LEWISTON – Some call him a rock. Others, a freight train on skates. Still others call him an anchor – the anchor of the Lewiston Maineiacs’ defense.

Chad Denny just calls himself a hockey player trying to make it to the next level.

“I don’t look at it like I am the big leader, really,” Denny said. “I just go out there, play my game. Our job is to protect (goaltenders Jonathan) Bernier and (Peter) Delmas and (Marc-Andre) Perron as defensemen. It is a young defensive team, I’ll admit, but we have experience, too.”

Whatever his friends and fans call him, though, his opponents have a common description for the hulking defenseman: Feared.

“There’s no question (Denny) leads their team,” former Moncton head coach Ted Nolan, now with the New York Islanders, said last year. “I’d love to have a player like that on our blue line, with his shot and his hockey sense.”

And then, there are the checks.

Denny currently leads the Maineiacs with 18 “good hits” in six games, to go with his two goals and five assists. He could have had No. 19 against Baie-Comeau last week, but he missed his target and slammed into teammate Pierre-Luc Faubert, who needed stitches to his face following the confrontation.

“It’s very important for a player like him to have consistency,” Maineiacs’ head coach and general manager Clem Jodoin said. “We have to be able to rely on him. When he wants to keep his game simple, this is when he is the best.”

Denny is younger than a typical defensive leader on a team contending for a league title. At 19, though, Denny is the oldest defenseman on the roster, and has been with the team since he was a 16-year-old rookie.

“This really has become a second home for me, with my billets and all of the people here,” Denny said. “I was standing with (Maineiacs’ captain Marc-Andre) Cliche up in P.E.I., and I was saying, ‘Remember four years ago in Baie-Comeau, our first year?’ We laughed about it. It’s gone so fast.”

Denny has grown on and off the ice since he was the Maineiacs’ second pick, 24th overall, at the 2003 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.

“As far as skating, and shooting, I’ve come far,” Denny said. “I look at some of the tapes they made for me after each season, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, that’s me?'”

Last summer, just as the National Hockey League’s lockout ended, Denny received the call to the highest level. The Atlanta Thrashers selected Denny in the second round, 49th overall, at the entry draft. That year, the Thrashers sent Denny to their rookie camp.

This year, Denny impressed the team enough to earn an invitation to the main camp, with the full complement of NHL stars.

“I know what it takes now, I’ve seen that,” Denny said. “To go to the pro camp after my rookie tournament, I got a taste of what the pros can be like. It’s great to watch them work, on and off the ice.”

His experience with the Thrashers and his four years of experience with the Maineiacs have fashioned Denny into his current persona. This week, Denny was named the QMJHL’s defensive player of the month.

“When he’s playing well, the team and the defense is doing well,” Jodoin said. “This is why he has to play with consistency. He has to learn this year to play with that consistency. A good pro is someone who came in and, day-in and day out, play the same. He’s had a taste of the big apple, and now he wants to go back.”

“I just want to have a great year here and help the team out the best I can, hopefully help the team go to the Memorial Cup,” Denny said. “That’s the goal. I just go out there and play my game.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.