On the morning of Thursday, October 26, 2017, it was announced that forward Danton Heinen was being recalled from the Providence Bruins. During his brief stint with the AHL affiliate this season, in which he has played four games, the Langley, British Columbia native has amassed one goal and seven assists for eight points.
The 22-year-old was drafted by Boston in the 4th round, 116 overall, in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, he was headed to the University of Denver—where he would spend two years playing for the Denver Pioneers. In his 81 games dressed in the crimson and gold, he notched 36 goals and 57 assists for 93 points.
Before suiting up with the Bruins, as they played host to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, Heinen had seen NHL time in three previous games this season and eight games last season. Given the points he was tallying in Providence—averaging two points per game, his confidence had clearly increased. It was as though he hadn’t missed a beat during the offseason after having scored nine goals and added nine assists for eighteen points in seventeen games during the Providence Bruins push in the playoffs. And during his previous three games this season in Boston he had managed three assists.
“I think for me it was last year watching him in the playoffs in Providence. Games got hard, heavier,” shared Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “To see him play a complete game. It was a different play than when he left here and when he got sent back in I’m going to say November of last year. 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 on the scoresheet. So that is, for me, when it dawned on me that he might be able to play in the bottom of the lineup.”
Heinen embraced this recall and took to the ice playing his game. The 6’1” left shot had 18 shifts in Thursday’s game for a total time on ice of 8:39. That included 1:14 on the penalty kill as well.
Heinen scored his first career NHL goal 9:41 into the first period of the Bruins game against San Jose and it was the result of going to the crease. David Backes had a solid shot on the Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones, from the right point. While Jones was able to deny Backes, he gave up a rebound and Heinen was right there to make him pay. Perhaps the best part of the entire play was that it happened while the Boston Bruins were shorthanded.
That first NHL goal is a big moment in any hockey player’s life, and for some it takes a few games to get there. For Heinen, it took suiting up for his 12th game with the big club to see that dream become a reality. And he is the fourth player with the Black and Gold to notch that milestone this seaon—joining Jake DeBruskk, Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork.
“I feel like I’m an offensive guy. I want to contribute,” Heinen said postgame. “You see everyone scoring their first and you want to get your first as well. It felt like it was never coming, but I’m glad I got it out of the way.”
While the San Jose Sharks would tie the game half way through the middle frame, not surprisingly off the stick of former Bruin Joe Thornton, while on the power play, the Bruins didn’t panic, nor did they alter their mindset. Approximately three and half minutes after the Sharks got the equalizer, Heinen would slam home another rebound—this time off the end wall—to get the go-ahead goal and the ultimate game winning goal.
“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. 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,” Backes said of Heinen. “But kid gets his first goal and I couldn’t be happier for him and then he scores a second that ends up being a game winner. Quite a storybook day for him and we’ll humble him back down tomorrow, but he can certainly enjoy the night. He deserves it, he worked his butt off tonight.”
In a bit of serendipity, Heinen’s career milestone was witnessed by his collegiate coach—Jim Montgomery—University of Denver’s head coach. The Pioneers are in town to take on the Boston University Terriers on Friday night and the Boston College Eagles on Saturday night. For a hockey player, aside from getting your first NHL goal in front of your family, perhaps the next best thing is to get your first and second NHL goals in front of your former coach.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 27, 2017
Heinen had a great night, and while the Bruins played much better throughout most of the game in comparison to the breakdowns against the Buffalo Sabres last Saturday, they were fortunate that Heinen clearly wanted to maintain his two points per game average and was willing to go to the net. Otherwise the ending of this story could have been quite different.
The Bruins will regroup at Warrior Ice Arena Friday morning at 11:00 am for practice and look to build off the momentum from Thursday night’s win. They will need to look at what didn’t work and strive to fix it because on Saturday night the LA Kings will be in Boston, bringing their 8-1-1 record and riding a two-game winning streak.