Q&A with Josh Hennessy

By Eric Forest

Americans are leaning more and more toward the CHL for development, and one of the pioneers who decided three years ago to go to Canada to play junior is San Jose Sharks 2003 second rounder Josh Hennessy. Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, the young American wanted to experience something new after completing his minor hockey with Milton Academy, where he put up 60 points in 30 games the year before.

Hennessy, who captains the popular Quebec Remparts, might be the best American player in the QMJHL since Jeremy Roenick, who played 29 games with the Hull Olympiques in 1988-89. In 29 games, Roenick scored 34 goals and 70 points.

Not only is Hennessy the best player on his team on the ice, but committed to his junior city and his fans, he was named the 2003 QMJHL Humanitarian Player of the Year. The San Jose Sharks could congratulate themselves for years after trading some picks to be sure they would get a hand on this speedy and offensive wizard player. The 6’2 187-pound forward finished last year with 82 points in 59 games, scoring his highest goal total of his career with 40. He’s currently eighth in the Q scoring with 42 points in 31 games. He’s also second for game-winning goals with four.

Hockey’s Future had the chance to chat with the young captain recently.

HF: I’ve learned through the Remparts’ system that you can speak fluent French. Is that true?

JH: Yeah! When I first got here, there were a lot more French speaking guys compared to the number of English guys in the locker room. I decided before I came that if I was going to be here for a few years, to get the most out of this experience it would be nice to learn the language. Also, the biggest thing was that I entered the Quebec school system and to graduate from high school, you must pass your French second language.

HF: How important was it for you to acclimate to your junior city?

JH: Very very important. Like I said, I knew that to get the most out of my experience I needed to do something that not many people from my area had ever done before. I knew I had to learn the language, but I never imagined how it would turn out this well.

HF: Why did you choose to play and come over in Canada?

JH: Basically, I felt at 16 years old that this was the highest level I could play. I wanted to challenge myself. It has always been my dream to play in the NHL and it still is. I thought it would be the shorter route.

HF: How have you enjoyed it so far?

JH: Awesome experience! I think I’ve had just about as good an experience as anybody can have playing junior. This city embraces me. This is my second year as captain of the team and things have gone really really well.

HF: We’ve seen a lot of Americans with the Remparts since your arrival in the league. How would you explain this phenomenon?

JH: I guess I kind of maybe broke the ice. I don’t think it’s all because of me, it just made people realize that there is another route that you can take.

HF: Would you consider yourself their big brother?

JH: When they first got here, I wouldn’t say that I felt responsible since they were obviously mature kids to make the decision to come to a French speaking city and move away from home at a young age. But I showed them things to do around, the roads and I gave them some hands on things that work a little bit differently here. Keep them out of trouble I guess! (laughs)

HF: Concerning the “C” sewed on the front of your jersey, what does it mean for you?

JH : That’s something that I’m very proud of. One of the best moments in my career was being named captain by the team. I had the opportunity of being an assistant at the Memorial Cup as a 17-year-old and I really learned a lot from the veterans we had, guys like Aaron Johnson who’s playing with Columbus now. I learned quickly when I got here how much hockey meant to people here and obviously, since the Nordiques are gone, the Remparts have become a big part of the city. I’ve played my whole junior career here so far so I come to have the team in my blood. It’s quite an honor to be captain.

HF: You do not only lead by leadership but also with your play on the ice. How’s been your season so far?

JH: The team is doing great. We’ve exceeded people’s expectations and up until now, we’ve had a lot of depth and a lot more experience than last year. Personally, I started the year slowly but things are coming around.

HF: What player would you compare yourself to?

JH: (silence) …It’s kind of difficult to me to name somebody honestly.

HF: Then, who would you consider your favorite player in the NHL?

JH: It would definitely be Joe Sakic. (Laughs) These would be pretty enormous shoes but I want to be a hard-working player, a leader with offensive skills and who is able to play both ways. I guess if I want to have a career in the NHL, I’ll have to be able to play on every line and fit where the coach ask me to.

HF: Would you have liked to participate in both games against Russia?

JH: I would of love to. I went to the first game in Quebec and it looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I wasn’t born in Canada!

HF: Do you think it would be entertaining to see a QMJHL All-Star game instead of the Challenge?

