between lines and otherwise spending a lot of time with Ryder don't help, but it was definitely a bit of a step back for Henrique in the possession department this season.
One area where Henrique was undeniably strong this past season was on special teams, where he was among the top performers on both the penalty kill and the power play. The team finished 9th in power play conversion rate and 1st in penalty killing, and Henrique had a big hand in both.
On the power play, Henrique was more-or-less part of the second unit, but he was the team's top goal-scorer with the man advantage by rate and he also generated the most power play shots per 60 among forwards. Despite actually having his minutes dialed back compared to the short 2013 season, he flourished in a big way. For a team that often had a lot of trouble finding its bearings on the power play at times, Henrique was a guy who was doing a good job of finding the back of the net and generating shots (though he can't touch the insane amount of pucks Gelinas was able to put on net).
As a penalty killer, Henrique is one of the big parts of a unit that led the league in efficiency this season. He finished behind only Dainius Zubrus in SH TOI among forwards and continued to be among the league's top threats to score with his team a man down. Over the past three seasons, Henrique leads the entire NHL in shorthanded goals, with nine (go ahead and ignore the guy who remains fourth in that category). So even though Henrique wasn't always on top of his game at evens this season, he made up for it with huge contributions on special teams.
Expectations Going Forward
I would call this past season a solid one for Henrique, but there are definitely areas of concern as well. His shooting percentage is likely to regress, but can he generate enough shots to pick up some of that slack and stay above the 20-goal plateau? Will he be able to improve his assist totals with some improved shooting luck from his teammates? Can re-assert himself as a strong possession forward at evens? These are all big questions when discussing how Henrique will contribute to the Devils in upcoming seasons. I think a reasonable expectation of Henrique's current abilities lies around the 20-goal and 45-point area. For now, he is a good piece for a team that hopes to contend, but not necessarily a guy a team can really lean on to carry them (though he did go crazy for a few weeks coming out of the break).
At age 24, Henrique is still young, but he is starting to approach his prime as a hockey player. While it's possible for him to improve more as a player, that improvement is likely to be only incremental at this point in his career. The Devils signed him to a six-year deal expecting him to be a significant part of this team as it tries to transfer to its next era, and I think he has shown that he is part of the solution in New Jersey. If he can take another small step forward in 2014-15 and compensate for some of the numbers that seem likely to regress, it would be a big help in getting the team back to the postseason.