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Wednesday, 03 July 2013 09:30

Which way to the NHL? Just follow Heatherington

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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The Columbus Blue Jackets hit the jackpot last year when they brought Andy Schneider on board as an amateur scout.


They just didn’t know it yet.
Sunday their investment paid off in a big way after the former Swift Current Broncos player and assistant coach sold his superiors on current Broncos defenceman Dillon Heatherington, whom the Jackets then selected with the 50th overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft in Newark, N.J.
(Apparently good things do happen on the Jersey shore. Who knew?)
Columbus, which has missed the playoffs in 11 of its 12 seasons, took a huge step toward turning its fortunes around with the selection.
Bigger even, potentially, than the two-year extension they reached with Vezina-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky one day later.
In the unlikely event Schneider never produces another NHL-calibre player for Columbus, he’s got one heck of a debut to hang his hat on.
It’s interesting enough that Heatherington is the highest-drafted Bronco in 13 years, but that alone is no guarantee of success.
Heatherington’s approach to the game is.
The last time he quit on a play, for all anyone knows, was probably back in junior novice.
There are nights when he seems capable of bench pressing the entire opposing team in front of his own net. (Not mean, just tough.)
Bad decisions with the puck are ridiculously few and far between when he is on the ice.
His off-ice exploits do not draw any comparisons, as one pro scout asked in January, to Ian White or Duncan Milroy.
And that so-called lack of offensive instincts that was widely discussed as maybe his only knock leading up to the draft? A smokescreen, as any of his end-to-end rushes from the second half of last season will attest.
Broncos head coach Mark Lamb talked openly last year about reining in Heatherington’s offensive side both for the good of the team and the development of the player. Chatter around the rink at the start of last season had it that Lamb expected Heatherington to develop into the best defenceman in the Western Hockey League this coming season, as an 18-year-old.
And Reece Scarlett flat-out guaranteed in an interview last year that Heatherington would one day play in the NHL. Heatherington’s already got the NHL size.
He’s learned how to win at a high level, after helping Canada to gold at the world under-18 championships.
He’ll almost certainly captain the Broncos when the season opens in September, and he’s going to push for a spot on the national under-20 team for the World Junior Hockey Championships as well which will only further his development.
Superficially, his stats won’t be hurt by playing in front of Finnish goalie Eetu Laurikainen for another season either. Laurikainen is expected back between the pipes for Swift Current as an over-age import in 2013-14 after going undrafted on Sunday.  His rookie season was nothing short of sensational but, as a relative newcomer on the hockey world’s radar (even in his own country), his draft stock never really took off.
It was a little less surprising to see Broncos centre Colby Cave and wingers Levi Bews and Jay Merkley, who had been ranked by NHL Central Scouting or the International Scouting Service over the past year, go undrafted.
They’re all very talented players, no question, but not yet on par with the top 33 the WHL offered up at Sunday’s draft either. A breakout season from any of them, however, and they could be joining Broncos defenceman Brycen Martin on the stage in Philadelphia in 2014.

Read 4173 times Last modified on Wednesday, 03 July 2013 09:33