Heinen on Bruins radar after a big college debut

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WILMINGTON, MA – The Bruins scouting staff has already hit a home run with the 2014 draft after producing a potential NHL star in David Pastrnak with their first round selection.

But the high ceiling that’s already developed for their fourth round pick from that very same draft class now gives it a chance to set the organization up with a pair of potentially high impact players. That’s because the Bruins selected Danton Heinen with that 2014 fourth round pick, and the left winger proceeded to follow getting drafted by exploding offensively at the University of Denver in his freshman season.

Heinen finished third in NCAA scoring among freshmen behind a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin, and led the Pioneers with 45 points in 40 college games last season. The British Columbia native is listed at just 6-feet and 165 pounds, but Heinen looked a lot bigger and stronger than that while shining Wednesday morning during on-ice drills at development camp.

It’s no exaggeration to say the 20-year-old was the best player on the ice among all of the prospects on Day 2 of development camp.

Heinen was excellent protecting the puck and finishing off offensive plays during the tight 3-on-3 drills in the neutral zone, and has the tools to be a high end offensive winger once he jumps from college hockey to the pros.

“You can tell he’s talented. He’s got a lot of poise with the puck. He’s got a great release and a great shot,” said Bruins development coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s going to be a really good player. He still needs to get a little stronger. That will help him protecting pucks. But he looks really good. I thought he stood out today.”

Heinen missed his first B’s development camp last summer while taking classes in Denver, so the Bruins instead settled for watching him dominate the NCAA level as a 19-year-old freshman. The impressively productive season shot him up the prospect rankings from a mere fourth round pick to a player that might make an impact in Boston sooner rather than later.

The modest forward gave the credit for last year’s standout season to his two linemates, but said he tries not to get too caught up in his own statistics.

“[The University of Denver] put me in a really good position with a lot of really good players. They really trusted me. I don’t really need any attention. I just want to go out there, do my thing and just keep playing hard…keep trying to do the best I can,” said Heinen, who said he was a late bloomer at 16 years old that opted for NCAA hockey in part because he was never drafted by a WHL team. “[The WHL teams] kind of told me that I was too small, so I put on a little bit more size and that’s really helped me out a lot.

“I think I put more pressure on myself [than anybody else] to be the best player I can. I’m just going to try to keep betting every day.”

Heinen said there wasn’t much talk about him potentially going pro after an impressive first year in Denver, but expect that discussion to change if the winger again dominates in his second time through the highly competitive college hockey world. The Bruins scouting and development staff will be watching closely, and Pandolfo himself expects he’ll be making more trips out west to gauge Heinen’s progress through the upcoming year.

“He had a great year last year. Sometimes the sophomore year can be a little tougher. Guys kind of know how he plays now. It’ll be a little harder for him, and it'll be interesting to see how he does this year,” said Pandolfo. “But the way he looks out there right now, he’s headed in the right direction.”

The right direction in the immediate sense for Heinen will be another monster offensive season for the Pioneers, but it could be aimed for Boston shortly after if he continues to show goal-scoring tendencies for an NHL hockey club that could desperately use those skills.

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