DETROIT – Charlie McAvoy gets a whole lot of the attention when it comes to Bruins rookies this season and rightfully so given what a game-changing force he is on the back end.
But the Bruins have another one of those kinds of players up front in 22-year-old Danton Heinen, and the Bruins rookie winger was at it again on Tuesday night with his 12th goal of the season for the game-winner in Boston’s 3-2 victory over Detroit at Little Caesar’s Arena.
The game-winner was a nifty goal from Heinen where he snapped a shot top corner under the bar after getting served a perfect cross-ice dish from Sean Kuraly.
Heinen is tied for ninth among NHL rookies with 12 goals on the season, and his 37 points rank him fourth among NHL rooks behind only Mat Barzal, Brock Boeser and Tampa’s Yann Gourde.
Heinen has helped turn the B’s third line into a legitimate threat for the bulk of the season, and he stepped in and played well over the last five games in Brad Marchand’s spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Clearly it was something Heinen enjoyed, even though it will now be over with Marchand returning for Wednesday night’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“I had a lot of fun on that line, you know? Going back to the other line, I’m just going to try and do the same things. No matter where you put me in the lineup I’ll be playing with great players,” said Heinen. “One thing I’ve focused on a lot is being consistent and not taking any nights off. You’re not going to have your best every night, but [when you’re not at your best] still contribute in other areas and be strong defensively.”
The Black and Gold finished with a 4-1-0 record in those five games with No. 63 on the sidelines, and Heinen continues to display an amazing, impressive consistency in his first full NHL season.
“It’s a good problem to have when guys can step up and fill in,” said Bruce Cassidy of Heinen, who finished with two goals, five points and a plus-1 in the five games playing in the Marchand spot while he was suspended. “The first game against Anaheim I thought we ran into a little bit of trouble…it’s going to happen. But I think since then he’d done a really good job up there.
“He is young. I think [the consistency] is the biggest challenge they have in-game and in-season, and he’s a pretty smart guy so he’s generally in the right spot. For him it’s just his pace and making sure he’s looking after himself every day and that he has his legs. And then be strong on pucks. You can see him shoot it. You can see him make plays. So for him the physical part has stuck around for most of the year, and he’s been a good pro. It shows and he’s really earned his minutes.”
Not only has Heinen earned his minutes and his gig with the Bruins, but he’s also earned his standing with the best rookies in the NHL this season amidst a crop of very talented first year players doing their thing.