The Calgary Flames have a thing for 6’1 Swedish players, and have found themselves yet another one to go along with Elias Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom, and Rasmus Andersson. As part of the trade that sent Sam Bennett, the highest draft pick in the organization’s history, to the Florida Panthers, the Flames recouped a second round pick and Emil Heineman, a 2020 second round pick.
According to AGM Craig Conroy, Heineman was on the Flames’ draft list last season, but was taken by the Panthers just seven picks before the Flames could select him. They ended up selecting defenceman Yan Kuznetsov instead, who has since signed his ELC and played for Team Russia at the World Juniors. According to Conroy, they feel he plays a similar game to Zach Hyman of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with his work ethic and attention to detail. Hyman currently has 30 points in 39 games so far this season.
Here is everything that you need to know about the newest Flames prospect.
Who is Emil Heineman?
Born and raised in Leksands, Sweden, Heineman has played for the local club for his whole career. He has done reasonably well at every level he played, but exploded in his draft year while playing for the J-20 club, putting up 41 points in 29 games. This put him 10th in points per game among all skaters who played a minimum of 10 games. He was also called up to the SHL in his draft year, and put up two assists in 11 games.
This season playing almost exclusively in the SHL, Heineman put up 13 points in 43 games. While not the most impressive numbers, remember he is playing in the top men’s league in the country at just 19 years old. Amongst all U-20 skaters, Heineman finished eighth. Not bad for a second rounder.
On his team, Heineman was the second youngest player, but finished a distant 13th in points on his team. However, he was eligible to play in the J-20 this season, but was deemed good enough to play in the SHL, showing the value that he has as a player.
What do the scouts say?
Looking back at his draft year, the way that scouts have talked about him makes him feel like someone the Flames would love to have in their system. Offensively, Heineman has an elite shot in his arsenal, both on the forehand and on the backhand. His wrist shot is quite, hard, and accurate, akin to a Sean Monahan in his younger years. It’s the speed and pace with which he can get the shot off that helped him put up 26 goals in his final year in the J-20.
He also has a strong hockey IQ, able to read the play at a much higher level than most in his draft class. Alex Taxman of FutureScope Hockey said, “it looks like he’s 2-3 years older and more developed than every other player on the ice. He thinks the game at an extremely high level, often 5-6 seconds ahead of the play.” Being able to read the game at the level that he can bodes well for his success at higher levels. He appears to often be in the right place at the right time, knowing where the puck is going to be before it arrives.
He has been described as a very hard working player, the type of guy who does not take shifts off even when playing against lesser opposition. He is a big guy, and is not afraid to use his body to his advantage in the defensive zone. However, because he is able to think the game at such a high level, he often is able to create plays without slogging it out behind the net.
While he does have a number of impressive skills, there are a few areas scouts worry about with him. First and foremost is his skating. While he is reasonably quick and agile, he needs to work on his turning, which scouts have noted is often very wide. They have also mentioned that it looks clunky when he is on the ice, but this feels like something that can be learned.
However, the bigger concern is that he only had one dominant season of hockey prior to being drafted. Similar to Flames’ sixth round pick Rory Kerins, Heineman has not been elite through his entire career, but instead developed rapidly in his draft year. While he did look dominant in his 18 year old season, there is always a question of whether he rode good luck, high shooting percentages, or strong line mates to these new highs. However, he has shown in his first year since being drafted that he is an excellent forward, and someone worth betting on.
He played for the Swedish World Junior team this past year, and was quite good in a bottom six role. He only had the one goal this year for a Sweden team that was bounced in the quarter finals, but it came shorthanded against the Czech Republic:
His footspeed is on full display here. He was able to beat the Czech defender, and once he was gone, he was absolutely alone. His head was up all the way to the net, and his hard wrist shot beat the goalie clean. Heineman has strong offensive instincts, and has some of the tools already to develop into an NHL player down the road.
What happens next?
Heineman in under contract in Sweden until the end of next season. He will likely continue to play next year in the SHL, and will hopefully be able to put up more points than he did this season. He is still young, so this season’s performance should be viewed as nothing but a success. From there, assuming he continues to develop, expect he will sign an ELC, and make the move across the pond to North America. It will likely take him at least a season or two to get used to the North American game, depending on his ability to adapt. Assuming he continues to grow and develop, he could be in Calgary in a few years time.
Scouts have called him a high floor player, someone who has the talent and skills to make it to the NHL, but there are a lot of questions around his ceiling. He may top out as a replacement level NHLer, someone similar to a Joakim Nordstrom or Josh Leivo, or he could rise up to be a middle six kind of forward depending on how well he can continue to grow. Time will tell where he ends up, but being able to move Sam Bennett for him and a second round pick is tidy business from GM Brad Treliving.