Danton Heinen has become one of the most polarizing figures on the Boston Bruins' roster. Some fans love his puck-handling skills and responsible play, while others argue that Heinen needs to score more to prove his worth.
While the debate rages on, the Langley, B.C., native has been busy becoming one of he most solid forwards on the squad. His importance to the team is certainly not lost on the Bruins front office, which signed Heinen to a two-year, $2.8 million contract extension this past offseason.
Even more of note, Heinen's talents are obviously recognized by head coach Bruce Cassidy. The 24-year-old winger has been called upon in the past two seasons to play up and down the lineup, even taking a turn at filling in on the first line when David Pastrnak was hurt last season.
For a majority of the first part of this young season, Heinen slotted in on the third line alongside center Charlie Coyle and a host of other linemates. However, a surge of injuries up front have forced Cassidy to shuffle the lines numerous times. Of late, Heinen seems to have found at least a temporary home playing on the second line with David Krejci and Jake Debrusk.
Heinen told the media when he was first placed on the Krejci line that he was excited to play with the veteran center and would do all he could to get the puck to him to allow Krejci to make plays. With much of the criticism heaped on Heinen centered around his tendency toward a pass-first mentality, that is probably not what many fans wanted to hear.
However, it is hard to dispute that the second line has noticeably improved since Heinen came on board. In fact, Heinen produced four of his six points on the season over the last five games.
It seems Heinen's success rubs off on those around him, as well. Second-line winger Jake Debrusk's production began to improve when Heinen took up the right wing slot on that line.
In Tuesday's tough loss in Montreal, Cassidy used Heinen quite a bit on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner, opting to give David Pastrnak some minutes on the second line. Not only did the fourth line create a number of good scoring chances with Heinen in tow, Kuraly notched his first goal of the 2019-2020 campaign.
If Heinen can continue to build on the impressive performance he has put on so far this season, the faith the Bruins showed in the young forward by giving him a new contract will definitely be rewarded. For now, one thing is for sure; Heinen is quietly doing his part on the ice to silence his critics.