Nick Goss

Why Bruins should keep Danton Heinen as versatile bottom-six forward

Heinen played well Friday, bolstering his case for an Opening Night roster spot.

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Danton Heinen hasn't made the Boston Bruins' Opening Night roster yet, but he's made a good case for himself thus far.

That includes a strong performance in Friday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden in Boston's third preseason game.

Heinen, who joined the Bruins last month on a professional tryout contract, scored a goal and tied for the team lead with four shots on net. He also tallied three high-danger scoring chances. The Bruins had an 11-7 edge in shot attempts and a 10-2 advantage in scoring chances during Heinen's 12:46 of 5-on-5 ice time, per Natural Stat Trick.

Heinen's goal, set up by a nice feed from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, put the B's up 3-2 in the second period.

Heinen's primary competition for a bottom-six roster spot is probably Jesper Boqvist, A.J Greer and Jakub Lauko.

While Heinen doesn't play with the same speed as Boqvist and isn't as physical as Greer or Lauko, he does bring more of an offensive punch, and the Bruins sorely need that given all of the scoring firepower they lost in the offseason with the departures of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Hall and others.

Greer scored three goals in the first four games of last season, but then he didn't find the back of the net again until January and finished the campaign with just five. Lauko scored four goals last year after making his NHL debut in October and playing 23 games overall. Boqvist scored 10 goals (his career high) for the New Jersey Devils in each of the last two seasons.

Heinen has scored more than 10 goals in three different seasons, including a career-high 18 just two years ago for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He can also contribute on the power play, where he has tallied 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in his career.

His playmaking ability is better than Boqvist, Lauko and Greer as well. Boqvist has 27 assists in 189 career games. Lauko had three helpers last season. Greer has just 13 assists in 108 career games. Heinen, with 106 helpers in 413 career games, has an assists per game ratio more than double that of Boqvist and Greer.

Another plus for Heinen in his quest to make the Opening Night roster is his versatility. He's comfortable and able to produce in a bottom-six role or a spot in the top six -- where he played Friday with Matthew Poitras and Brad Marchand on the first line. Heinen's ability to play both left and right wing is important as well.

Let's not forget Heinen has a good relationship with Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, too. Montgomery was Heinen's coach for two seasons at the University of Denver.

There's no guarantee Heinen makes the roster for Opening Night. He needs to have a strong close to camp and the preseason. But his offensive talent and versatility are valuable traits that the Bruins would be foolish to let go. Anyone who can play up and down the lineup, play multiple forward spots, contribute to special teams and brings plenty of experience is valuable.

"I think you try to grow every year," Heinen told reporters after Friday's loss. "It sounds cliche, but you try to improve your all-around game. I think shooting more is something I've tried to do over the past few years. As you saw tonight, it doesn't always have to be perfect, just get it on net. Try to evolve your game as you go and work as hard as you can."

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