In a span of 24 days starting on the second of October, Danton Heinen twice has been sent to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey league only to be recalled.
After Thursday’s performance in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden, his trips up and down I-95 may now be few and far between.
The 22-year old Heinen was recalled Thursday morning as the Bruins battle a combination of injuries and inconsistencies to their forward group. But his most recent demotion was a bit of a head-scratcher. Heinen was one of the better Bruins during their ugly west coast trip as the Langley, British Columbia, Canada native notched three assists in as many games.
“I knew it was coming and you know, we penciled him in for that reason, but he played well here,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said about Heinen following the victory. “We talked about that. He went down and worked hard at his game, got some more points, played well, solid.”
After two successful years at the University of Denver, Heinen decided to forego his junior and senior years and sign his entry-level deal in April of 2016 – almost two years after being selected by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2014 entry draft.
Heinen struggled in the eight games he appeared in with the big club during the 2016-17 season as he failed to register a single point. But it was his play during the Providence Bruins’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals of the Calder Cup Playoffs that opened managements eyes.
“I think for me it was last year watching him in the playoffs in Providence. Games got harder, heavier. To see him play a complete game. It was a different player than when he left here and when he got sent back in I’m going to say November of last year,” added Cassidy. “He was able to do some of those things. Be heavier on pucks and use his body to win pucks on the wall. Things – details that don’t show up in the scoresheet.”
As much as Cassidy likes when Heinen does the little things you won’t find on a scoresheet, he also doesn’t mind when Heinen’s name does appear on the scoresheet like it did on Thursday.
Heinen’s first two career National Hockey League goals were all the Bruins needed to bounce back after an ugly loss Saturday night to the Buffalo Sabres.
As a pretty humble 22-year old, Heinen didn’t have much to say about his first two goals.
“It was pretty cool,” Heinen said. “Obviously, it’s something you dream of your whole life, and you kind of just go into shock for a bit there. It was awesome.”
The first tally came off some hard work on both sides of the ice. With the Bruins on the penalty kill, David Backes took an outlet pass from Kevan Miller and fed the puck to Heinen. As the two entered the attacking zone, Heinen dropped the puck back to Backes and raced toward the net, an area he found success in on Thursday. After Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones stopped Backes’ shot from just inside the zone, Heinen was there to chip in the loose puck for his first career tally.
“I don’t know if we’re always trying to score on the PK, but it’s a recipe that we’ve talked about – pucks in the net, find rebounds,” said Backes, who, unlike Heinen, will always offer up a lengthy answer to the media’s questions. “Both of his goals are that sort of play where he goes to the net, finding that little bit of space, and he’s got the finish and brought it out tonight.”
For Heinen, it’s all about learning on the fly and learning how to adjust to the style of play of the guys that complete his line. But maybe more important than that, Cassidy says he’s seeing Heinen learning how to become a pro.
And that’s incredibly important.
“And that is the biggest thing that I like about him because he’s learning how to be a good pro – accept the role you’re given, dominate in it, see if it can grow from there. And that’s where we’re at with him,” Cassidy said. “It’s still early, but that’s where we’re at.”
As Cassidy admires the work ethic and learning skills of Heinen, he can tip his cap to Heinen’s coach at Denver, Jim Montgomery for putting those wheels into motion.
Coincidently Denver is in town this weekend for back-to-back contests against Boston University and Boston College. Heinen said that his collegiate coach texted him this morning and that he and a handful of Heinen’s former teammates were in attendance on Thursday night.
Heinen may have missed out on winning a National Championship with the Pioneers last year, but he at least has two NHL goals under his belt. If Thursday was any indication of how things are going to go for the rookie, Heinen will have many more goals under that belt.