Catching Up with John Quenneville

A first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils at the 2014 NHL Draft (30th overall), John Quenneville has gotten his second call-up to the NHL and already looks better in his second two games than his first two. It only took one game to notice that the Albany Devils’ current leading scorer had brought some confidence with him back from the AHL.

“Quenneville tonight looked like a different player than he did when he came up earlier in the year, that’s a tribute to him and our development system in Albany,” said Devils coach John Hynes after his team’s 6-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. “This is what we want to have — a good young, skilled player that if they’re not ready to play in the NHL right away then they are in good developmental systems to prepare them, as we have, where each time they get another opportunity they’re better players and he’s certainly better now than he was earlier in the year.”

A big part of that change in confidence for Quenneville is that during this recall there are a lot more of his Albany teammates here in New Jersey, guys that are in his age group, friends that he has been competing alongside all season; six of the seven youngest players currently on the NHL roster have spent time in the AHL this season, excluding only Pavel Zacha.

With the Devils season in a tailspin, players traded away, and others banged up, it has opened the door for Kid-Q (and others) to make an impression on the coaching staff and management in hopes of landing a spot in the opening night lineup come October.

“Yeah, it does help in that sense where I think the guy feels comfortable. They have things that are in common; with the days off, we had that snow day — we have five guys (called up from Albany living) in a hotel. They’re hanging out together and that’s a big part of being a good team and having guys feel comfortable is a lot of the camaraderie that happens off the ice,” Hynes told The Hockey Writers. “The fact that there are that many guys up here, and they’re staying in the same hotel, staying together; that’s a big part of it. They’re all the same age, all going through the same experiences and that certainly helps.”

He even made a solid impression on one of the Devils’ best players and leading scorers – Kyle Palmieri, who raved about Quenneville’s progression from December to March.

“I think he was very assertive tonight, he was carrying the puck, making plays, shooting the puck. I think he has a great shot, and he’s obviously had a pretty good year to get the call-up,” explained Palmieri. “He went out there and he played his game; he didn’t shy away from things, he was in there moving his feet and playing with the puck on his stick. That’s what makes him successful so hopefully, he can continue to do that.”

Sometimes it helps for a player to get that first taste of the NHL and then head back to the AHL to really fine tune their game. Sure every player is talented offensively, but how else can you help the team? How do they play away from the puck? How do they respond to challenges?

“He looks much more confident, looks more mature If I look at two guys he reminds me a little bit of Joe Blandisi’s progression where these guys have offensive skill,” Hynes said to THW, “they have some moxie to their game, have good puck skills and when they get their first introduction to the NHL, sometimes it’s just understanding how hard the league is and how tough the league is.”

Following the Devils’ win that snapped a ten game winless streak (0-8-2), The Hockey Writers chatted with KidQ to gauge how he felt to be back in the NHL and why this stint is different from his previous one.

The Hockey Writers: First game back in the NHL after a brief two-game stint earlier this season, how’d you feel tonight?

John Quenneville: Good. Our team played really well; all four lines, six D and Keith (Kinkaid) was great. I think it was just a great game for our team.

THW: For you personally, a bit more comfortable than your earlier games?

JQ: Yeah tonight was way better. I felt a little more comfortable, I made a few more plays; I think I was just in on it more. Our line did a good job; we were moving the puck, getting in on the forecheck and we didn’t turn the puck over. We spent most of the game in the offensive zone and that’s what you have to do. We were pretty happy with our game and hopefully, we can continue it tomorrow (in Pittsburgh).

Quenneville recorded his first NHL point in Pittsburgh (March 17) with the secondary assist on a goal by Stefan Noesen:

THW: Does it help you feel a little more at ease to have so many players (seven) here in New Jersey from Albany?

JQ: Yeah definitely. A lot of my buddies from Albany, great friends of mine. The guys that are up here in New Jersey make it comfortable and easy for me to come here and play. It’s great to have those guys here, and I’m happy I got to come in and help the boys get the win tonight.

THW: This was your first taste of the Devils-Flyers rivalry, other than maybe playing them in preseason (not the same), how was it out there?

JQ: It was great. The fans love it, and you see a goal like Hallsy’s goal there (laughs)… that’s a great goal. It gets the fans on their feet, and they were into it all night. It was a great atmosphere here tonight and I’m glad we could play well.

THW: You’re the leading scorer at Albany at the time of your recall with 41 points (12g-29a) in 53 games, can you tell us how you think your game has developed during your time down there?

JQ: I think I’ve just been able to round out my game, consistency for me has been the biggest issue in my game. Just trying to do all the right things every night and I think I’ve done that in Albany. I feel comfortable playing a solid game, I feel good about where my game is at and I’m happy I got the call here and a chance to play tonight.