By Tim Leone
Of The Patriot-News
HERSHEY, Pa. – Matt Hendricks knew he was choosing a difficult road when he turned down a contract offer from the Nashville Predators, who selected him in the NHL entry draft.
It meant the forward faced a free-agent climb up the hockey ladder, starting in the ECHL.
“A lot of people look at it as unfortunate,” Hendricks said. “I take it with a grain of salt. I was fortunate. I got to learn what it’s like in the ECHL. You don’t get coddled.
“I think it absolutely helped me because of the adversity. I’m mentally stronger than I would have been.”
The 26-year-old’s indefatigable efforts paid off this month with an NHL contract, a two-way deal with the Boston Bruins. Hendricks will play for the Providence Bruins if he doesn’t make the NHL roster.
“They’ve got a new coaching staff and new management [in Boston],” Hendricks said. “I think the way Coach [Claude] Julien is going to run things, I think a player like me might have a chance.”
Hendricks displayed a relentless work ethic for the Hershey Bears in 2006-07, producing a career-high 18 goals and 44 points while moving from wing to help solidify the club’s situation at center.
The 6-foot, 208-pounder said he’s not sure if he’ll play center or wing with the Bruins.
“Whatever happens,” he said. “Whatever they need.”