Three days before the 2019 NHL Draft took place, the Winnipeg Jets were without their first round pick, having traded it to the Rangers at the deadline. They got that pick – 20th overall – back along with Neal Pionk in the trade that sent Jacob Trouba to New York. At the time it was made it was (and months later still is) panned as a bad and rather desperate trade made by the Jets that didn’t get full value back for a player as good as Trouba.
But the moment the Jets used that returned pick to draft Finnish defenseman Ville Heinola, things started to look up a bit. Sure it was still a bad trade, but the Jets had possibly landed a prime defensive prospect that may be ready for the NHL sooner than we all think.
- Born: Mar 2, 2001 (Age 18)
- Birthplace: Hokajoki, FIN
- Position: Defense
- Handedness: Left
- Frame: 5’11″ / 181 lbs
- Drafted: 2019 – 1st Round – 20 Overall
- Played Last Year: Lukko (Liiga)
Player statistics powered by www.eliteprospects.com
On the ice, Heinola is lauded for his patience, passing skills and hockey sense. Jussi Ahokas, head coach of Heinola’s gold medal-winning world junior team, calls him calm and almost unflappable as a puck-moving defenceman. “He doesn’t get in trouble,” Ahokas said. “He’ll make the right choices. He can handle pressure and that’s what I like.”
A skid steer, an opera singer and Ville Heinola: The origin story of Winnipeg’s first-round draft pick – The Athletic (Jun 28, 2019)
Though a bit surprising, the pick is not a massive reach. Heinola rapidly ascended the draft rankings with a strong season; he was the fourth-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting and was ranked 28th by The Athletic, 21st by Future Considerations, 22nd by Elite Prospects, and 23rd by TSN’s scouting guru Bob McKenzie.
Heinola is Jets’ Latest Finnish Find – The Hockey Writers (Jun 23, 2019)
What We A Couple Of Months Ago:
“The 5’11” Finnish born defenseman has been described smart, calm under pressure defenseman who can move the puck well out of his own end and be an offensive threat on the other side of the ice. Heinola has turned more than a few heads this past season as he rose through the prospect rankings. The left handed defenseman started in the under-20 Lilga, but was quickly promoted to the main Finnish Elite League where he continued to play really well.”
What We Say Now:
It didn’t take long for Jets fans and observers to realize that the club may have found a gem with Heinola. He impressed everyone at the post-draft rookie camp and when added with the entry level contract that was signed a few weeks later, it wasn’t hard to figure out that not only are the Jets very high on Heinola, but that he may be closer to NHL level play than we all first thought.
Unless he has a truly outstanding camp and plays beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, Heinola will likely head back to Finland for one more season overseas before making the move to North America the following year which will come in handy since the Jets could have a few open spots on the blueline and the need for versatile puck moving defenseman is something the Jets have now and likely will for a while yet. The Jets are notorious for letting their prospects develop through the system, but if Heinola already looks this good against fully grown men while having his own body likely fill out and gain another inch or two, it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw Ville take his first regular season laps on the ice as a Winnipeg Jet as early as next season.