During this past offseason, the Ottawa Senators acquired up-and-coming forward Josh Hennessy in a three-team trade with the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks for talented forward Martin Havlat. Heading to the Senators along with Michal Barinka and Tom Preissing, Hennessy is currently playing his second professional season.
“It caught me off guard a little bit,” Hennessy said about his reaction to the trade. “That was my first experience being traded. I had played all four years of junior on the same team, so it was a little bit different, but I am definitely happy to be with this organization.”
Prior to joining the Senators, Hennessy made an immediate impact in the AHL in 2005-06 with the Cleveland Barons, the affiliate if the San Jose Sharks, as he led the team in scoring as a rookie with 63 points. The Sharks traded up to select the Brockton, Massachusetts native with the 43rd overall pick in the 2003 Draft.
During that time, Hennessy was quickly becoming a standout in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and not just because he was one of only a handful of Americans to play major junior hockey. Hennessy, who became fluent in French during his four-year career with the Quebec Remparts, lead the team in scoring his final two years.
“I just basically wanted to become a pro quickly and at the time, that was the highest level I could play,” he said regarding his decision to take the major junior route. “I was 16 at the time and I thought that they were important years for my development, and major junior was a pro-style of game, so I thought that would be best.”
Growing up in the Northeast, the longtime Bruins fan could have easily decided to attend college if he wanted to. Living near places like Northeastern, Harvard, and perennial hockey powerhouses Boston College and Boston University, the idea of playing college hockey certainly crossed his mind.
“I definitely thought about it,” he said of an NCAA career. “It wasn’t by any means an easy decision to make. I guess when I was younger I may have envisioned myself playing college hockey. But as I got older, I made the decision. My ultimate goal was always to play in the NHL, so I wanted to take the quickest route possible.”
It’s impossible to say in hindsight if it really was the quickest, but the route did lead to the ultimate goal as he has played NHL games. A great skater with good hands and a nice shot, Hennessy has all the skills to be a productive goal scorer. The 6’0, 198-pound center put up 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 32 games this year with a Binghamton team that has, so far, struggled to find success as the calendar turns to 2007.
While his numbers are certainly respectable on an individual basis, Hennessy knows he is capable of playing better.
“It’s been really up and down,” he said in evaluating his season with Binghamton. “I think my play has mirrored the team’s in that it’s almost where it needs to be, but not quite there – not consistent enough, but I’m coming around. I’ve always been a bit of a slow starter.”
If there’s anything he can work on, admittedly it’s his play in the defensive zone. Despite his point total, he has registered a minus-4 rating on the season thus far.
“I want to work on everything,” he said. “The same things I’ve been working on since the beginning. Just being intense defensively and concentrating more on team defense.”
While Hennessy definitely seems to possess the work ethic and determination needed to correct any weaknesses in his game, head coach Dave Cameron likes what Hennessy brings to his team and thinks the young forward can only get better with experience.
“He’s a skilled player and he had a really good rookie year in the league last season, and we expect him to get better,” Cameron said. “At this level, if these guys hope to make it to the next level, which they all want to do, it’s all about consistency, and playing well game in and game out.”
Looking at the season overall, Hennessy has certainly been a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Binghamton team, one that currently resides in last place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points. The 21-year-old sits third on the team in scoring behind Andrew Ebbett (28 points) and Jeff Hereema (35 points), who had been a fairly consistent linemate of Hennessey’s until a recent stretch of futility.
Binghamton has gone 4-6 in their last 10 games as they continue to struggle through the season. In those six losses, the Senators were tied with their opposition twice, and held leads in three other games before eventually losing them.
“It’s definitely tough to put a finger on [why we’re struggling],” he said. “We’re having a hard time putting together 60 minutes. We show flashes of brilliance and then have huge letdowns. Once we get the lead, for some reason we change the way we play a tiny bit and it always hurts us, so, once we get a lead we need to really focus on not changing anything.”
“At a certain point, we’re going to have to put together a solid game as a five-man unit,” he continued. “That’s been a huge part of the problem. Some nights, our offense is going good, and we give up six, and then others our defense is playing really well, and we only score one or two, so some way we have to find a way to make it happen on the same night.”
While it is a priority of Hennessy’s to try and help Binghamton right the ship, his main objective remains to play in Ottawa, and he’s gotten his first taste of the NHL this season. Called up to Ottawa on Dec. 12 to replace the injured Brian McGrattan, Hennessy made his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings that night.
“I was excited,” he said of seeing his first NHL action. “I knew it was on an emergency basis, so I tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I knew that chances were I was coming back here and that it was only going to be for a few days, so I just tried to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Hennessy was sent down just three days later. But the talented and competitive forward set a goal for himself upon his return.
“I just want to play well here and make a good enough impression on the guys in Ottawa to put me up near the top of the list as far as call-ups go,” he said. “I want to show them that I definitely fit into their plans in the future.”
The Senators recalled Hennessy again on Dec. 29, again on an emergency basis to replace Mike Fisher, who suffered a knee injury on Dec. 27. Hennessy was scoreless in just six NHL games played, but he’ll look to get back up as soon as he can.
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