Hennessy’s time has come

by Russ Cohen || AHL On The Beat Archive

Binghamton Senators forward Josh Hennessy is not yet 25, but some AHL fans might have already branded him as an underachieving former second-round pick. This talented forward has heard the whispers, yet he has forged full-steam ahead knowing that his time will come.

The Brockton, Mass., native has put up 20-plus-goal seasons in each of his four years in the AHL, but he has only played 16 games in the NHL during that span, including just six over the last two seasons. Some might say he couldn’t hack it at the NHL level but in reality the Ottawa Senators have had a veteran-laden team and getting on any of their top three lines would have been near impossible.

“I got drafted pretty high so you’d hope to be in the NHL by now, so I feel like I’ve been stalled a little bit,” said Hennessy, who was drafted 43rd overall by San Jose in 2003. “You wait for a break and you have to be playing well at the right time and I don’t think I’ve been opportunistic in that respect. Sometimes when I was playing my best the opportunity to go up wasn’t necessarily there.

“So I’m trying to be more consistent. I’ve played a lot of games in this league already and I’m still 24 so I’m not over the hill just yet and I feel like I’m still getting better.”

Hennessy was traded to the Senators in 2006 as part of a three-player deal and the club has been very patient with him because they know he has the ability to be a top-nine forward. This year, he got off to an unusually fast start, which means his hard work is paying off.

“Josh is a slow starter from what I understand,” said first-year Binghamton head coach Don Nachbaur. “We see his skill, we see his effort, he’s just part and parcel of the group right now.”

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Hennessy has recognized that the past is the past and he’s thinking about the future.

“No, that’s OK, that’s fine,” he said, almost in defensive manner, having talked about this before. “I actually feel better than I’ve ever felt just on the ice at this point in the season. I feel like I’ve been getting chances. Every game I am creating a little bit more. I feel like I’m getting into mid-season form earlier than I normally do. So I’m not going to worry too much about numbers but I think they’re coming.”

At 6-foot and 192 pounds, the former Quebec Remparts captain is a gifted skater who is fast on the rush and now he has become a good assist man. He used to play center but now he is a left winger, so he is expected to score a bit more than a pivot, but what’s happening is he is becoming a more well-rounded offensive player. He’s solid defensively too, and that’s been good news for the Binghamton club.

“So far we’ve been waiting for a bounce but we feel we’ve been moving in the right direction,” Hennessy said. “We’ve been having a hard time putting together a full 60 minutes of good hockey.”

Right now his team is moving in the right direction and the parent club has made some offseason changes, which could mean that an opportunity might present itself again this season. Hennessy still has faith that he has NHL ability.

“Yeah, I think so. You have to believe that,” Hennessy agreed. “I think that’s something that I’ve fallen into in the past. There have been opportunities early and I wasn’t the guy who was playing his best. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. Hopefully I’m successfully doing that.

“In some ways they have a little bit of a new look. They kept the nucleus. The coach is probably more familiar with me so he knows what I can potentially bring so hopefully that will help in the long run.”

Hennessy has stayed the course and right now he’s doing everything he can to make the Binghamton Senators successful. And in the end that could make him a member of the Ottawa Senators sooner rather than later.

Russ Cohen, author of the book 100 Ranger Greats, covers the AHL and NHL on www.hockeyology.com and can be heard every weekend on XM radio.