NHL notebook: Jets' Heinola ready to play; Leafs' Andersen focused on task at hand

·4 min read

After helping Finland capture bronze at the world junior hockey championship this week in Edmonton, Ville Heinola was ready for a bit of a break.

An entire week off from hockey wasn't quite what he had in mind.

The 19-year-old defenceman must complete a week of quarantine before he can join the Winnipeg Jets in training camp.

“Seven days is too much for me," Heinola said on a video call Friday. "It’s good to get some rest but I just want to get back on the ice and focus on what’s going to happen next.”

Heinola is anxious to return to the Jets after seeing action in eight NHL games last season, where he registered a goal and four assists.

The experience will make joining training camp easier this year, because he knows the coaches and his teammates, and can live with fellow Finn Patrik Laine.

Whether there's room for Heinola on the roster this season remains to be seen.

“He’s going to get through the quarantine. … We’ll be up and running by that time, pretty close to it. So he’ll be an option for us to play," Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Decisions on where young players will slot in will have to wait until there's more certainty about what's happening with the American Hockey League this season, Maurice said, because he doesn't want developing talent lingering on the taxi squad.

“I don’t really want young players sitting and watching hockey unless that’s the only option that we have," he said.

After a long off-season, Heinola feels he's ready to play in the NHL this year. He feels stronger and believes he can skate better today than a year ago.

“I had a long summer over in Finland because of COVID," Heinola said. "I had a lot of time to work on my body and I feel good now.”


FOCUSED FREDDY

Goalie Frederik Andersen said his camp has had some discussions with the Toronto Maple Leafs about a new contract.

“There’s been a little bit but not too much," the netminder said Friday. "Right now we’re just focused on getting (the season) started.”

Andersen, 31, is heading into the last year of the five-year, US$25-million deal he signed with Toronto in 2016.

Last season, he boasted a 29-13-7 record with a 2.85 GAA and a .909 save percentage in regular-season play.

The Danish goaltender said he's trying not to think about contract talks and doesn't expect the unfinished business to impact his performance this season.

“I think just by focusing on the daily process, that’s going to help me out playing well, and that’s going to help the team eventually," he said.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe isn't concerned about the matter.

“Whether you’re in a contract year or not, that’s the message to our team, block out the noise and focus on what we can control every single day. That’s really all that matters," he said.


GETTING TRICKY

Vancouver Canucks prospect Nils Hoglander stayed on the ice after practice Friday, showing his new teammates some of his tricks.

The 20-year-old Swedish winger caught international attention at the world juniors when he scored a so-called "lacrosse goal" against Finland, lifting the puck on to his stick, deftly gliding around the back of the net and popping it behind the goalie.

It's a move Hoglander has also used in the Swedish Hockey League, and one that some of his Canucks teammates seem eager to learn.

"I think most players can do that," Hoglander said. "It's not as hard as it looks like."

The young forward has been impressive at Vancouver's camp this week, skating on a line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson.

Asked whether Hoglander is ready to play in the NHL, Horvat was quick to say yes.

"I think he's got tremendous skill and speed," Horvat said. "I feel he's ready to go."

But will Hoglander try the lacrosse move in an NHL game?

"We'll see," he said with a smile.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press