How Bruins wing Danton Heinen developed his ‘crafty’ hands

Matt Kalman
October 31, 2019 - 4:57 pm

Coach Bruce Cassidy likes to describe Danton Heinen as “crafty.”

The Bruins wing has stick handling skills that are on display almost every game, whether he’s going around a defender coming out of the corner or splitting a couple opposing players on the rush.

Most recently he’s brought his hands to the Bruins’ second line, skating on the right wing next to left wing Jake DeBrusk and center David Krejci in the 5-1 rout of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. That trio figures to stick together at least for a short while.

Krejci, also a world-renowned puck handler, likes Cassidy’s latest second-line right wing choice.

“Yeah, he’s a skilled guy. And I think what makes him dangerous, he obviously has a good shot, but he can make little plays in a tight area, which is pretty important in this league. That’s how you create offense in the offensive zone and on breakouts and stuff like that,” Krejci said.

So where did Heinen’s hands begin to develop before he got on a track that took him to Denver for college hockey and then eventually the pros with Providence and Boston?

“I would always be on my roller blades. Roller blades and hockey ball, that was my thing, I’d do that for hours,” Heinen recently told about growing up just outside of Vancouver.

The ponds were rarely frozen near where Heinen grew up, so driveways had to suffice for neighborhood games of roller hockey.

“I guess the ball bounces a little more. So I guess it would bounce a little more, and it’s lighter and maybe not as easy handle,” he said.

Those puck skills helped Heinen make up for a disadvantage he had as a younger kid until he got into his latter teens.

“When I was younger, I was always smaller. I didn’t grow until I was about 16, and I really wasn’t that great a skater either when I was younger,” he recalled. “So I think I had to really rely on kind of being heady or I guess crafty in a way. I mean that’s where it comes from.”

When you’re as “crafty” as Heinen, you can get a little addicted to just being a puck handler or play creator. Heinen’s size (6-foot-1, 188 pounds), skating and shot have caught up to his hands and he knows to succeed in the NHL he’s going to need to put those other parts of his game to use more often.

He followed his 16-goals 2017-18 season with just 11 goals last season, and has two goals in 12 games this year. The Bruins have been getting a little more secondary scoring from the likes of Charlie Coyle and their fourth liners lately, but there will be times Heinen will need to produce more, especially if he remains on the second line.

“I’m confident in my shot, I just need to tell myself to get it away quicker and shoot more,” Heinen said.

Krejci has always had an underrated shot and has often gone through stretches when he was reluctant to use it, especially at even strength. Having Heinen and Krejci together on a line could create a pass-happy atmosphere, but Krejci’s confident their chemistry will bring out some selfishness in both of them when necessary.

“I would have an issue if I gave him a pass or someone else gave him a pass and he’s right there and he’s trying to make something happen. If there’s a game it’s 4-0, 5-0, you’re trying to feed a guy for two or three goals, I have no problem with that,” Krejci said.

“In a normal game, if you’re just looking straight at the goalie – unless there’s a guy backdoor, which you see the last couple years in this league, not just our first line, but lots of teams do that too, they just pass to each other until there’s an open net – but yeah that’s kind of secondary scoring and we have to keep shooting, get some more confidence and once we have that then we will be making those plays.”