Despite being one of the better Winnipeg Jets’ defensemen at times this season, Ville Heinola is headed to the minor leagues. The organization made the move today, preserving for now the first year of Heinola’s entry-level contract. The 18-year old defenseman has played in eight NHL games to this point, but will see his contract slide if he does not suit up for more than nine this season.
Selected 20th overall in June’s draft, Heinola immediately impressed the Winnipeg staff with his calm, professional play at both ends of the rink. The teenager had played a full season in Finland’s top league, logging big minutes even at such a young age. He stepped into a similar situation with Winnipeg, averaging close to 20 minutes of ice time through his first six games.
Though those numbers dropped off as the Jets started to get healthier on the back end (to the point where he has even sat as a healthy scratch), his performance in a short NHL stint should have fans excited about what comes next. Heinola recorded five points and showed he could hang at the highest level, even if he does need a little more seasoning to become a legitimate top option. The fact that he was playing at all as an 18-year old was impressive enough.
This assignment to the Manitoba Moose however may not be for the whole season. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t rule out a return to Finland for Heinola, explaining that there are still several options at this point. Wherever he plays, the cool-headed defenseman is someone to keep an eye on throughout his development.