Tracking the Storm

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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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72