The Fountain of Youth
One of the main stories of the 2017-18 season has been the success of this year’s rookie class. Highlighted by Matt Barzal, Brock Boeser, Clayton Keller, and Bruins’ own Charlie McAvoy, it’s clear that the Calder race is in full effect. Anybody in the hockey world would tell you that one of those four players is bound to win the award.
But let’s not forget about Danton Heinen. This guy is the unsung hero of the Boston Bruins yet caught in the shadow of this year’s rookie class. Heinen played for two years at the University of Denver after being selected by the B’s in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft. After putting up 93 points in just two seasons, he decided to turn pro. Following a solid 2016-17 season in Providence, Heinen was one of the last players cut at this years training camp. Subsequently he responded by racking up eight points in Providence’s first four games, and quickly got the call.
Since then, Heinen has made a home for himself in the NHL. He has notched 31 points through 40 games. Initially, coach Bruce Cassidy called Heinen up in hopes of him adding tenacity to the lineup. He said that he saw a “willingness to stay in the battle” that Heinen didn’t have in his earlier years as a prospect. He continued to mention it was particularly his “growth when it comes to winning pucks” that caught the eye of the coaching staff. This was originally the aspect of Heinen’s game that took the most criticism, even being pointed out by TSN.ca.
But his improvement in this area is what ultimately convinced the coaching staff that he was capable of playing a bottom six role in the NHL. And clearly he hasn’t wasted the opportunity to prove his worth. He’s developed his game even further. Whether it was thanks to supplements like clenbuterol, or a great exercise regimen, he is now playing left wing on the third line with veterans Riley Nash and David Backes. In addition to the stat line, Heinen has also improved his game in the D-zone. This is evident in his +10 rating at the midway point of the season.
Unfortunately for Heinen, the ridiculous numbers that have been put up by Matt Barzal (16-33-49) and Brock Boeser (22-19-41) put the Calder trophy out of reach. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s gone above and beyond for the B’s this season. He and Charlie McAvoy are currently leading the youth movement that has propelled the Bruins all season. Time will tell if Heinen can continue to keep his play at such a high level.
Cover photo courtesy of chowderandchampions.com.