While it was only a short stay in the AHL for Boston Bruins forward prospect Danton Heinen, the first taste of pro hockey for the University of Denver standout could prove invaluable in his continued development.
After a deep run by Denver in the NCAA tournament ended at the 2016 Frozen Four, the Bruins’ fourth round pick from 2014 joined the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout contract on April 15th before making his pro debut the next night.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind for sure,” Heinen said of his last few weeks. “It’s been fun though, just getting to know the guys and coming up to try to do whatever I can to help. It’s been good.”
Heinen appeared in the AHL Bruins’ final two games of the regular season, tallying two assists in Providence’s 6-1 season finale win over Bridgeport.
“He’s got good skills, makes good plays and sees the ice well,” Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of his first impressions of Heinen after their Game One loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. “Good pace to his game, he just needs to learn the pro game.”
Unfortunately for Heinen and his new teammates in Providence, they were surprisingly swept out of the opening round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Still, the future is bright for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate with an influx of young talent in the system making their way to the pro ranks, and Heinen figures to be a key component in that group next fall.
“They’re all young guys. It’s a young league for the most part,” Cassidy said of Heinen and the prospects under his command in Providence. “He’s played at a high level in college. Coming in late, that’s just the hand he’s been dealt. He’s a very smart player, so I don’t think his mistakes are going to be because of hockey IQ, he’s just playing against bigger, stronger guys, and you’re going to have to be harder on the puck. I think he’s figuring it out quickly.”
Heinen went scoreless in two postseason contests against the Penguins and was a healthy scratch in Game Three’s season-ending loss, but according to Cassidy, the switch was no slight to the University of Denver standout.
“He’s a responsible player,” Cassidy explained. “He’s going to make his living making plays in the offensive side, but away from the puck his play has been fine.”
After two standout seasons at the University of Denver, which saw Heinen compile 93 points (36 goals, 57 assists) in just 81 games, he is ready to turn pro full-time in the Bruins’ organization in the fall. With young talent like Austin Czarnik, Noel Acciari, Frank Vatrano and Anton Blidh already in Providence, Heinen will add even more depth to the organization’s forward ranks.
“Everyone’s bigger, faster and stronger, just like any step up that you take,” Heinen said of his first impression of pro hockey, adding, “I’m just going to try to learn from these guys, try to slide in and do the best I can. I’m going to do whatever is asked of me, work as hard as I can and see what happens.”
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