Grading Emil Heineman's SHL season
Breaking down Heineman's shortened campaign in Sweden.
Emil Heineman's season got off to a slow start, partly due to the fact that he went over to Montreal Canadiens camp and missed the start with Leksand. On top of that, he got injured and had a lengthy stay on the sidelines.
You should never second-guess anything, but the fact that Leksand's power play didn't work at the start of the season (and rarely after), and that Heineman wasn't an option due to his stay in Montreal, didn't help him get the points many, including myself, expected. When he did return from Montreal, he wasn't given a chance on the power play, nor in a spot higher up in the lineup. Therefore, a lot of the blame on Heineman's mildly disappointing season should be left on Leksand's coach Björn Hellqvist's shoulders. It is a bit baffling to not use one of Heineman's main strengths – his shot – on the power play.
I say 'mildly' as Hellqvist mainly used Heineman at five-on-five, and the good thing is that Heineman's underlying numbers, shot-attempt share of 54% and a relative possession mark to his team of +2% point to a strong year, better than what his regular stats show. However he was sheltered by being deployed mostly in the neutral and offensive zones, pointing to the fact that it is in his defensive game where you find Heineman's glaring weakness, something that needs to be addressed before he becomes a full-fledged NHLer.
Heineman's strength is is shot, and it's a wicked one. Usually when scouts, journalists, and fans say 'a missile' they use any hard shot as an example. Heineman's shot is more akin to a sabot round; it goes through coverage and blockers.
On top of the pace Heineman can generate, he also has a good target system. The shot can be placed more or less anywhere, creating absolute havoc for the goalie.
Much in the same way that Heineman can generate pace on his shot, his hand-eye coordination is good and I can see why he was used as he was on the power play, even if I don't agree with the usage.
His strength, size, and balance mean that he can be used in the forechecking role, suiting the North American rinks a bit better than the Olympic-sized rinks in SHL.
I come back to this in any write-up I do about Heineman: he is a player I would like to have from the neutral zone and forward, however in the defensive zone his coverage can be bad at times. It's not for a lack of effort, but maybe because he knows it's a weakness and he tries too hard. I think he is finding it a bit easier on North American ice where there is less space to cover, however he needs to process the game faster in the defensive zone.
Grade (SHL): B-
Under the circumstances, it hasn't been the easiest season for Heineman, and that is reflected in in his final grade. Considering his absence, his usage, and his linemates, Heineman gets a passing grade. He has more or less the same points-per-game percentage as last year – 0.43 this season, and 0.42 last season – being used in much the same role, with Leksand finishing in more or less the same spot, seventh versus eighth.
In SHL production, his development stagnated, even if his underlying numbers point to a certain development, and something that raises his season from a C.
I would like to point out that if Heineman's stellar AHL debut were to be included in the grade it would have been higher.
One has to wonder, what if he had stayed in the AHL the full season, or in the SHL the full season? How would that have impacted his play, or his usage in Leksand? The great offensive start Heineman has had in the AHL is more than promising and if he can be surrounded with a good defensive centre with passing skills, the goals will keep coming.
I have always said that Heineman is a Victor Olofsson (Bufflao Sabres) kind of player. Olofsson has managed to carve out a good NHL career after having had to learn to defend better in the AHL. There is the possibility of Heineman doing the same.
Elite Prospects' Jimmy Hamrin joins the podcast to evaluate Heineman's SHL season. Does the Olofsson comparison hold up to scrutiny? And what about Heineman's defensive ability? We also take some time to talk about Adam Engström.