While the free agent frenzy is focused mainly on the NHL clubs there are often deals that can have a major impact on AHL clubs as well. Marc Bergevin found a likely replacement for Dustin Tokarski in longtime NHL/AHL journeyman Joey MacDonald and possibly added a prospect forward in Jiri Sekac. However one of the biggest issues facing the Hamilton Bulldogs was obtaining a scoring centre since last season's captain Martin St. Pierre has departed the team after leading them in scoring. His replacement comes in the form of T.J. Hensick who played for the Rangers AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolfpack. Hensick slides right into St. Pierre's old role as a solid scoring centre who can also create chances for his linemates and create havoc in the offensive zone.
As you can see dating back to the very beginning of Hensick's career in the US developmental league he is capable of averaging around a point per game in a season. While he has been unable to stick in the NHL in his career that isn't a concern because it's clear Bergevin signed Hensick to be a veteran leader in Hamilton and possibly be a call up if there are a rash of injuries. With several seasons over 50 points in the AHL it's clear Hensick knows how to put points on the board and that is something sorely needed in Hamilton this year. The Bulldogs managed only 182 goals on the season last year which was second to last in the AHL and the year before that they managed only 159 goals, dead last by a large margin. Despite playing only 42 games last year in the AHL Hensick put up 34 points which would still have placed him in the top five in Bulldogs scoring despite roughly 30 fewer games.
EliteProspects notes Hensick's playmaking and skating ability in addition to his great hands and hockey sense on the ice which are on full display in the above video. I may be wishing against hope here but I am hoping Hensick has a line built to score goals and this would hopefully include Christian Thomas and Sven Andrighetto. However Sylvain Lefebvre likes to spread his scoring throughout the lineup and has little issue shifting player positions and roles. And without Louis Leblanc, St. Pierre and the recently departed Michael Blunden the Bulldogs are lacking solid AHL scoring depth. This lack of depth may force Lefebvre to change up his tactics and create a line similar to David Desharnais-Brendan Gallagher-Max Pacioretty where their goal is to just score goals above all else. Above all else this deal eases the pressure on some of the rookies coming into Hamilton this year such as Daniel Carr and Jacob de la Rose as they adjust to the pro game.
Stay glued to EOTP for all your Hamilton Bulldogs news and analysis as the off-season progresses.