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Kennedy Ready for Next Step

Thursday, 08.26.2010 / 2:40 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Kennedy Ready for Next Step
It may not be coming exactly when the Hurricanes wanted, but Matt Kennedy is finally ready to begin his professional career.

Paul Branecky
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Kennedy, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2009, recently completed a five-year stint in the Ontario Hockey League. Selected by the Hurricanes as an older player due to his breakout 73-point season in 2008-09 (he recorded just 22 and 21 in his first two years of draft eligibility), the team was taken by surprise when he elected to return to juniors rather than suit up full-time in the American Hockey League.

Despite being limited to just 43 regular season games due to head and groin injuries in his most recent campaign, Kennedy, now 21 years of age and taking part in informal practices at the RecZone ahead of his second taste of NHL training camp, stood by his decision.

“I had a pretty good fourth year (prior to being drafted) and I wanted to continue to build my confidence and get lots of playing time in all situations,” he said. “I think I can bring that and some more playoff experience to the table this year.”

Even with his injury problems, Kennedy did have a strong finish to the season, scoring 15 points in 17 games during Barrie’s run to the OHL finals, losing out to eventual Memorial Cup Champion Windsor.

Some Hurricanes fans may already be familiar with the nature of Kennedy’s head injury, as the open-ice hit he suffered in January resulted in a 20-game suspension for Buffalo Sabres prospect Zack Kassian and was part of a larger discussion about the danger of headshots around the hockey world. Despite the gruesome video, Kennedy said that his concussion was actually quite mild, only causing him to miss about two weeks of game action.

“It wasn’t really serious, but watching the hit is always tough,” he said, adding that it was nothing compared to the groin issue that kept him out for two months. “It looked a lot worse than it was. I’m lucky my helmet stayed on when I hit the ice.”

Kennedy was quick to dismiss rumors that surfaced around that time suggesting that he was considering retirement, saying the thought did not cross his mind. Reports of his injury history were also somewhat exaggerated, as his three concussions, while not insignificant, are less than other estimates.

“My body feels great,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard this summer to stay healthy and have done a lot of injury-prevention training.”

Kennedy made news with a five-game suspension of his own, but the circumstances were quite different. The infraction, termed “bullying” by the OHL, came when he sought retribution for a teammate while playing for Guelph in December.

“An older guy like me went after one of our really young players and beat him up pretty good, so I let him know that that won’t work,” said Kennedy, who was serving as his team’s captain at that time. “I challenged him to a fight and dropped the gloves, but he never fought back.”

Although he regretted the suspension, Kennedy, whose stocky 6-foot-2, 202-pound frame lends itself to a rugged style of play when healthy (he twice flirted with 100 penalty minutes in junior), didn’t seem particularly remorseful for his actions.

“I guess I didn’t really expect him to not fight back after he had just fought a 16-year-old,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “You can’t do that.”

Now under a two-way contract with the Hurricanes, Kennedy is expected to start the season in Charlotte of the AHL.


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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81