Heinola, at last.
The Winnipeg Jets have announced the recall of defenceman Ville Heinola from the Manitoba Moose in advance of the team’s Western Conference matchup with the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Thursday evening from Canada Life Centre.
With the 7-3-1 Moose heading out on a lengthy five-game road trip beginning on Friday in Texas, Heinola stayed back in town. Thus, he will get a shot at suiting up for the club that drafted him 20th overall in 2019 and then essentially sat back and watched him waste away in the American Hockey League for the majority of time since.
The 21-year-old blueliner has put up seven assists in his 11 games skating with Manitoba this season. He is tied for the team’s scoring lead amongst defenders and leads all players with a +12 rating. In 74 total AHL games, Heinola has nine goals and 45 points. Having spent time with the Jets over the past three seasons, the Finnish blueliner also has a goal and 10 NHL points to his name. Interesting enough, he was the first NHL player born in the 21st century to record a point.
There is no telling, however, if Heinola will actually find his way into game action. With a defence corps boasting the likes of Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Brenden Dillon, Nate Schmidt, Dylan DeMelo and Dylan Samberg as its starting six, the room for relief is really not there. Offseason acquisition Kyle Capobianco has been with the team since training camp, Logan Stanley has been out with a broken foot the past couple weeks, while the club lost current Canadiens’ regular Johnathan Kovacevic on Waivers when it opted to keep Capobianco.
“We need a little depth up here right now,” head coach Rick Bowness said. “That’s why he’s here, and we’ll see where it goes for tonight… You look at the way the league is played today, offensive defencemen, you need the mobility, you need the passing, you need the guy to join the rush. He fits that bill. He was disappointed in the start of his season, but he’s very happy in his play right now.”
Thursday’s optional morning skate included just Morrissey, Pionk and Samberg of the regular defenceman, while Schmidt, Dillon and DeMelo all did not skate. According to Bowness, Heinola’s recall was solely due to some game-time decisions. Should one or two of the typical defenders not be ready to go come 7:00 PM, either Heinola, Capobianco or both could draw in on the back-end for Winnipeg.
The bench boss also provided a vague update on the injured Nikolaj Ehlers, saying “nothing is off the table” when it comes to his recovery. Having earlier indicated the progress was not where the team wanted it to be, Ehlers did appear on the ice Wednesday morning, to which he skated separate from his teammates. He did not skate on Thursday, causing some to wonder if his time on the ice re-aggravated his undisclosed lower-body injury.
Whether it’s rest, surgery or a return, Bowness certainly is not tipping his hand on the status of his first-line winger.