Kent Hughes isn’t waiting until the trade deadline to begin reshaping the Montreal Canadiens roster.
The team’s new general manager traded forward Tyler Toffoli to Calgary Flames and got Tyler Pitlick, Emil Heineman, a top-10-protected first-round pick in 2022 plus a 2023 fifth-round pick as the return.
Pitlick, 30, is joining his sixth NHL team in as many seasons and is a pending unrestricted free agent. It’s unclear what the two draft picks involved might one day turn into, so the most intriguing aspect of the trade, from Montreal’s perspective at least, is what Heineman could potentially bring to the lineup in the next handful of years.
Montreal is looking up at the other 31 teams from the basement of the NHL standings right now. Trades like Monday’s are a clear indication the team's brass are thinking long term.
Here’s some more on the newest Canadiens prospect.
Current Team: Leksands IF (SHL)
Position: Left winger
Hometown: Leksand, Sweden
Age: 20 (born Nov. 16, 2001)
Weight: 185 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 43rd overall, by Florida Panthers in 2020
He’s a Leksands lifer
Heineman, who scored one goal in five appearances with Team Sweden at the 2021 world juniors, followed in his older brothers’ footsteps by coming up through the Leksands program in Sweden from the time he was a young teenager.
Heineman shone in the junior ranks and has 18 goals, 13 assists and 38 penalty minutes in 90 career SHL games with most of his success coming during the 2021-22 campaign, his second full season with the big club. He currently ranks fourth in SHL scoring among players under the age of 21 despite playing in a bottom-six role.
He is tied for second place on his team with 11 goals, two of which occurred over the weekend.
Has already been traded twice before his NHL debut
Monday’s move happened just 10 months after he and a second-round pick were traded by the Panthers to the Calgary Flames for Sam Bennett and a 2022 sixth-rounder.
That he has been used in trades involving established forwards like Bennett and Toffoli speaks to the potential front offices have seen in Heineman for years.
“He’s so versatile, so he can play pretty much anywhere on the team,” former Flames head of European scouting and JOFA-wearing legend Hakan Loob told Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun in January. “He could be on the fourth line, but he can also move up to the first line on any night. I think he’s coming along pretty well. Of course, the next step is he has to get the chance or take the chance to play further up in the lineup, but he has the tools and he’s not afraid of anything. He goes into all the battles and I think he comes out of the battles more than 50-60 per cent of the time. So I think he has a fairly bright future.”
Has energy and a self-admitted Napoleon complex
Heineman, yet to sign an entry-level NHL contract, has appreciated the physical side of hockey from a young age.
“I’ve always liked playing hard. It’s always been like that,” Heineman told Gilbertson. “I liked when we started hitting when we were small kids and playing tough and stuff like that. I was always the smallest kid up to high school, and I guess it comes from that — I always had to bring my ‘A’ game to every practice and every game when I was so much smaller than everyone else, and it stuck with me. That’s one of my biggest strengths, absolutely.”
Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy likened Heineman’s work ethic and attention to detail to that of current Oilers forward Zach Hyman last year when Calgary acquired his rights.
Flames development coach Ray Edwards lauded Heineman’s motor and uptempo style earlier this year.
“Not afraid of physicality. He’ll attack the net. He’s really good on the forecheck. He’ll hunt down pucks,” Edwards added in that Calgary Sun article. “To me, that’s the most impressive thing about him. This is a young player that isn’t afraid to compete against men. He’s not afraid to go into tough areas. He’s not afraid to attack. He’s a very direct player, and he wins battles. It’s that competitiveness, that energy, the willingness to win races, to be first on pucks, to drive D wide.
“He does all that stuff, and he does it as a young player against way older players.”