With the season still young for the New Jersey Devils, one of the things that has been apparent early is that the team's thin group of forwards will have some difficulty scoring this season. Despite collecting five points out of six in their last three games, the team has only 11 goals over the the first 6 games, total. The question of where the goals are going to come from for the Devils was one of the biggest ones facing the team prior to the season, and that certainly continues to be the team's biggest concern. Players were going to have to step up for the Devils if they planned on being competitive. One of the forwards whom increased responsibility has fallen to is Adam Henrique. While he has been one of the Devils better scorers over the past few years (which isn't necessarily saying much), the team needed him to take a step forward this season to be a true top-6 level NHL contributor. Out of the gate, he has appeared to be up to that challenge with important goals and some strong play in general thus far.
Henrique, despite just being 25 years old, is expected to be a veteran presence on this team and it's clear to see why. With all of the roster turnover and a brand new coaching staff, Adam is, incredibly, one of the longest-tenured Devils at this point. The only current Devils who made their debut for the team before Henrique are Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Stephen Gionta, and Jacob Josefson. He's a face of the organization and entering his prime as a forward and with those designations come increased expectations and responsibility. Plus, the lack of skilled forwards in general for the Devils means that the team really does need him to get to the next level if they are going to be competitive.
It's clear that the the players and coaches feel that Henrique is one of the team leaders leaders now as well, with him being selected one of the Devils alternate captains by his coaches and peers. The "A" on the jersey doesn't carry a ton of tangible responsibilities with it, but it definitely carries some symbolic weight with it. In the early going, Henrique seems to be responding well to these elevated expectations. He is shooting, he is scoring, and he has looked generally strong while he's been on the ice for New Jersey this season. He has two of the somewhat-depressing three (!) total 5-on-5 goals this season for New Jersey. His 4 points and 16 shots in 6 games are good for second on the team. He has yet to crack 2 shots per game over a season, but he's averaging closer to 3 thus far in 2015-16. Its obviously early, but If he could keep up a shooting pace even close to that, it will go a long way toward making him a viable threat to top 30 goals for the first time in his career.
It's not jut limited to what he has done in the box score, though. Henrique has looked like a solid two-way player for much of this opening stretch. He has seemed a bit stronger carrying the puck than years past and he's looked solid in his own end as well. An early glimpse at the team's possession numbers shows Henrique leading the way in CF% on the Devils (via War-on-Ice), a spot he typically hasn't been in in years past. John Hynes also seems to like what he has seen from Henrique thus far, calling him a "difference-maker" after the San Jose game. The one area that Henrique has struggled is the faceoff dot, where he has been getting clobbered regularly (I've always thought he made more sense as a winger, but alas). Overall, though, one has to be pleased with how he has looked so far.
Now, whether Henrique can continue to look this strong remains to be seen. As with any analysis of a player's season before the end of October, a considerable grain of salt has to be taken with the sample size we are talking about. It's still okay to be encouraged by early signs of good play, though, and Henrique has definitely shown signs of becoming a top-line-type forward in the early running. Whether that has to do with responding to increased expectations or just having a bit of a hot start will bear itself out in the coming weeks and months. For now, though, Henrique has looked like the legitimate top-six contributor this Devils team sorely needs him to be.