Assuming the team doesn’t trade Ryan Spooner, the Bruins replaced Loui Eriksson with David Backes. Whether or not that was a wise move at the end of the day can be debated (it probably wasn’t), but a simple way of viewing this offseason is that one right wing came in and one right wing went out.
That would also be incorrect. The Bruins also parted with Lee Stempniak (Hurricanes), Brett Connolly (Capitals) and Landon Ferraro (Blues) while bringing in center/wing Riley Nash. In the Bruins’ recent heyday, right wing would have been a position of panic for Bruins fans, but these days, the Bruins’ defensive woes make right wing a perhaps underestimated problem.
Realistically, David Pastrnak should continue to progress and be a set-it-and-forget-it right wing next to David Krejci. Assuming that’s the case, the B’s still have a question mark on the right side of their third line.
Jimmy Hayes bouncing back would solve it. So would signing Jimmy Vesey, as they would move guys around until someone (probably a lefty; perhaps Frank Vatrano) ended up over there. Otherwise, it’s a hole on the roster.
Danton Heinen says he’s doing “everything he can” to take that job in training camp.
The Bruins got Heinen to go pro after his sophomore year at the University of Denver. The 6-foot-1, 190-ish-pound left shot forward was a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft [worth noting: considering that draft also included Pastrnak and that the bar wasn’t exactly set high, it’s entirely possible that Peter Chiarelli’s final draft with the Bruins was his best outside of 2010], but since his selection has used strong play at the NCAA level to cement himself as a high-end scoring prospect.
Like the departed Eriksson, Heinen is a left-shot wing with experience playing both sides. Last season, Heinen skated on the right as he helped lead the Pioneers to the Frozen Four. He racked up 48 points in 41 games as a sophomore, including 20 goals. After signing with the B’s, he skated in four games for Providence, posting two assists.
“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill,” Jay Pandolfo said. “I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out.”
Though a potential Vesey signing would change things drastically, Heinen’s primary competition for a spot would appear to be Seth Griffith, who this offseason signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $625,000 at the NHL level. Griffith has played in 34 NHL games over his three-year pro career, though he’s yet to cement himself as a regular during his callups. A 45-goal-scorer in the OHL, Griffith is still 23 and has been lights-out in the AHL, but he’s now at the point where he’s being challenged by younger players for an NHL job.
The Bruins wouldn’t have encouraged Heinen to go pro had they not felt he was coming along as a prospect. After putting up 45 points as a freshman, Heinen said he felt enough growth in his sophomore campaign to feel that he was ready to take the next step.
“I think I just made a lot of improvements this year in my 200-foot game,” he said. “I think I’m better in my own end now from learning at Denver under Jim Montgomery. I feel like my all-around game’s gotten a little better and I’m more confident out there, for sure.”
As for playing his off-wing, Heinen says it’s helped him improve at catching breakout passes on his backhand, something that former Bruin Reilly Smith does well as a left-shot right wing. He noted that he’s got enough experience on the right side that he “doesn’t mind” it.
Though he ultimately may require some AHL seasoning, Heinen clicking at the NHL level would be a big plus for the Bruins as they go about trying to both replace Eriksson’s offensive production and upgrade from the likes of Connolly. The Bruins see him as a candidate to make some noise, whenever it may be.
“I think you’ll notice him during training camp,” Pandolfo said. “It will be up to him, but I think definitely he’ll push some guys.”