Danton Heinen’s decision six months ago to leave the University of Denver’s hockey program and turn pro has paid off.
The 21-year-old former Surrey Eagles captain – a Langley native – found himself on the opening-night roster of the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins last week, and has so far suited up for three games with the club, including Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets.
Last Wednesday, in the Bruins’ season-opening game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Heinen found himself playing right wing on the second line with established NHLers David Krecji and Ryan Spooner.
The Bruins won the game 6-3, and though Heinen and his linemates were held off the scoresheet, the rookie forward did pick up a penalty – a two-minute minor for hooking.
Heinen played one season with the Eagles, in 2013/14, scoring 29 goals and adding 33 assists in 57 games. He was appointed captain near the end of the season – replacing outgoing captain Brett Mulcahy, who was traded – and next season made the jump to the NCAA ranks with the University of Denver.
Over two college seasons In Denver, he tallied 93 points in 81 games, and left after his sophomore season to join the Bruins organization, which had drafted him in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Heading into his first pro season this fall, Heinen was expected to begin with the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate, but an impressive training camp – and the team’s commitment to adding youth to its lineup – opened up a spot for him on the NHL team.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Heinen told Black Press earlier this month, prior to his first regular-season game. “It’s not too long ago that I was playing junior ‘B’ but I always dreamt of playing in the NHL. I always thought I could do it.
“For the day to finally be here, it’s super exciting.”
While Heinen’s time on one of the Bruins’ top two lines may be short-lived – once captain Patrice Bergeron returns from injury, it’s likely one or two players are bumped down the lineup – he said he is willing to do whatever it takes to stay with the big club.
“My goal is just to do whatever I can to help the team contributed, as much as I can,” he said.
“I want to be an all-around player. I was an offensive guy in college and I think I can bring some of that here, but I’m going to try to play an all-around game.”
Heinen isn’t South Surrey’s only connection to the Bruins. The team’s assistant general manager, Scott Bradley, is a former co-owner of the Eagles, having bought into the team alongside childhood friends Gary Nylund and Chuck Westgard in 2010.
Westgard – who bought out the minority partners two years ago – is still the Eagles’ president and co-owner.
– with files from Troy Landreville