– In what some would see as a brash decision, Josh Hennessy
left Milton Academy at age 16 to chase his dream of playing professional hockey.
For the Rockland, MA native, it was on to four years in the Quebec Junior league, then one year with Cleveland Barons (AHL), four years of splitting time between the Ottawa and Binghamton Senators and a year playing Switzerland.
Now, the 27-year old forward is faced with what could be arguably the biggest opportunity of his professional career – a chance to play with his hometown favorite Boston Bruins – and he doesn’t regret his decisions as a teenager.
“I just finished my second year playing at Milton Academy – I was three years way from college hockey and I was looking for the highest level possible,” Hennessy said before yesterday’s game against Montreal.
“I have no regrets whatsoever. I had an amazing experience [in juniors] – I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
"Despite not being a household name, I’ve been able to make a pretty good living playing hockey and there is no where I’d rather be right now," he said on Wednesday.
Since Bruins forward Nathan Horton
has been out after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 22, Rich Peverley
has replaced him on the front line, while Zach Hamill
, and now Jordan Caron
filled his spot.
But in last night’s 4-3 shootout win against Montreal, Peverley left the game in the third period and didn’t return, and it appears as if Hennessy will get his chance to play.
“We don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s severe enough it had to be looked at by our doctors,” Head Coach Claude Julien said as he addressed the media before traveling to Winnipeg.
“You’ll probably see [Hennessy] play. If there’s somebody that’s going to be in the lineup, he’s the guy that’s here unless my GM pulls a rabbit out of his hat,” Julien joked.
After missing the first few games this season while recovering from an April knee surgery, Hennessy led the P-Bruins with 15 goals and was second on the team with 30 points (15-15-30) before getting recalled.
While with the P-Bruins he played center, but considering the depth Boston has at the position, it’s likely he will adjust to playing wing as Tyler Seguin
“If Tyler can go to wing, I think so can Josh,” Julien said. “At one point if you want to play, you got to play where the areas are open. If we feel someone can play the wing and he really needs to play center we’ll make that adjustment.
“I can’t tell you for sure because I haven’t seen Josh play enough. Not that he can’t play or [I don’t] feel comfortable with him, but I’ll move him in the slot where I think he’s best at as long as it doesn’t effect the other players having to take a step back.
"Everybody has to step it up a little bit herem,” he said.
Not only did Hennessy leave the P-Bruins as the leading goal scorer, but his team is also chasing a playoff spot.
By Dec. 3 the P-Bruins were 6-18-2, but they turned it around for a 23-22-6 record and 52 points, which is just three away from the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I started off a little bit slowly – I was coming off a pretty significant knee injury last year,” Hennessy said. “Lately, I felt like our games come back a little bit. My team was doing a lot better than they were at the beginning of the season.
“We had a pretty young group and a little growing pains, and that helped my game too just being together.”
But now, Hennessy is on the defending Stanley Cup Boston Bruins, who are battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference while trying to get back on track from an uneven mid-season stretch.
Hennessy sees the opportunity as his last chance at making his mark in the NHL, but if he goes out plays to his abilities, he might be here to stay.
“He’s got a great attitude, he’s young and maybe that’s how he looks at it,” Julien said. “Young players sometimes will put that added pressure on themselves.
“He’s a good player – he played in the NHL before. What I’m saying is how he’s going to fit in our team, I’m certainly trying to use him to our advantage and give him the best chance possible.
“If he does well, who knows what can happen.” --- Anthony Gulizia