The Winnipeg Jets have assigned Ville Heinola to Lukko Rauma of Finland’s Liiga, ending his North American development for the time being. The 18-year old defenseman will still be under contract with the Jets and can technically be recalled, but will likely play the rest of the season in his home country. The first year of his entry-level contract will not be burned after playing in just eight NHL games.
Selected 20th overall in June’s draft, Heinola made an immediate impression on the Jets coaching staff and cracked the roster out of training camp. Playing in any professional league at 18 is a challenge, but with his previous experience from Liiga, the young defenseman was incredibly impressive at the NHL level. Thrust into a leading role as the team dealt with injuries (and absences), Heinola recorded five points in eight games before the Jets decided it was better off for his development to play in the minor leagues. He’ll now continue that path in Finland where he can carry even more responsibility.
Perhaps most notably, this means Heinola is a virtual lock for the Finnish World Junior team this winter. In what might be his last chance to play in the tournament, he should be relied on heavily by the coaching staff to play against the other top junior players in the world.