AHL Star, NHL Dud?
The above title might be a bit of an embellishment. At just 25-years-old, T.J. Hensick still has an opportunity to make a big name for himself at the NHL level. Currently however, Hensick has yet to make the most of his playing time with the Blues despite putting up some pretty large numbers with the Peoria Rivermen.
It really has been a tale of two T.J.’s this year – the gifted offensive weapon in Peoria and the awkward, somewhat clumsy skater with the Blues.
Is this really the same player?
At the date of this article, Hensick has skated in 52 games with the Peoria Rivermen. Over that time he has scored 18 goals and 43 assists for a total of 61 points. He is also a +4, has 25 penalty minutes and has fired 140 pucks at the net. Not only are these numbers impressive, but they also lead the Rivermen in total scoring.
Then there’s the NHL side of the story of the 2010-11 season.
To date, Hensick has appeared in 12 games with the Blues and has one goal and one assist to his name. He is currently a (-7) and has two penalty minutes with 11 total shots. The stats tell part of the story but the actual impression (or lack of impression) that Hensick has made on the ice at the NHL level tells the vast majority of the tale.
Often we see Hensick drift along in his shifts, barely contributing to the actual flow of the game. He is out there but he really isn’t out there – a description that really only fits if you’ve seen him skate this season.
Unfortunately, this night and day story we see from Hensick isn’t really a new scenario in his young career.
To be fair, Hensick isn’t a bad player. He is actually a pretty skilled player but he has yet to put all the pieces together in his career so far. The talent to be an effective forward in the NHL lies within Hensick, but for one reason or another, he hasn’t been able to capitalize on his opportunities at the game’s highest level.
NHL Career – Colorado Avalanche / St. Louis Blues
AHL Career – Lake Erie Monsters / Peoria Rivermen
You’d expect an offensive drop when moving from the AHL to the NHL, but Hensick has seen drastically different results between the two formats.
As mentioned before it often is the style/demeanor we see Hensick deploying that is more alarming than the straight difference in stats. The 2010-11 season has seen the forward look completely lost on the ice like a boy amongst a bunch of grown men. It’s truly puzzling as he was a decent skater with the Avalanche but appears to have lost all confidence once he plays under the brighter lights of the NHL.
While his play this year has been extremely discouraging given his success in the AHL, it’d be foolish to totally write Hensick off at the NHL level. For starters, he performed fairly well in Colorado and still has the advantage of still being fairly young. Perhaps given a larger amount of time to get accustomed to the organization, we might see Hensick display more of the talent that fans of the Rivermen have seen this season.
Whether he remains in the St. Louis organization long-term or tries his hand with a new club, you can bet Hensick will eventually string some pieces together and find more luck at the NHL level.