Regardless with what he does for the rest of his career, Devils rookie sensation Adam Henrique might be a hero in New Jersey forever.
During this past playoff run, Henrique scored two of the biggest playoff goals for the Devils since the team last won the Stanley Cup in 2003.
On an April night, Henrique sent homes all over New Jersey into a frenzy shortly after midnight, when his double-overtime goal sent the Devils past the third-seeded Florida Panthers in the opening round of the playoffs.
Nearly a month later, he doubled that task when his overtime goal in game six against the New York Rangers sent the Devils into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003, also topping the team that was deemed better by, well, everyone.
With that aside, Henrique had an amazing rookie season, being named as a Calder award finalist as he improved day-by-day with the Devils.
Certainly, Henrique had his setbacks. Early in the season, he was demoted and sent back down to the Devils AHL affiliate in Albany.
After a few weeks in the minors, Henrique returned for his second half of the season in the NHL, and despite a stretch of struggling times, general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Peter DeBoer stuck with the rookie.
He finished his regular season with promising numbers: 16 goals, 35 assists, leading to 51 points as a role player on a talented team. Throughout the season he was shifted between the second and third lines, and when the playoffs started, he was playing with Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson on the third line.
Henrique’s playoff performance was impressive as well. He scored 5 goals and had 8 assists to finish with 13 points -- good enough for fifth-best on New Jersey.
He scored a goal in game four of the Stanley Cup Final to give the Devils the lead for good, and give them hope that they could play with the Los Angeles Kings.
More than anything, though, Henrique gave the Devils a young, quality player that they have needed in their top-six for some time now. His stats should improve as he gets older, and the Devils run to the finals will certainly help him as his career progresses.
With Parise leaving for the Wild, Henrique will be playing a much larger role for the Devils in 2012. Although he certainly won’t be expected to put up a 30-goal season, he will be expected to be a regular contributor to New Jersey’s lineup each and every night, something he has proven he can be ready for.
Perhaps no statistic is more glaring than this: in 24 playoff games, Zach Parise’s +/- was -8.
Henrique isn’t the face of the Devils just yet, but, given a few years with a very talented team and coaching staff around him, it might not be long before he has the ‘C’ on his jersey. And this time, he might be the one hoisting the Stanley Cup.