Björn Hellkvist is the head coach of Leksands IF, where Emil Heineman plays. In order to get to know the young prospect and the main non-draft pick part of the Montreal Canadiens’ return for Tyler Toffoli, we were able to speak to him.
“He has matured this season, that’s the main difference,” Hellkvist said about the 20-year-old forward. “He was still a junior player last year and this is is first real year as a senior. His role is more defined in the team. He plays with Jon Knuts and Martin Karlsson on a more of an energy line / checking line. On top of that he has developed his shot further, he has a quicker release now than before. He has scored 19 times, I think, if you count Champions Hockey League.” [Editor’s Note: The stats say 15 goals, but Hellkvist probably means total points which is 21 points in 45 games at the senior level.]
“He had a good shot last year, but damn it’s even better this year,” Hellkvist said. “I have worked a bit with [Buffalo Sabres forward] Victor Olofsson and there are some similarities with their shots, even if I think that Viktor has more of a technical shot whereas Emil uses power; Emil can shot through a defender. Victor doesn’t do that.”
There have been instances where Heineman has looked confused, chasing the puck and overworks situations in the defensive end, Hellkvist thoughts on that are interesting.
“His role on the team is not to be in the defensive zone, his role is to win the puck up high on the ice, I want them in their own zone as little as possible,” he said. “He has a really good offensive hockey mind, he can set up players as well. He is a young player, he overworks some situations in the defensive zone, that is to be expected. As a whole I prefer that players are better on the offensive side of the puck. A coach can teach defence but it is so much tougher to teach offence. He only needs to have ‘big ears’ and listen to the coach, Emil has that, and he has the potential to play in the NHL. The question is, how long the road to get there will be? I would expect him to have some AHL time before he reaches NHL, if he does.”
“I don’t think he should become a defensive player, I want him to produce,” the coach continued. “If you put an effort in to turn him into an all around player, then you will kill his main strength and that is his shot. Either he will make it on a secondary scoring unit in the NHL, and if he doesn’t make that role he shouldn’t become a defensive player anyways, and then he won’t have made it. It is as simple as that. He should play to his strengths, the coach should use his assets.”
What are we to expect from the newest Canadiens prospect for the rest of the season, especially in the playoffs that comes up soon?
“He should be a grater [aggressive, and tough to play against]. Last season was his first playoffs and he was a bit shy,” Hellkvist said. “This time around I have some high expectations for him. He should help us out in the role I have described in the interview. He should just be more stable than last season.”