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Danton Heinen gives the Vancouver Canucks more badly-needed depth scoring

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Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
10 days ago
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GM Patrik Allvin and Co. made six signings within the first few hours of the 2024 Free Agent Frenzy, but only one of those signings was a homecoming, and that was Langley’s own Danton Heinen.
The Canucks signed Heinen, who scored 17 goals and 36 points in 74 games for the Boston Bruins last season, to a two-year, $2.25 million AAV contract.
And while the per-dollar value isn’t the only thing this signing has going for it, it’s definitely the main attraction for a Canucks team desperate for efficient depth scoring.
Efficient Depth Scoring: Check
The Canucks were in a tough spot, needing to add offence to a roster that was losing key deadline acquisition Elias Lindholm, and without much cap space available to spend on it.
Vancouver landed a major piece in the form of Jake DeBrusk, signed to a whopping seven-year, $5.5 million AAV deal. But that didn’t leave much room for another big-ticket free agent, which meant any additional offence would have to be of the efficient variety.
Enter Danton Heinen.
Heinen posted what was essentially a career year in 2023/24, with the exception of a standout 47-point rookie campaign that he has never replicated. He also did so while skating just 14:27 per game, giving him a 5-on-5 goals-per-60 of .90 and a points-per-60 of 1.99, both of which rate pretty highly on the Bruins and leaguewide.
It’s worth noting that 34 of Heinen’s 36 points came at even-strength, which is excellent news for the Canucks, who can’t offer him much in the way of power play opportunity.
The Canucks needed someone who could slot in behind all of Pettersson, DeBrusk, JT Miller, Brock Boeser, and maybe even the likes of Nils Höglander, Conor Garland, Dakota Joshua, and Pius Suter, too – and still put up points.
Heinen appears to be that player.
Another Option on the Penalty Kill: Check
We wrote in our writeups on DeBrusk and Forbort that improving the penalty kill was a major goal of the Canucks this offseason, and those signings are definitely their primary means of addressing it. But Heinen has a fine reputation on the PK, too, and represents another useful option in Rick Tocchet and Co.’s shorthanded arsenal.
Heinen averaged 1:14 of shorthanded ice-time on average for the Bruins last season, which made him one of about five Bruins forwards who made up the core penalty killers. As has been mentioned before, Boston had the seventh-best PK in the league, and while Heinen can’t be considered a leading member, he was an every-night contributor, and that counts for something.
Odds are that he can do as much, or more, for the Canucks’ PK.
A Lethal Shooter: Check
In that aforementioned quest for more offence, the Canucks have a need for more dedicated shooters. And if those shooters are the type who get the most out of their shooting opportunities, all the better.
Heinen, in keeping with the theme of efficiency, is a fairly lethal shooter. He scored on 14.3% of his shots last season, and while that sounds like the kind of number that will regress, it’s not even his best shooting season ever – nor is it all that much higher than his career average of 11.0%.
The Canucks have plenty of players scattered throughout their forward corps who can create opportunities for their linemates; Pettersson, Miller, Garland, Suter.
Heinen adds someone to the mix who specializes in finishing those chances.
He had a top shot speed of 95.57MPH in 2023/24 according to NHL EDGE, which ranked in the 79th percentile.
Defensive Responsibility: Check
Heinen doesn’t get enough credit for the other side of his game.
While he’s no defensive stud, he was on the ice for 47 even-strength goals for and only 33 against last season for the Bruins, and that’s with a quality of competition slightly above the league average…
From HockeyViz.com
…and a quality of linemates well below the league average.
Heinen doesn’t just handle the kinds of minutes and deployments he gets handed as a middle-six forward, he handles them well. And that’s vital if he’s going to carve out a spot for himself in Rick Tocchet’s vaunted system.
Heinen doesn’t block a ton of shots or throw a lot of hits, but he does a decent amount of both, and shows no lack of willingness to get involved. A habit of getting under opponent’s skin on occasion only helps matters here.
Versatility: Check
At this point, it’s difficult to say where Heinen might fit in within the Canucks’ lineup.
Maybe he’s on the other side of Pettersson and DeBrusk.
Maybe he’s bumping Suter off of Miller and Boeser’s line.
Maybe he is covering for one of Garland or Joshua as the other plays up the depth chart.
The key here is versatility, and that’s always been the book on Heinen. He can play all three forward positions, he has a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ profile in which he does no one thing great, but most things well, and he has a long history of floating up and down his team’s lineup throughout any given season.
In 2023/24, Heinen played 30 minutes or more with nine different Bruins forward combinations, including time on all four forward lines. That’s valuable experience for someone who is likely to bounce all over the Canucks’ own lineup in the season to come.
Cost Efficiency: Check
As we mentioned earlier, the Canucks needed to do a bit of bargain shopping at forward after signing DeBrusk, and Heinen has the potential to be one of the best bang-for-buck signings out of this whole Free Agent Frenzy.
To wit, Heinen has been signed to a deal with the same term, and less than half the owed salary, to what the Canucks had Ilya Mikheyev previously under contract for.
Heinen scored 17 goals last year. Mikheyev scored 11.
With their star players all now paid accordingly, the Canucks needed to up the goals-per-dollar ratio of their depth forwards. With Heinen now in the fold, they’ve done so.
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