Thanks to a Twitter poll, I’ll be talking about Domenick Fensore this week. Originally, the plan was to break down Alexander Pashin’s game, but after watching 15 minutes of fuzzy and choppy camera feeds, I had to stop myself. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and talk about Fensore’s game and why he’s one of the players that I love to watch the most.
Fensore is an offensive defenseman and one that does his best work in the offensive zone a lot of the time. I’m talking about his skating first, however, because without his elite skating ability, it would be difficult to see how Fensore got to this point. I would argue with near 100% certainty that Fensore is the best skater in the Hurricanes’ pipeline. His straight line speed, edge work, acceleration, balance and backwards skating are all near perfect.
Fensore is a much better skater than the majority of his competition at the NCAA level, giving him an advantage in the offensive zone as well as in transition. In fact, it’s difficult to stop Fensore when he’s carrying the puck. Combine his speed with the fact that he’s a lot stronger on the puck than he looks, and you have one of the best puck handlers in the entire NCAA.
Fensore’s skating is a major factor in his game, and it’s a big reason as to why he has gotten to this point. As a defenseman that stands at 5-foot-9, he has to be an elite skater in order to keep up in all three zones. Because of his skating, Fensore is great on the back check and creates turnovers after catching up to an attacking player and stealing the puck from him. Fensore’s transition defense still needs some work as his size does limit his reach, but he is quick enough to make up the lost ground and prevent a high danger scoring chance.
Fensore’s edge work is clean and looks almost effortless. Watching him man the point on a power play is a sight to behold because of the poise and confidence that oozes out of him as he works to move the puck around and spread out the defense. Simply put, Fensore’s skating is a a difference maker in his game and something that could propel him to an NHL role down the line.
Fensore is one of the smartest players on the ice whenever he’s out there, particularly in the offensive zone. He knows when to move the puck, where his teammates will be and where there are gaps in defensive coverage. He’s skilled enough to act on these moments, too. The fact that Fensore can analyze the play at top speed and act on it in time makes him a dangerous offensive threat that a lot of college defenses struggle with. Even if his teammates aren’t scoring off of the plays that Fensore creates, he’s still a threat.
Mix Fensore’s high-end hockey sense with his elite skating ability and fast-paced offense, and you get a player that can be deadly manning the point in the offensive zone. Very few players have the smarts that Fensore has while also being as fast as he is, and fewer players are able to react to a change as quickly as Fensore can.
Fensore should be dictating the play when he’s in the offensive zone. And when he has the puck, he is. Fensore is a playmaking threat that consistently sets up one-time chances or shots that pull the goalie out of position. As I’ve said before, Fensore can spread out defenses and leave teammates wide open for scoring chances. He’s also a threat in transition due to his skating, so when he makes a pass, he’s already ahead of the defense and his teammate can reap the rewards of a perfect cross ice feed.
What frustrates me about Fensore’s usage is that he has all of the talent in the world and yet Boston University refuses to run its power play through him. Sure, he’ll get the bulk of the minutes, but instead of quarterbacking the unit, they’d rather have their forwards take control. That can work in some systems, but when your team lacks scoring depth, you should probably run it through one of your best offensive players. Fensore could be a menace both on the power play and at even strength if BU’s coaches would let him pick apart defenses like I know he can.
There’s not a lot to complain about with regards to Fensore’s offensive game. I’d argue that while he’s not perfect, his offensive game is right on track for where it needs to be if he is to make it in the NHL someday. The hockey sense and skating ability mixed with his natural playmaking talent and vision on the ice could make him a top contributor on the blue line in the future.
Areas for Improvement
Fensore’s reach and size can’t be improved upon because that’s out of his control. What he can improve upon, however, is his defensive positioning and his overall movement in the defensive zone. Fensore can get caught out of position a lot of times, leading to good offensive chances and the occasional goal. He’ll need to continue to improve on his positioning in the defensive zone, knowing when to move into certain areas of the ice and when to relent on the attack.
His aggressiveness is usually a good thing when it comes to defending, but it does get him out of position when a player with strong skating skills gets matched up with Fensore. Improving on that will help Fensore’s overall defensive game, but that’s not all I’d like to see. I’d like to see Fensore continue to work on his transition defense. When he has to defend either one on one or on odd man rushes, his weaknesses can be exposed.
Players can occasionally skate around Fensore in one on one scenarios, allowing for better offensive chances. He also needs to work on defending the pass on odd man rushes as opposed to playing the shooter, which is something that you can easily teach.
Fensore has elite skills in the offensive zone along with elite skating and hockey sense. The rest of his game is very raw and will need improvement before he can make it to the NHL, but I believe that he can. He’ll likely need his senior season in college plus a few AHL seasons to adapt to the pro game first, but the path to the NHL is almost never linear. It’s going to take some patience and development, but Fensore could be a top power play contributor for the Hurricanes once he reaches the NHL.
In recent years, we’ve seen the Hurricanes swing for the fences at the draft, taking players with high upside that carry a bit of risk with them. Fensore is one of those players. There are plenty of risks aside from just his size, but the reward is well worth it if Fensore makes it to the NHL. As for his NHL upside, I could see Fensore playing on the second pairing and getting plenty of power play time while reaching 30-40 points a season if he reaches his ceiling.
I have the utmost faith in the Hurricanes’ developmental and coaching staff to get the most out of Fensore and help him reach the NHL. If Fensore makes it to the NHL, he’ll quickly become a fan favorite due to his exciting style of play and dynamic offense. The Hurricanes’ future is bright and Fensore could be a very exciting part of that future.
If there are any prospects you want to see a profile on, send Matt a DM or mention on twitter @CanesProspects.