BUFFALO — Gauging a prospect’s potential is the arguably hardest thing to do in any sport. Sometimes you get it wrong, as I did when it came to Montreal Canadiens prospect Emil Heineman.
In my admittedly limited research and analysis of his game, I saw very few qualities that would translate to the NHL. Yes, he has a hard shot, but if having a hard shot was good enough to make the NHL, everyone would venerate Al Iafrate as the best defenceman of all time rather than just the best defenceman of all time that rocked a fantastic mullet.
But there’s a lot more to Heineman’s game than just a hard shot.
He’s got the rare ability to pick the perfect spot regardless of the defensive coverage in front of him, meaning not only does he have fantastic accuracy, but he can also get pucks through traffic, an invaluable talent in the NHL. If there’s no defenceman between the puck and the goalie, you can almost guarantee he will put the puck in an area that’s conducive to scoring goals in the NHL.
Emil Heineman opens the scoring in Buffalo!
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) September 15, 2022
Through two games at the Prospect Challenge in Buffalo, Heineman has done a fantastic job generating high-danger chances, and what’s more, he’s done it on incredibly soft ice, the type of ice that creates bounces and nightmares for goal scorers. In addition to his fantastic shot, Heineman seems to be able to quickly adapt to his surroundings, finding instant chemistry with his linemates, which bodes well for his NHL ambitions.
In all likelihood, those NHL ambitions will continue to be fed in Sweden, given Heineman signed a three-year extension with Leskand of the SHL, as was first reported by Patrik Bexell. The deal was signed prior to his trade to the Montreal Canadiens, which saw Tyler Toffoli head to Calgary for Heineman and a first-round pick.
In essence, if the Montreal Canadiens wish to assign Emil Heineman to the AHL, they must first consult with Leskand. If they agree, he can then make his way to the Rocket, but, realistically, it’s unlikely they acquiesce given there’s little to no advantage in letting him play in North America.
However, there is a possibility, or rather, a sliver of hope he will end up playing in the AHL with the Laval Rocket without having to ask Leskand’s permission.
Firstly, Heineman must make the Canadiens’ roster out of camp. But more importantly, he must remain on the roster for 60 days.. Then, and only then can they assign him to Laval without getting approval.
The rule is as follows, as per the IIHF agreement with the NHL.
“Any player who would otherwise be subject to return to his IIHF team, but who is retained by his NHL team because he is able to earn a roster position on his NHL team by the first day of the NHL regular season (or because he is injured as of the first day of the NHL regular season, may not be assigned to a minor league team before such player has attained a minimum of 60 days on his NHL team’s active roster during the regular season without first being offered to his previous IIHF team for the balance of the IIHF season.”
For contracts signed before December 2022, the rule applies to players aged 21 or younger, but for contracts signed after December 2021, as was the case with Heineman, the the transfer rule applies until the player in question turns 25.
Of course, it’s unlikely Heineman features on the Montreal Canadiens’ roster until mid December, but it does present a possibility for the hard-working Swede and a potential loophole for the Habs. Regardless, this restriction is only in effect during the first year of Heineman’s entry-level contract, meaning he would be assured of playing in North America next season, one way or another.
In most cases, the technicalities and rules wouldn’t be particularly relevant, especially since Heineman isn’t considered a blue-chip prospect, but if he continues to impress through the rest of the prospect tournament as well as the main training camp, he could very well end up starting the season with the Canadiens and finishing it with their AHL affiliate in Laval.