Ducks’ Adam Henrique has found his comfort zone since switching coasts
Adam Henrique, moustache neatly formed, was in a tuxedo hosting a charity event in Hoboken, N.J., dubbed “Rico’s Soiree,” an ode to the center’s nickname.
The inaugural “Movember” benefit for men’s health issues ended up a de facto going-away party, though he wasn’t aware of it at the time.
Since he entered the league in 2008, Henrique only knew the Devils and New Jersey. But the morning after the party, on his way to practice, Henrique received the call: He was headed to Anaheim.
It was the Devils who drafted him 10 years ago. And it was in New Jersey where he announced his arrival with a 51-point campaign in his rookie season.
Then 22, Henrique was a member of the all-rookie-team, a burgeoning star for the club that plays its games in the shadow of the New York Rangers.
Henrique quickly became a fan favorite after he scored the game-winning overtime goal against the rival Rangers to launch the Devils into the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, he’s winning over fans for another little brother squad, and if all goes well, Henrique will soon return to the playoffs for the first time since he played the Kings in the Final six years ago, the same Kings the Ducks are constantly trying to upend, on and off the ice in Southern California.
The decision to send Sami Vatanen to New Jersey in exchange for Henrique proved to be a prudent one for Ducks general manager Bob Murray, and a welcome change of scenery for Henrique.
Though Henrique was one of the core players for the Devils entering the season, he’d been demoted to the fourth line shortly before the Nov. 30 deal was struck.
He never looked back and Henrique’s two-way game has been a boon for the Ducks, with 15 goals and nine assists in 39 games. At 28, no longer one of the kids in the locker room, his leadership has also been a plus.
The Brantford, Canada, native anchors the Ducks’ third unit, and his play between Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase is routinely the catalyst for the offense.
“I think we’ve been able to build our chemistry on the ice, I think we click well,” Henrique said. “I think we bring a little bit of everything to our line. We seem to find a way to be a difference every single time.”
The affable forward felt right at home the moment he stepped into the Ducks’ locker room at Honda Center.
Sure, there were familiar faces like defensemen Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour, players he knew from junior hockey and his hometown, respectively.
But his new surroundings — the favorable weather, his new teammates, his home in Newport Beach — just felt … right.
“All the guys in the room have been awesome since the trade,” said Henrique, who at 19 goals and 19 assists is poised to approach his rookie-season totals. “They’ve made me feel a part of the team.
“I feel like I’ve been here for the past couple of years to be honest with you, with the way I’ve seemed to fit in. It was obviously a big shock for me to be traded at that time. ... Looking back at it right now, I’m glad how everything worked out.”
For everything to truly work out, though, Henrique needs to feel it again. That moment when you strap on the pads, step on the ice and know that with four wins, you’ll be hoisting the Stanley Cup.
He’s watched as other clubs have reached the postseason and unexpectedly made noise, season after season, and he believes the Ducks have what it takes to go all the way. They just need a chance, and he’s “itching to get back there.”
Henrique’s acquisition has increased the chances his team grabs a playoff spot in the jam-packed Western Conference race. Few teams can boast the center depth Anaheim possesses, even if Ryan Kesler remains banged up following offseason hip surgery.
The Devils juggled Henrique between center and wing, but Ducks coach Randy Carlyle insists that Henrique will play the pivot exclusively, where his asset as a two-way player is best utilized.
“Adam has been very good for us. … His leadership is excellent with those two young kids,” said Murray, whose move to bring in Patrick Eaves ahead of last season’s deadline paid immediate dividends too. “[The deal] gave us three very, very good centermen.
“You can put them in any order or play them with anybody you want to play them with. They’re interchangeable and they’re all very good hockey players.”
Certainly high praise given Henrique’s company: Kesler, a two-time All-Star and former Selke Trophy finalist, and Ryan Getzlaf, one of the league’s elite players.
Getzlaf, the Ducks’ captain, won the Cup in 2007 in his second season with the club, before he blossomed into a perennial All-Star.
Perhaps it’s the kind of role Henrique can play for the Ducks this season — both on the third line and the power play — if all goes according to plan and Henrique is able to scratch that itch with ice time deep into the summer.
Maybe then, there will be another party, and this time, it won’t end up being of the farewell variety.
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