Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome Blake Heinrich!

The Winterhawks have signed Blake Heinrich. This is good news.

He was a 12th round bantam pick for Portland, and has blossomed into a 5th round NHL draft pick for the Washington Capitals.  He's an 18 this year, wearing the "C" for the Sioux City Musketeers, who play in the USHL. I grew up in USHL country, and have a team in my hometown.  This is a "junior A" league: these are mostly American kids, who are intent on NCAA scholarships. 

Its a complicated dance between these junior clubs and the college teams, trying to fill open NCAA spots with players ready to move up.  Sometimes the timing gets jumbled, and guys go the major junior route - that's what happened to Mac Carruth, for example.

The 'Hawks are loosing their top 3 defenseman after this year (much like last year) - Derrick Pouliot, Mathew Dumba, and Garrett Haar will all be playing pro next season.  Heinrich will fill in one of these spots, and by all accounts he will be a valuable addition.

Mike Johnston has had success finding players from non-traditional sources, and this qualifies as such.  If one looks at this like an offseason trade for a 19 D man, who's been drafted by an NHL team - those players usually command a high price. 

The only comparable I was able to find from this year (I don't have all damn day to look) is a player we just saw: Travis Brown, who the Victoria Royals just brought in from Moose Jaw.  He's a 19, and a 5th round Blackhawks pick.  The Royals gave up two 3rd round picks, and a 15 year old prospect who was also a 3rd round pick.  Basically three 3rds, with one of them being retroactive.

If that's the going rate for that kind of player, having one fall in your lap is pretty nice.  I believe the Caps don't have to sign him for 2 years, meaning that it is likely he's back as an overage - which sweetens the pot for Portland.  If you consider the difference from a 5th round NHL pick and the 7th overall pick of the 1st round - three 2nd's for Dumba looks pretty good in comparison, doesn't it?
19-year-old Travis Brown
19-year-old Travis Brown

Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks:

With the 144th pick in the draft the Capitals selected defenseman Blake Heinrich from Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.

He’s small — 5-foot-10, 194 pounds — but Heinrich brings an imposing physical presence to the game. He doesn’t shy away from anything: he hits hard, trash talks, participates in the scrums, and cleans the crease when he needs to. He’s a guy who is a pain to play against. That resulted in 110 PIM last year in the USHL, third among the players under 18. It also earned him a spot as the 81st best North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting.

He’s not a liability in other areas of the game either. According to Future Considerations, who ranked him 76th, his footwork could use some work, but it’s far from horrible. A smart defender, he takes few chances breaking out of the zone. Heinrich does a good job making simple, effective defensive plays. He was also seventh in points among U18 defenseman in USHL, which shows he can play some offense as well.

Minnesota Hockey Prospects:

Blake Heinrich plays each and every shift with a physical nastiness. The University of Minnesota Duluth commit is a strong and durable defenseman that bull rushes opponents, forcing turnovers in the process. Heinrich made a seamless transition to the USHL, having a successful rookie season with Sioux City. Heinrich supplied a gritty defensive game while chipping in 3 goals, 17 assists, and 110 penalty minutes in 42 games played.

Heinrich is not big for a defenseman, (5’11-190) but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in strength. The former Hill-Murray star has good mobility and does an exceptional job at reading the play in front of him. Heinrich never gives the impression that he is guessing on a play as he has a natural instinct to be in the right place at the right time. An area of Heinrich’s game that needs improvement is his puck control skills. Advancement in this capacity would round out Heinrich’s offensive game and make him a complete player.

Overall Heinrich is a blue-collar worker on the ice that is a joy to watch thanks to his ability to play the body. Heinrich could be more offensive, but he’s a good coverage defender that gives very little space to opposing forwards. His playing style is similar to Dennis Seidenberg of the Boston Bruins.

Chris Dilks pre-draft report:

 As far as NHL Draft narratives go, Blake Heinrich's is pretty boring. There were no big swings in his ranking by NHL Central Scouting. He started the year as a 'B' ranked player, was ranked 72nd at the mid-term, and ended the year at 81st in the final ranking. He plays a quiet, steady, defensive style that doesn't draw a lot of attention. He isn't unnaturally big. But don't confuse a lack of pre-draft hype for a lack of talent.
 His coming out party, so to speak, was the 2012 Minnesota State High School Tournament, where Heinrich, who came into the season as the only defenseman on his Hill-Murray team with any varsity hockey experience, helped carry his team to the state championship final with a masterful defensive performance. Over the summer, he made a commitment to play his college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and decided to forgo his senior year at Hill-Murray to play his draft year with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.

Rinkside Update: Blake Heinrich 8/2/13

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The USHL has a Top Prospects Game, and Heinrich played in it one year ago:

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