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A year in Providence was crucial to Danton Heinen’s development

After spending most of the 2016-2017 season in the AHL, Danton Heinen has become an integral part of the Boston Bruins.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

When Danton Heinen made the Boston Bruins out of training camp last season, a lot of fans had high expectations for the young forward. He was one of the Bruins’ best prospects and put up 93 points over two seasons for the UDenver Pioneers. The 2014 fourth-round pick turned into a sneaky-good offensive player on the Pacific Rim line with Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell with the Pios, and the Bruins were excited about his progress.

However, after going pointless in eight games for Boston last season, Danton Heinen was relegated to Providence and remained there for the rest of the season. A lot of fans immediately deemed him a bust, but most of the expectations placed on Heinen were not warranted. Also, it was ridiculous for fans to lose hope in him because he didn’t put up a point in the NHL. That is just unfair to a young player.

Either way, Heinen went to the AHL and quickly became one of Providence’s best players. He put up 11 points in his first ten games and was used in many different situations. He played up and down the lineup, and played all three forward positions throughout the season, showing how useful he could become for the club. He finished the 2016-2017 season with 14 goals and 44 points.

While his first full professional season in Providence was a super success, it was the playoffs where Heinen really shined. The P-Bruins went all the way to the Eastern Conference Final and Heinen was a big part of that run. He scored nine goals and 18 points in the 17-game trek, finishing first on the P-Bruins and eighth overall in playoff scoring.

Heinen used his demotion as an opportunity to find his way back to the NHL (if you even want to call it that), which is how every young player should treat assignments in the minors. He refined his game and worked on some things he struggled with early last season, such as puck possession and positioning. Those became some of his strong suits in Providence last season. He also became more strong on the puck and along the boards; physicality had always been a question mark in Heinen’s game.

He made the most out of his season in Providence last year, and so far, it is working.

Heinen had a strong showing during training camp this season, but with a cluttered forward group, he was the last winger cut from camp and was subsequently sent down to Providence to begin the season. It was definitely frustrating for Heinen as he had done enough to make the team. However, his stints in the AHL this season did not last long.

He was recalled and returned a couple times at the beginning of the season, but was last called up on October 26th and has not been returned since that point. His games in the AHL this season may have been scattered, but either way he unleashed for a goal and eight points in four games and posted a plus-5 rating.

Heinen has appeared in 18 games for the Bruins this season, posting four goals and seven assists for eleven points. He has two power-play points, a shorthanded goal, and one game-winning goal. He is currently tied for sixth in points on the Bruins.

It’s not just the score sheet where Heinen is showing up, either. His work on the B’s 5th in the league ranked penalty-kill has been superb and his defensive instincts have been helping the Bruins tremendously so far this season. He has earned some late-game responsibilities lately as well, and hasn’t disappointed. Heinen also filled the Ryan Spooner’s spot on the power-play while Spooner was out with an injury, and he did a considerable job.

With injuries to several different players, Heinen has worked his way into the top-six and is impressing, as well.

Heinen is a completely different player this season than last year. He doesn’t look as nervous and his confidence level looks sky high. He is controlling the puck a lot better and is showing off his crafty hands just about every shift.

Skill was never a question mark in Heinen’s game. The Bruins knew he was going to develop someday. The question was always about his strength and physicality, and so far, it hasn’t been a problem.

He isn’t going to go out and level guys night in and night out like Noel Acciari, but he isn’t necessarily going to get banged around, either.

Heinen had a stellar season in the AHL last year and worked on a lot of different things to improve his game. He is showing his worth to the Bruins’ front office and the team is excited to see him gelling in the top-six.

For all those fans who wrote Heinen off last season, just know that going down to the minors is not a bad thing. Look at what it did for Heinen. He was able to develop into a fine player for the Bruins.

Oh and if I had to guess, I would say there is a pretty good chance Heinen is staying in Boston for the rest of the season.