It was expected that Nick Henry would need a period of adjustment and time to work his way up the lineup in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles in his first professional season. What transpired however is a tale all too familiar to those that don’t enter the Colorado Avalanche prospect system with priority.
After his selection at 94th overall in the 2017 NHL entry draft Henry finished up a successful WHL career with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the spring of 2019 and joined the Eagles on an amateur try-out agreement. Next he got into three regular season and two playoff games ahead of several NHL contracted Avalanche prospects. Though Henry didn’t record any points the audition went well and foreshadowed a decent role when he would join the team full-time in the fall.
Through the first 16 games in the 2019-20 campaign Henry put up six points including an assist in his first game of the season and scored his first professional goal in the sixth game for the Eagles. That was at a time when many of the more experienced prospects such as Shane Bowers, Martin Kaut, AJ Greer and Logan O’Connor hadn’t hit the scoresheet at all it looked like Henry had hit the ground running.
That production would not last and even dried up entirely as Henry went the next 22 games with just one goal and assist and finished the COVID-19 shortened season with just nine points total in 42 AHL contests. Through that time Henry had been a fixture on the fourth line mostly with Igor Shvyrev, who has since terminated his contract and departed the organization to continue his career in the KHL, plus a rotating cast of extra wingers on AHL contracts. Henry also received little power play time generally limited to spot duty on the second unit.
Henry also missed a nearly month of games in February presumably to injury though that was never confirmed. He was sent to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies on February 27th and recalled after two games and two days later either because it was just a conditioning assignment or because Jayson Megna became injured. Henry scored one final goal in the precious last four games in March he and the team participated in as seen below.
— Colorado Eagles (@ColoradoEagles) March 7, 2020
The question now isn’t about why Henry seemed to fall through the cracks so quickly, either due to lack of merit or direction is up for debate, rather what becomes of his remaining two years under contract with the Avalanche. Perhaps the perception it is premature to worry about a soon to be 21-year old prospect after only his first pro season but the reality is Henry like everyone else on their three-year Entry Level Contract is already rapidly approaching the end of his three-year waiver exemption. At that time it becomes abundantly clear one either secures a NHL job or becomes another statistic in the development woes of the Avalanche because once a player has been waived it is a rare occurrence to then become a NHL roster player with that organization.
Now is the time to ask what plan, if any, there is for Nick Henry before it’s too late. The gulf between a spare AHL part and sometimes ECHL player to a NHL worthy callup leading to eventually a secured roster spot is vast and requires a roadmap to get there. Before Henry embarks on that massively critical second professional year where much of this distance must get covered is the time to develop a plan and the player. Or else the same old story gets told yet again of a promising middle-round prospect who somehow just gets written off as a bad draft pick.
Credit photo to Colorado Eagles