HENSICK ENJOYING BEING BACK IN THE AHLMar 1, 2019
T.J. Hensick thought his playing career may have been over this summer when his phone wasn’t ringing. He had just finished up his second year with the AHL’s Ontario Reign, but he was a free agent and despite leading the Reign in helpers (34) and finishing third in points (45), at 33 and 11 pro seasons under his belt, he wasn’t a prospect anymore. And when you aren’t a prospect, it can be hard to land a job.
While back in his native Michigan with his wife, Emily, and young son, William, the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye came calling. Europe was an option, but with a young family, Hensick jumped at the chance to stay state-side and continue his playing career near home.
“I thought this may be my last year playing pro hockey. I was living at home, but fortunately for me, I had a relationship with the coaches in Toledo and luckily they gave me a chance to play,” said Hensick. “I thought I’d run with the season and see what happened… San Jose gave my agent a call and it quickly came to be that I was coming out to California.”
To no surprise, during his stint in the ECHL, Hensick continued to do what he’s always done and that’s put up points. In 47 games with the Walleye, the former Michigan Wolverine notched 58 points (17 goals, 41 assists) and a plus-five rating. When the Barracuda signed him on February 12th, he was standing atop the league in points and assists.
“I was excited at the opportunity to come to San Jose and I just wanted to help this team (Barracuda) continue to do what they’ve done all year,” said Hensick. “Obviously, they’ve had a good season already this year and I’m excited to be a part of this team and trying to make a playoff push.”
Originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round (882nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Hensick has skated in 112 NHL games over his career with the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, totaling 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) and 18 penalty minutes.
Among active AHL players, the Howell, Michigan native is 11th in games played (636), eighth in goals (167), third in assists (402) and second in points (568).
So far through six games with the Barracuda, Hensick has a goal, two assists and has been a boost to a power-play unit searching for consistency. Aside from his playmaking ability, the elder statesman in the locker room has provided another veteran voice along with Captain John McCarthy to one of the AHL’s youngest rosters.
“You’ve got to just be an olive branch. I’ve learned over my career that you just want to ask questions to the older guys. I play with some older guys in Colorado and St. Louis and you just want to watch their tendencies, be around them, see what they do to get ready and prepare,” said Hensick. “Being with a new team, I’ve been thrown in the fire, so you just want to be there to help in any way you can. Whether that’s answering questions for a young guy, or blocking a shot or winning a faceoff. It’s just the little things that I can lead by example.”
On Friday, Hensick will play his former club the Ontario Reign for the first time since signing with San Jose.