This is a great find in my view, and having caught a few UNB games this year, this kid could be something special. Best of luck Kevin and I'm sure we'll see him in a Sharks uni in no time. Here's the story.
"The tradition continues for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds. For the third straight spring, a member of the UNB men's hockey team has signed a professional hockey contract.
This year, it's top centre and leading scorer Kevin Henderson, who collected 19 goals and 31 assists in 28 Atlantic University Sport regular season games and was a plus 31 on the season. The 22-year-old Toronto native has signed a two-year entry-level deal with the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks and will report to the American Hockey League Worcester Sharks on Saturday. The AHL Sharks are tied 2-2 in their playoff series with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The six-foot-three, 208-pound Henderson stepped into the breech at centre on the first line when highly touted recruit Daine Todd suffered a season-ending shoulder injury early in the season. He worked between Hunter Tremblay and Jim Cuddihy and helped lift the V-Reds to their second national championship in three seasons. His overall statistics in 49 games with UNB this season included 27 goals and 42 assists for 69 points. He had 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points in 44 games as a rookie last season. "He had great progression here," said V-Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall. "His first year, he was a good player for us and he really took a couple of steps this year. Sometimes, necessity is the mother of invention. He had never played centre before, but with the injury to Daine Todd, we knew he and Hunter had played together at a camp before and we just said 'Let's try this.' "
It worked. Henderson was named UNB's most improved player and was selected a first team AUS all-star. "We knew there was a big upside," said MacDougall. "There's a big adjustment coming to school that first year, but I thought even last year at the nationals (2008, in Moncton), he made a big step for us. I thought he gained some confidence at the nationals last year and was an impact player for us there. This year, he played with good players but he obviously was a good player."
The Florida Panthers flew him down after UNB's season was complete and also presented a contract. But despite the fact that Henderson played two seasons with the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers under current Panthers coach Pete DeBoer, he took the offer that was tendered by the Sharks a few days later.
"I just compared the two and went with San Jose," he said. "I was pretty lucky and pretty happy to have that decision to make. They have a great organization in San Jose. They have a good American Hockey League team and the best NHL team. The organization itself is really good for developing players."
"Kevin will be a great addition to our organization and we are looking forward to continuing his development as a professional hockey player," said San Jose general manager Doug Wilson in a press release announcing the signing. "He's someone who can play in all situations and we commend the job that Gardiner MacDougall and his staff have done." MacDougall feels the Sharks are a good fit for Henderson.
"The way we play, there's a lot of similarities to the way San Jose plays," he said. "He's a player who's going to play better in a system that's aggressive and assertive on the puck." The Sharks see him as a centre, although he can play all three forward positions. He played left wing in junior hockey with the Rangers.
"He's not your prototype centreman, but he may be the new prototype centreman," said MacDougall. "He just got better and better. He gained a lot of confidence." Henderson previously attended NHL training camps with the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite the gap it leaves in the V-Reds program, MacDougall looks at Henderson's move to pro as "a tremendous positive. When we recruit players here, my goal is to look at what goals they have. My job as a coach is to try to help them achieve that within the context of the team goal of being the national champion.
"Obviously, he would be a big player again next year for us," MacDougall said, "but it's an opportunity for somebody else to step into number 47." That number has proven to be a lucky one for its owner lately. Daryl Boyce wore it for two seasons at UNB before signing a two-year AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies two seasons ago. Last year, Rob Hennigar signed a two-year contract with the New York Islanders organization after completing a record-breaking four-year career at UNB.
Defenceman Justin DaCosta left to join the Colorado Eagles and is playing in the Central Hockey League playoffs. Todd, who was supposed to fill the spot as the centre on the number one line last year, would seem to be the logical replacement for Henderson next year. MacDougall isn't sure. "I never put where guys are going to play in April," he said. "For one thing, I don't know myself. Daine is going to be an important part of our group next year and we hope we can find other forwards who are going to be prominent parts as well."