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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA Today Sports

Examining what Emil Heineman might bring to the Flames

The Calgary Flames acquired prospect Emil Heineman in a trade with the Florida Panthers on Monday afternoon.

Florida also sent Calgary a second round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Panthers received Sam Bennett and the Flames’ sixth round pick in 2022.

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Calgary now possesses two second rounders and eight total picks in the 2022 draft. Including playoff games, Bennett suited up for 432 contests as a Flame and scored 159 points (78 goals, 81 assists).

Almost seven years after the Flames selected him fourth overall in the 2014 draft, Bennett’s time in Calgary has come to an end. The Flames will have the opportunity to use the second-round draft pick they received from Florida as capital in a trade or to select another player with upside.

In Heineman, the Flames added a very intriguing young forward who went 43rd overall to Florida in the 2020 draft. He stands 6’1″, weighs 185 pounds, shoots left, and can play both wings.

In 2018-19, Heineman debuted with Leskands IF of Sweden’s J20 SuperElit league. He scored just a single goal and added four assists in 27 games as a 17-year-old. Understandably, Heineman gained little traction as a potential NHL draftee after his underwhelming first SuperElit season.

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Heineman exploded in 2019-20, his final season before he became eligible to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft for the first time. He scored 26 goals and 41 points in 29 SuperElit games and earned himself a promotion to the top-tier Swedish Hockey League.

Leskands IF exists both as a SuperElit junior team and as a professional SHL team. Heineman went from the Leskands SuperElit club to its SHL counterpart in 2019-20 and played his first 11 games in the top-tier league, recording two assists.

Only three SuperElit players recorded more goals in the 2019-20 season than Heineman’s 26. Among players with at least 10 games played, Heineman’s 1.41 points-per-game rate placed ninth and his 0.90 goals-per-game pace ranked behind only Linus Öberg (who played just 11 games and is 16 months older).

Since the 1999-2000 season, only one SuperElit player has bettered Heineman’s 0.90 goals-per-game rate in his first year of draft eligibility: Anze Kopitar, who scored 28 goals in 30 games for Södertälje SK in 2004-05.

Prior to the 2020 draft, Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst assessed Heineman as an excellent skater with an “elite shot” and some tenacity to his game:

Heineman is an explosive skater with a lightning-quick first step. He packs a lot of power into his long stride and humbled several of Sweden’s best skating junior-aged defensemen. Whether it’s a chip-and-chase or an odd-man rush, Heineman knows how to manipulate his speed based on the positioning and body language of the opponents attempting to check him. He can maintain control of the puck on his backhand while barreling towards the net before releasing one just before the goalie is in poke-check range. […]

Heineman has ideal size, length, and build, and all three combine to make an immediate impression on his opponents when he is involved in board battles. One noteworthy aspect of Heineman’s physical play is that he will wear down defenders in the short game then leave them in the dust with an explosive thrust up ice. He can execute set plays off of possession changes or faceoffs, and Heineman utilizes his soft hands to handle crisp passes from short distances.

Last June, TSN’s Bob McKenzie listed Heineman as the 69th-best player available in the 2020 draft. The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau ranked Heineman 26th on its list of the top eligible European skaters.

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Scott Wheeler, of The Athletic, ranked Heineman 65th; TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button had him 53rd; McKeen’s placed him 65th; Future Considerations listed Heineman much lower than the rest, slotting him 95th on its final ranking.

The Panthers ultimately took Heineman much higher than most projections. After he was selected, Heineman told Jameson Olive of FloridaPanthers.com his increased production was the result of feeling “more comfortable” as a sophomore:

“The year before this massive season, I played on the third line,” Heineman said. “I was a year younger than everybody else. I didn’t play on the power play, only the PK. It was a tough year. I was there competing every day. I combined that style of hockey with the role that I had last year with playing [on the] power play and a lot of confidence from the coach. I combined the year before with the role that I got to create that success. We had a good team also. That helps, too.”

Aside from one SuperElit game, Heineman spent the entire 2020-21 regular season in the SHL and was one of just 22 U20 skaters to play at least 30 games in the top-tier league.

He scored seven goals and 13 points in 43 games, ranking eighth among those 22 U20 players. His production put him in pretty good company: Moritz Seider, William Eklund, Albert Johansson, Alexander Holtz, Lucas Raymond, Noel Gunler, and Albin Sundsvik were the only players in Heineman’s age category to finish the season ahead of him in points.

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Three of those players (Seider, Holtz, and Raymond) went in the top 10 of their respective drafts. Eklund will join that group in 2021. Gunler and Johansson, like Heineman, are former second-rounders.

Despite his young age, Heineman had a reasonably successful season driving play at even strength. Of Leksands players with at least 10 games played, Heineman posted the sixth-best relative on-ice goals-for percentage (+7.46%). He placed one spot ahead of former Flame Marek Hrivik in that regard, according to Pick224.

With Heineman on the ice at even strength, Leksands scored 16 goals and surrendered just 10. He averaged 12:32 of total ice time per game in 2020-21 but concluded the season with nine consecutive games of at least 14:17. He contributed four goals and seven points in those games.

Heineman fired 56 shots in 43 games over the entire 2020-21 campaign. He finished the year with 20 shots in his last nine contests.

Leksands IF is currently playing against Örebro HK in a best-of-seven SHL playoff quarter-final series. The Panthers traded Heineman to Calgary during the second game of the series, in which Leksands currently trails 2-0. Heineman has yet to record a point in the playoffs but has averaged 14:47 through the first two games of the series.

Heineman’s Swedish contract runs until the end of the 2021-22 season, according to EliteProspects.com, but he could sign an NHL entry level deal with Calgary if the Flames negotiate an out with Leksands as part of the NHL/Sweden transfer agreement. He would likely begin his North American hockey career playing in the AHL with the Stockton Heat.

What did you think of the Flames trading Sam Bennett to Florida? What are your expectations for newly-acquired prospect Emil Heineman? Sound off in the comments below.