Nobody thought Adam Henrique would be this good.
The New Jersey Devils' rookie center was named Rookie of the Month for December by the National Hockey League after posting 13 points (4g, 8a) in 14 games. It's not a coincidence that his increased production helped line mates Zach Parise (17 points) and Ilya Kovalchuk (16 points) have their best month this season. The team also went on a tear, going 9-4-0 and vaulting into the top eight teams of the Eastern Conference.
Henrique's rise helped usher in many of the positive events for the Devils. But just three months earlier, nobody thought he'd be the rookie leading the charge. The Devils center failed to make the team out of training camp and was called up for just two games in October, posting no points. The team sent him back to Albany, where Henrique seemed destined to spend the year.
But the center got a second opportunity when Jacob Josefson fractured his right clavicle. Henrique was called up, and hasn't looked back since then. The rookie has 28 points in 34 games, and ranks among the top five categories in rookie scoring. He trails Ryan Nugent-Hopkins by seven points for the points lead among rookies. With Nugent-Hopkins suffering an injury last night, Henrique has a close that margin.
In three months, Henrique has firmly asserted himself into the Calder Memorial race. Peter DeBoer admitted that he didn't think the rookie would be this good.
"I didn't foresee that," DeBeor told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "I can tell you people in the organization had a lot of confidence in him as a player. I didn't see that in training camp and those decisions (to send Henrique down) were based rally on how his camp went, but to his credit he came back and he's been outstanding. With the injuries we've dealt with at center ice, I don't know where we'd be without him."
Henrique said he was never focused on winning any awards.
"It's not something I was thinking about at any point, but it's always nice to get those things," he told Gulitti. "It's a nice personal accomplishment, but my focus is on the team and doing whatever I can to help the team win every night."
Henrique's recent success isn't surprising. He was a two-time Memorial Cup winner with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, posting back-to-back 30 goal seasons during the championship runs. He also led Canada to a silver medal in the 2010 World Junior championships. But he's admitted that personal numbers have taken a back seat.
"I've never really thought about it, to be honest," Henrique told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger. "I never look at it as, 'I want to score this many goals or this many points.' I'd rather have team success. And right now we are. Once you have team success, personal success comes along with that for everybody."
Parise believes Henrique's recent success is just the tip of the iceberg.
"It's definitely a good thing for your confidence wen you get recognized like that," the Devils captain told Gulitti. "He deserves it. He's played well. He's earned it. He's taken advantage of an opportunity. He started out in Albany. It's a pretty good story. He's really taken advantage of it and, hopefully, he just keeps getting better, which I think he will."