Ville Heinola was more confident, relaxed and certainly appeared to have added a few pounds over the summer as he prepared to speak with the media on Friday afternoon following day two of the Winnipeg Jets pro mini camp at Bell MTS Iceplex.
But going into his third year with the organization after being selected 20th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the 20-year-old Finnish defenceman made it abundantly clear he was not the least bit interested in discussing how he has been personally impacted by the team’s acquisition of veteran blue liners Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt over the summer.
“I don’t really want to think about that, or talk about that. It’s just the way it is now,” was Heinola’s response to being asked a second time about his chances of making the Jets this coming season after playing 13 NHL games during his first two years with the team. “If I start to think about that, it’s going to affect my game, I think.”
Heinola says he’s looking forward to seeing the impact Dillon and Schmidt will have on the Jets fortunes, but understandably his focus is on himself and getting prepared for a full year in Winnipeg — preferably with the Jets, but if it’s with the Moose then he’s OK with that.
“Obviously, if they want me to play there, it’s going to be good for me,” said the highly regarded prospect who is listed on the camp roster at six feet and 181 pounds. “I don’t think they want to put me in the wrong position. But my main thing is I want to play with the big boys.”
And while Heinola is looking to regain a few rungs on the Jets defensive ladder, forward Evgeny Svechnikov has arrived in Winnipeg looking for a fresh start after being released by Detroit over the summer.
The 24-year-old Russian was the Red Wings’ first round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but his career has been plagued by injuries, most notably a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2018-19 season. And he made reference to that when asked about what led to things coming to an end after five years in the Motor City.
“There was a couple of reasons, but I’m not going to speak about them. There was some things that wasn’t going the right way,” said the six-foot-three, 208-pound forward who can play either wing. “Obviously, the injuries I had set me back a little bit too. I had hard times, I had good times. I’m taking away some good stuff with me going forward.”
The older brother of Carolina’s budding superstar Andrei Svechnikov feels he can fill a power forward type of role with the Jets if that situation develops. And Evgeny Svechnikov says that’s exactly why he chose Winnipeg — because he sees an opportunity with this organization.
“There’s obviously some spots that can be open and the Jets are not super deep,” said the former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle of the Quebec League, who has been reunited with junior teammate Pierre-Luc Dubois in Winnipeg. “With my skill and with my game I think I can bring some offensive side and hang onto the puck a little bit.”
Svechnikov is signed to an AHL contract with the Moose, but is attending this camp on a pro tryout (PTO) so it’s very likely he’ll see some action during the pre-season, which begins a week from Sunday at Canada Life Centre at 7 p.m. versus Ottawa.
Saturday will be a day for off-ice training, followed by 9 a.m. on-ice sessions scheduled for Sunday and Monday at Bell MTS Iceplex. Then it’s on to the start of main camp, beginning later in the week.
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