It is generally accepted among Devils fans these days that Adam Henrique is one of the better forwards on the roster. He also happens to be a fan favorite. He is the only New Jersey draft pick to make a significant impact at forward at the NHL level in about a decade and he has also etched himself permanently into Devils playoff lore with his heroics in 2012. He remains one of the team's few real scoring threats, but his possession numbers have been a bit on the troublesome slide this season and his goal output has declined a bit as well. So how worried should we be about the 25-year-old Devils forward's season?
A glance at Adam's boxcar stats on NHL.com don't raise any big red flags, but there are issues to consider. He has compiled 29 points in 50 games, giving him a perfectly adequate 0.58 points per game. His goal total is lagging, though, as he's only on pace for about 18 over a full season. He can be streaky, like any player, but right now his goals are down. On the plus side, he has had a significant uptick in his assist rate this season, essentially doubling his helper output from the past two seasons (.360 A/gm vs .193). Still, as one of the Devils only players who could be mistaken for a 'finisher,' the fact that Henrique's goal total has slid is a bit disappointing, particularly for a guy who is now entering the prime of his career. Some fans have been waiting for Henrique to blossom into a regular 25-30 goal scorer, but if it's not happening at age 25, it seems unlikely that it will ever really occur.
The main reason why it seems that Henrique won't reach that level is because he just doesn't shoot the puck enough to get there. He's never been a volume shooter, but his already modest shot output has dipped this season, from about 1.8 beforehand to about 1.6 now. It may not seem like a lot, but combined with his shooting percentage sliding back toward something more reasonable than last year's 18%, that will limit the impact he can have as a scorer. If he can't make the most of his opportunities like he has in seasons past, he will struggle to top even 20 goals going forward if he can't find a way to create more of those opportuinties for himself.
Granted, it feels a little harsh to criticize the output of a guy who leads the team in points and points/game, but the fact of the matter is that, at this juncture, a team will have a lot of difficulty succeeding if Henrique is their leading scorer. Still, ultimately the production is acceptable for Henrique if you accept that he is more of a secondary scoring option.
Here's where the real concerns start to form with Henrique's play this season. Henrique's never been a huge play-driver at evens, but this year he has suffered greatly in terms of the team's shot attempts when he's on the ice. Adam currently sits last on the team, among non-Sestito forwards, in 5v5 Corsi percentage. The team is only attempting 45.3% of the shots while Henrique is on the ice, which isn't a particularly good sign for a guy who is considered a strong two-way player. The Devils' possession numbers as a whole have collapsed over the last couple months, which makes it hard to place blame on any one player and muddles the overall picture considerably, but number 14 has been lagging behind the pack for the Devils for much of the season now.
Henrique hasn't had top notch linemates for a lot of the season, but his possession numbers are too poor to just brush off on his teammates. The team is struggling mightily to keep play moving forward when Henrique is on the ice at evens, and when you find yourself in last in a given metric, it's hard to shift too much of the blame elsewhere. This team needs Henrique to be better at even strength if they hope to improve in the near term. Maybe with new systems/linemates, we will see an improvement from him, but more and more, he doesn't seem to be a guy who can really drive play at even strength. The team probably needs to come to terms with that as they figure out exactly how extensive their list of needs is at the forward position.
Much of Henrique's value for the Devils stems from his strong work in non-even-strength situations, so it's important not to discount his contributions there. He has been a big part of both the power play and the penalty kill since his arrival in New Jersey, as he has been a solid scorer in both roles. This season, Henrique has been one of the Devils' best on the power play, as he sits second on the team in PP points/60. The team has cut back his minutes somewhat in recent weeks, which is a bit perplexing, but he has been productive on a unit that seems to play above its head when it comes to efficiency (it's 9th in conversion pct this year) over the past couple years.
On the PK, Henrique hasn't been as impressive as in years past, though. His shot attempts and goals against are both in the bottom half of Devils players and his trademark shorthanded scoring hasn't quite been there, given he only has one SH assist on the season. Still, I'm not too worried about this particular part of Henrique's game, as he still has a big lead for most shorthanded points since he entered the league. He has missed on a couple shorthanded breakaways this season, which is unfortunate, but is something to write off as an issue of variance. Henrique had a silly 37% goals for in over 350 minutes in the first three seasons of his career on the PK, so I would still consider him a strong option for the team there going forward.
Ultimately, I think the full portrait of Adam Henrique as a player is starting to come into focus. He can produce points, something the Devils are obviously starved for, but on a successful team, he should be playing a complimentary role rather than being leaned on. This is particularly true when it comes to his possession numbers, which have suffered greatly this season. Even with the team as a whole largely a possession disaster for the better part of the season, it's not a good sign to be at the very bottom of that list of struggling players. I would still consider Henrique an important part of this team going forward, but they just have to be realistic about what he offers. He is a scorer and a good special-teamer, but not a guy who should be relied on to carry a line at evens.
So the answer to the question of whether or not to be worried about Henrique's season ultimately lies with your expectations of him as a player. If you considered him a guy who might be a top-liner or someone who could drive a good second line, then you should probably start to reevaluate that stance. He's a guy who can play a significant role on a good team (as he has already shown early in his career), but he won't be your centerpiece, at least not on his current trajectory. But even at that level of expectation, you would like to see his game, particularly at even strength, improve in upcoming seasons.
How about you? What are your feelings on Henrique's season? Is he having a down year due to the team being a mess, or is there cause for concern long-term? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.