In a somewhat unexpected move, the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils swapped players Thursday. The Devils sent Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi and a 2018 third round pick to Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen. The Ducks look to Henrique to help plug some holes up front as their unbelievable injury list keeps getting larger. Vatanen will hopefully help stabilize New Jersey’s back end and chip in some offence as well.
Adam Henrique’s time in New Jersey was mostly spent as a utility player with offensive upside, but usually not much. His career high 51 points came in his rookie season in 2011-12. He scored 50 points two seasons ago but has maintained a pretty consistent 40-45 point pace since then. Henrique has an unusually high shooting percentage throughout his career, an even 15%. This has helped him pot 20 goals three times, with a 30 goal high in 2015-16. He has goal scoring potential, so the right opportunity should allow him to hit that 20+ mark once again. So far this season, he has four goals and ten assists, with five points coming on the powerplay. Younger talent has emerged in New Jersey to start the season and made Henrique expendable.
The move to Anaheim gives him a great opportunity to find his offensive game once again. Unfortunately, he may not have much of a supporting cast for the time being. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are still out of the lineup for the next few weeks at least. Ondrej Kase is still on the IR and Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell are both day to day. Until some reinforcements arrive, Henrique will be leaned on by Anaheim to put up some points. He should continue to see power play time which is always a great opportunity, as well. Anaheim’s lack of firepower at the moment should give Henrique lots of ice time, shots and hopefully goals.
If you have held on to Henrique through his early stumble, the wait may pay off yet. If you are in a deeper league and are looking for depth scoring, Henrique may be a quick-paying pickup or at least worth a watch list add.
Sami Vatanen is another player who has had a hard time recreating past success. In this, his fifth NHL season, he has four points in 15 games. He missed the first few weeks of the year, a common occurrence for Vatanen. Hopefully, he remains healthy for the rest of the season, but he has never played more than 71 games in his four seasons so far. Early on in his career, Vatanen was on a steady upward trajectory. He scored 21 points in 48 games his first year, then 37 and 38 points in the following two. His early career success made him a popular fantasy pick in the past. But a disappointing 21 points in 71 games last season left fantasy players scratching their heads.
New Jersey’s defence has looked suspect so far this year, to say the least. Will Butcher has been a nice surprise, but they haven’t had much help from anyone else. Vatanen will surely see time on New Jersey’s power play, the sixth best in the league at 23%. He will also see his fair share of even strength time as well. Vatanen’s disappointing season last year seems to be attributed to an unnaturally low shooting percentage. He shot four whole points below his career average of 6.9%. His ice time was right in line with his career average around 21 minutes a night. Last season was the first time Vatanen saw more defensive zone starts than offensive zone. This added defensive responsibility also led to lower possession stats and shot attempts for Vatanen.
Vatanen’s success will depend largely on who he shares the ice with. If he is on the first defensive pairing he will see tougher defensive zone starts and opposition. If he plays with Will Butcher on a more sheltered, offensive-minded second pairing, he will have a chance to find that scoring touch he displayed in his first few seasons. Regardless, if he is unowned in your league he is worth a pickup just for the potential alone, as a return to his career average will put him at a 40 point pace.