Forward Danton Heinen ready for several roles with the Penguins
In the first week of training camp, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Danton Heinen skated on the right wing of a line that included stars Jake Guentzel on the left wing and Jeff Carter in the center.
This mission lasted a handful of practices.
After a few cuts in the lineup, Heinen was working on the left wing of the third line with Teddy Blueger in the middle and Brock McGinn on the right wing.
Then, on Sunday, after Guentzel was placed in isolation for a positive covid-19 test, Heinen replaced him on the front row with Carter as well as Bryan Rust on the right wing.
Helping the Penguins to a 5-1 victory over the Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena, Heinen notched one goal and two assists while recording 17 minutes and 32 seconds of ice time in 20 quarterfinals. job. He even scored his scorecard on the power play (2:58) and on the penalty kill (1:37).
With just over a week to go until the 2021-22 regular season opens, Heinen has yet to find anything that looks like a regular role with his new team.
And that’s by design.
A malleable player who can play on both wings and all four lines, Heinen’s versatility is what wowed the Penguins’ management when they used the little salary cap space she had to work with on a contract. a year worth $ 1.1 million to sign the Langley, BC native.
“He has the potential to play a number of different roles for us, depending on how the lines work out,” said coach Mike Sullivan. “He has offensive instincts. He thinks the game at a high level. I think he has the ability to play in our top six if we need to. He will bring an offensive dimension to our top nine if we need it. Depending on how the lines go, I think he’s going to be a really good player for us. I have been impressed with his playing so far.
Fourth-round pick (No. 116 overall) for the 2014 Boston Bruins, Heinen entered the NHL full-time as a 2017-18 rookie. Deployed on the left wing of Boston’s third line that season, he set career highs with 77 games and 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists).
Last season with the Anaheim Ducks, Heinen usually skated on the second line and registered 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 43 games.
Like most teams this summer, the Ducks were banging their heads against the salary cap amid the pandemic-ravaged league economy. As a result, Anaheim refused to extend a qualifying offer to Heinen as a restricted free agent and released him.
“It was (was) a bit uncertain,” Heinen said of the offseason. “But I kind of thought there would be something there. I’m grateful to be here and to have a job and to try to make this team and help them in any way I can.
What exactly that job will be might change on a daily basis.
“I have (changed wings) a few times before,” said the left-hander. “For me, left or right is not a huge difference. There are a few pros and cons in both, but I play both ways well.
Heinen has scored double-digit goals in three of his four full seasons in the NHL. He likely would have hit that plateau last season if the NHL hadn’t cut the schedule to 56 games for each team due to the pandemic. But he has seen a steady drop in his goal production since his rookie campaign.
It offers a simple solution to get back to this level.
“I have a little more confidence in my shot,” said Heinen, 26. “Instead of always looking for the open type, maybe pull a little harder. I think I have the capacity. It’s just a matter of going back.
“He’s fast,” Blueger said. “He seems to have a very good sense of hockey. A quick and devious blow. He gets away with it very quickly (and) accurately. I mean, he has all the tools.
With all these tools, he will have many tasks to complete in 2021-2022.
“(The Penguins are) at a steady pace,” said Heinen. “A team that plays with the rhythm and the offensive spirit. I feel like I can try to fit in and help in any way I can. ”