By Brendan McCarthy
If you want offence, Rob Hennigar can deliver. In fact, over the last decade, he’s led his team in scoring eight times, including this season, when he topped the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and entire Newfoundland Senior Hockey League in points.
Those eight team-leading seasons even include 2008-09, when he split his time between the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. Although he appeared in just 38 of the Grizzlies’ 72 games, his 59 points were still enough to take the Utah scoring title.
“He’s a great playmaker and he’s also very good on the power play,” said St. John’s IceCaps’ assistant coach Mark Morrison, who was head coach of the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings, for whom Hennigar played in 2010-11.
“He doesn’t usually score a whole lot of goals, but he creates a lot of goals for others. He leads teams in scoring because he distributes the puck so well. You don’t want to change that.”
Hennigar did have 29 goals for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in 2002-03, when he was runner-up in team scoring to future St. John’s Maple Leaf and NHLer Kyle Wellwood. He followed up with 32 goals and a Windsor-leading 79 points the next season.
But he hasn’t had more than 18 goals in any season.
Nevertheless, Hennigar led the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in scoring all four years of his university career, including 2006-07, when the Reds won the national title, and 2007-08, when he was named both the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s hockey player and overall male athlete of the year.
He was a first- or second-team Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all-star each of his four years at UNB and a two-time All Canadian.
In 2008, Hennigar left UNB as the school’s all-time points leader, a record later broken by his former teammate and good friend Hunter Tremblay (who played with the IceCaps last season before a concussion ended his career).
He then signed a two-way contract with the New York Islanders, playing for Utah and the AHL’s Sound Tigers, for whom he had three goals and 10 assist in 34 games.
He was traded the following summer to the Florida Panthers, but saw his 2009-10 season end early by a hand/wrist injury that required surgery.
Also ended was his team points-leading streak — he played just 17 games for the ECHL’s Florida Everblades and six more with the AHL’s Albany River Rats.
But he was back to his old ways the following campaign, topping the Salmon Kings with 63 points (nine goals, 54 assists).
He came to Victoria on a recommendation of scout Bruce Southern, who now works for the IceCaps and Winnipeg Jets, and at that time, was a birddog for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
“We were affiliated with Manitoba and Bruce told me Henny was a really good player in the ECHL, and he was,” said Morrison.
“I think part of the reason he came to us because he thought he might have a chance at moving up to Manitoba, although he never made it there.
“The Moose were deep at that position and they didn’t have a lot of injuries that year, but he had a very good season with us.”
The Salmon Kings folded in 2011, and Hennigar headed to Europe, joining former Windsor and UNB teammate David Bowman with Cortina of the Italian A league (again leading his team in scoring) and following up with a season with Schwennigen of the German second division before hooking up with the Cataracts last season.