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NHL Prospect Report: Heinen Impresses in Denver Loss at BC

Danton Heinen beat Thatcher Demko twice on Friday night.
Danton Heinen beat Thatcher Demko twice on Friday night.
Matt Dewkett

Chestnut Hill, Mass. -- There likely weren't too many people that left Conte Forum on Friday night who felt they didn't get their money's worth.

"That was a great college hockey game. Fans got a treat. That was two high end teams going hard at each other. It's what makes college hockey great," said Denver coach Jim Montgomery.

"It was a really exciting night for the Eagles. It was a real good college hockey game. There were a lot of good plays on both ends. There were a lot of talented players from each team. There were some excellent hockey players," concurred BC coach Jerry York.

Matthew Gaudreau scored his first goal of the season with 36.6 seconds left in regulation to give No. 4 Boston College a thrilling 4-3 victory over No. 5 Denver in a battle of top five teams.

"We got a bounce at the end of the game. We feel very excited that Matty Gaudreau was able to knock it over the line at the end there," York said.

"We've had a lot of big goals over the years from Gaudreaus," York added with a smile.

There was no shortage of NHL prospects on display, including Pioneers super sophomore Danton Heinen, who had two goals and an assist. His long, seemingly effortless stride gives him great food speed. The 2014 fourth round selection of the Boston Bruins was around the puck all night and a constant threat to do something dynamic each shift.

On his first goal he picked up the puck at the left circle, patiently holding onto it until he had BC goaltender Thatcher Demko down and out. He roofed a backhander into the top shelf. His second strike of the night came on the power play. After receiving a pass at the right circle, he wasted no time in getting off a quick shot that went right above Demko's glove in no time. He had the primary assist on Will Butcher's power play goal in the third period.

"This is by far the best game he's played this year. He's a special player. He just makes everyone on the ice better. He puts pucks to areas that people can skate into. You saw the skill on the two goals," said Montgomery.

Miles Wood, a 2013 fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils, had a goal and an assist, but it was his overall play that stood out. He's big, he gets on pucks and opposing players quickly and he's a physical force out there. On his goal, he received a nice lead pass from center Austin Cangelosi. Wood went in, made a move and slid a backhand through the wickets of DU goaltender Evan Cowley. Later he assisted on a Cangelosi goal on a two-on-one. He waited until the right time before putting a perfect pass right on the stick.

"He's just a really good player. He resembles his dad an awful lot. He's physically strong, drives to the net strong and his compete level is A+. He's a remarkable competitor," praised York.

The line's right wing, Chris Calnan, is one of those players who always seems to get lost in the shuffle. Even when he put up double digit goals a year ago, he was always overlooked. He does a lot of the little things well, has good size and is destined to be one of those college alums who has a long career in the NHL because he can play a complete game and make minimal mistakes.

"It's hard to describe. He might not be the best shooter, passer, but he makes that unit much better. That mixture produces positive results. That line is really creating some terrific opportunities," explained York.

He only had an assist, but Washington Capitals prospect Zach Sanford continues to impress. He has great size, is a prototypical power forward and seems to get faster each viewing. It was a relatively quiet night for another of BC's power forwards, Alex Tuch, a Wild prospect.

Outside of Heinen's remarkable ability to create offense, the BC defense did a pretty good of containing the rest of the Pioneers' attack. Leading the way was Steve Santini (New Jersey Devils), whose skating ability allows him to take over games. He was +2. Florida Panthers prospect Ian McCoshen was a little quieter, but he just goes about his business out on the ice. His gap control is very good. Freshman Casey Fitzgerald, who will be in his second year of draft eligibility this June, was very solid. He's going to be a very good four-year college defenseman.

Casey's brother Ryan played on his off wing Friday night, something York complimented after the game for his unselfish nature. Ryan Fitzgerald, a Bruins prospect, had an assist, three shots on goal and was +1.

Both goaltenders, Cowley (Florida Panthers) and Demko (Vancouver Canucks), were solid, despite their sub-.900 save percentages on the evening. Cowley did a good job of being in position. A lot of pucks hit him right in the torso due to his squaring up to shooters, being quiet in the crease and challenging without over-committing. Demko wasn't tested all that much outside of Heinen's line, but couldn't be faulted for any of the three goals he let up.

"Both goaltenders were solid in goal," York said.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.