JH: I understand what Canada is trying to do, that it helps the Canadian scouts with the selection process for the World Junior team. But yeah, I really would like to see something where everybody has a chance to play. Every year, the league is growing and it’s getting stronger because there are players coming from more places in the United States and Europe. It’s unfortunate, especially since the game was in Quebec City, I really would have like to be a part of it. In the future, I really would like to see a separate game. Maybe they could have something like East and West, like it used to be. Something that includes everybody.

HF: What weaknesses the San Jose Sharks’ trainers told you to work on?

JH: (laughs) Pretty much everything! When you get there (at San Jose camp) and see guys like Patrick Marleau, Vincent Damphousse (who was there at that time) and Jonathan Cheechoo, you realize that you have to keep trying to get better. I think there’s no aspect of my game I should stop working on, even my strengths I need to get better and better. Obviously, to get there, I need to be responsible defensively. I need them to trust me whenever they put me on the ice to eventually show them what I can do offensively.

HF: And what did they like about you?
JH: When they drafted me, I think they liked the way I skate and they think I have pretty good offensive instincts.

HF: Are you disappointed about not being selected for Team USA?

JH: Yes obviously… At this point definitely, but now I can stop thinking about it and really concentrate on the Remparts. For the past weeks we’ve been second in Canada but this week we dropped a couples games so I think we are fifth right now, it’s a really good situation here and I can just concentrate on the team now. It was disappointing, it would have been something I really would have loved be a part of.

HF: Are these any tensions between Americans playing in Canada and USA Hockey?

JH: To be honest I don’t think so. They chose a few guys from the Ontario league, like Rob Schremp, Patrick O’Sullivan, Danny Fritsche and Adam Pineault (QMJHL – Moncton) is on the team so I can’t really say that. I would say that I think I can understand that a coach would be more comfortable taking more players that he sees more often and he really knows what he’s going to get. They don’t have the chance to see me play often, playing in Quebec obviously so maybe they were unsure about what they were going to get, but I would have love to be on that team.

HF: Do you think the USA squad can repeat?

JH: Yes I think they have a chance, especially on home ice with our fans. Obviously I agree with the experts saying that Canada would be the heavy favorite and they will be very tough to beat. But I like Montoya in nets and the US team definitely has a lot of skill offensively. In one game, I think they can beat (Canada).

HF: We all know that Patrick Roy is the Remparts’ general manager. Did he gave you any advice? Have you had a chance to shoot some pucks against him?

JH: (laughs) Not yet, no! He’s on the ice with us quite a bit and he’s arguably the best goaltender of all time. On the other hand he knows what it takes to beat a guy like him with a shot and he gave me some tricks.

HF: I am going to name a few of your teammates, tell me more about them. Jordan LaValle (Eligible 2005)

JH: Jordan is a kid who, when he first came up here, everyone saw a lot of potential in him. This year has been a serious breakout season for him. I know he was disappointed about not being drafted, but I think this year a lot of teams will be kicking themselves in the butt. It’s going to take a high draft pick to get him.

Alexander Radulov (NAS)

JH: He brings a lot of energy to the team. He’s also a fun guy and very exciting. We’ve started learning each other a little bit more so it’s going well for him.

Andrew Andricopoulos (Eligible 2005)

JH: Andrew skates very well, he’s pretty smooth and has a lot of offensive abilities. I think right now he’s having some problems with inconsistency, but once he gains more and more confidence, since he’s only 17, I think he will become a very good player.

HF: Your team is flying on the ice right now. What are your chances of playing in the Memorial Cup?

JH: Well, as good as any in our league. Moncton is doing very well, Halifax… There’s a bunch of good teams, Chicoutimi, Rimouski too.

HF: Which teams scare you the most?

JH: I guess Moncton because we don’t play them as much during the season so we don’t get as comfortable with them. We’re playing Rimouski and Chicoutimi eight times a year so we’re so familiar with them that we know definitely what we’re going to get on pretty much every time we play them. With a team like Moncton, we see how well they’re doing. They just came in our rink and beat us and we haven’t beat them this year. There are more doubts, but I really think we’ll be able to beat anybody.

HF: There must be a goaltender you hate facing. Who would it be?

JH: So far, it would be (Corey) Crawford. In the two games we’ve played against him, the first game he shut us out and he only let in two the last time.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.