Two days after being sent down from the Winnipeg Jets, 18-year-old defenseman Ville Heinola got to make his AHL debut with the Manitoba Moose on Saturday. The Moose, who had won just one of their eight games on the season, took a 5-3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on home ice.
Heinola played majority of the game on the second pairing with Johnathan Kovacevic, however, he was paired with fellow Finn Sami Niku for the final 10 minutes or so. Heinola was on the ice during the last two minutes of the third period, so the Moose coaching staff trusted him right way.
Heinola played like his usual self and his hockey IQ was on display. He was confident in possession and moved pucks up the ice effectively. Importantly, he knew when to make the simple play and not overhandle the puck. The Jets’ first rounder recorded one shot on goal which came from the slot, but the one-timer went wide. Defensively, he maintained good gap control and defended well in the neutral zone.
If Heinola remains in the AHL for a longer period of time, he is going to bolster the Moose defense significantly. His ability to rapidly transition from defense to offense will help the team to play with more pace and generate more offensive opportunities on the rush.