PROVIDENCE – For the first time in a dozen seasons as a pro, Josh Hennessy is in training camp without a contract.
Rest assured, the 32-year-old center isn’t losing any sleep over the uncertainty of his situation. Quite the opposite.
“I’ve actually kind of enjoyed it, to be honest. It gives you energy every day, keeps you pretty sharp. I’m really excited. It’s been fun so far,’’ said Hennessy, who is competing for a job with the Providence Bruins.
Hennessy spent the 2011-12 season with the P-Bruins before heading to Europe, where he played in Russia, Switzerland and Sweden over the last few seasons.
A return to the P-Bruins would be a great fit for the Hennessy family – Josh, his wife Amelie and their four children, including three-year-old twin boys. They bought a house in East Greenwich in the spring of 2013.
“We ended up being really comfortable and falling in love with Rhode Island, which was funny, being from Boston, we never spent time down here. The kids were approaching school age and we were looking for a nice town with good schools. The year we had (with the P-Bruins) we really enjoyed,’’ said Hennessy, who grew up in Rockland, Mass.
He played in both of Providence’s preseason games over the weekend and Providence coach Jay Leach has been impressed so far.
“He’s cerebral. You can tell he’s been around. He looks good out there. Low to the ice. You can tell he knows the deal,’’ said Leach, who had Hennessey centering first-round pick Zach Senyshyn and veteran Chris Porter on Saturday night.
Hennessy has scored more than 20 goals five times in the AHL, including a 30-goal year with Binghamton in 2009-10.
“I remember him being a little bit more one-dimensional, from when I was playing against him. Now he looks very aware in every situation. He can probably play in a lot of different spots,’’ said Leach.
The pro game has gotten faster since Hennessy, a second-round pick by San Jose in 2003, broke in as a pro with the AHL Cleveland Barons in 2005.
“Pretty much everybody can move, everybody can skate. Guys are flying out there, up and down the lineup. It speaks to the depth in hockey in general, in the world,’’ he said.
“I couldn’t believe when I first got to Europe how good a lot of the players there are who we’ve never heard of. Some of them haven’t even tried to come over here. They’re just amazing hockey players that, given the opportunity, would probably do really well over here, too. There’s just good players coming from everywhere.’’
One of those players is Artemi Panarin, a 30-goal scorer in his first two NHL seasons. In Hennessy’s first season in Russia with Chekhov Vityaz of the KHL in 2012-13, Panarin was his linemate.
“We had a lot of fun. He made my transition that first year pretty smooth. Looking back, our coach was pretty hard on him, only because he was a young guy. If our line wasn’t producing for a couple of games, he would be the guy who got moved off the line, which now seems pretty comical,’’ Hennessy said.
“He’s an awesome kid and an amazing talent. I’d tell my buddies when I got home, ‘I just played with a guy over there that has the best hands I’ve ever seen, including anybody in the NHL.’ And they were like, ‘Come on.’
“When he was in Chicago his first year, I was texting all of them saying, ‘I told you.’’’