Brett Seney has impressed teammates and coaches with his speed and competitive nature in his first season with the New Jersey Devils.
Since making his NHL debut Nov. 3, the rookie center has two goals, three assists and 19 shots on goal in 18 games with the Devils. The 22-year-old scored his first NHL goal Nov. 11 at the Winnipeg Jets.
"He wants to not only be here, but stay here," Devils forward Brian Boyle said. "He's a mature kid, and I can see leadership qualities in him as a first-year guy. He's an honest player who just goes about his work.
"Teams today are built around speed, but in a fast league, Brett's still one of the fastest guys. The other element that separates him is the way he competes. I saw it right in the beginning of training camp; he's really a tenacious player and competes hard. He wants to get his nose in there and make a difference."
Seney, chosen by the Devils in the sixth round (No. 157) of the 2015 NHL Draft, has played center and wing in a third and fourth-line role with New Jersey, but he said he prefers center because his speed enables him to quickly find open areas. Seney (5-foot-9, 156 pounds) has shown he can be a responsible player in the defensive zone.
"Maybe he doesn't have the biggest body or size, but he has that explosive quickness, strength on his skates," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's tenacious and not afraid of confrontation. He plays the game in the hard areas, and that's why he's been able to come in and have success.
"Every player in our locker room has some sort of NHL element to their game, but how do you impact and how do you push the needle in a more productive way? For us, we feel Brett is one of those guys."
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Seney understands he needs to continue to play a hard and responsible game to remain a fixture in the lineup.
"It's definitely in the back of your head, earning your role and sticking on the roster," he said. "I think every day is a new opportunity to go out there and show what you could do and kind of move up that ladder. Being a smaller guy, maybe I have to take a couple more strides out there to keep up with some of the bigger guys with longer strides.
"I think for as long as I can remember, skating has always been my best asset and that was something from a young age that I knew, as a smaller guy, if I wanted to make it, I had to skate so that was a huge focus. I proved to myself I could play with these guys and getting it done in college was probably the point where I kind of had that thought that making it to the NHL was a possibility."
Seney, born in London, Ontario, dreamed of playing in the Ontario Hockey League, but instead felt the Ontario Junior Hockey League and college route would be a better fit.
He wasn't surprised to be passed over his first year of eligibility in the 2014 NHL Draft as a second-year player in the OJHL with Kingston.
"I put up a lot of points (69), but I think there were a lot of parts to my game that I needed to improve too," Seney said.
Seney began opening some eyes as a freshman at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, in 2014-15. He scored 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 34 games and was drafted by the Devils.
Seney played four seasons at Merrimack and scored 115 points (42 goals, 73 assists) in 139 games before the Devils signed him to a two-year, entry-level contract March 16. He had 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) with Binghamton of the American Hockey League in 22 games the past two seasons before being promoted.
"I was quite a bit smaller when I was 16, so I started looking at some school routes (including University of Massachusetts, Clarkson, Providence), and watched college games and fell in love with the atmosphere," Seney said. "Merrimack was a smaller school, a lesser-known school, but the staff there with head coach Mark Dennehy and assistants Curtis Carr and Bill Gilligan really helped me a lot."
Dennehy was hired to coach Binghamton on Aug. 1, so he knew of Seney's skating ability and opportunistic mindset in the offensive zone.
"What I'm proudest of with Brett is, No. 1, he's an unbelievable competitor," Dennehy said. "He plays his tail off, he wants to play fast. He's incredibly dynamic, and he really worked on getting stronger."