Friday, October 26, 2012

Dillon Heatherington: On The Rise

The Swift Current Broncos have another dynamite NHL draft prospect on their hands.

Last year it was guys like Graham Black (New Jersey) and Coda Gordon (Calgary) earning the call at the 2012 NHL Draft, in 2011 Swift Current had a trio of players picked in Adam Lowry (Winnipeg), Reece Scarlett (New Jersey) and Richard Nedomlel (Detroit).  All five of those players have developed nicely since their draft year and are all well on their way to becoming good pro hockey players and maybe even NHL regulars.

But, I think defenceman Dillon Heatherington could be the guy that ends up the best of all.  He's been on my radar since I first saw him as a 16 year old last season and has continued to grow since that time. It's safe to say he's on the rise. This season I have had the chance to see him play in 4 games so far, including last week in Swift Current.  That game was probably the best showing I've seen from him in the last 12 months.

So what exactly will an NHL team be getting by selecting a player like Dillon Heatherington.  Well, in my opinion, he's really a kid that does it all on the ice.

He's got very good size at 6'4 and 196 pounds.  He skates well, with a big powerful stride and the mobility to stop and backpedal on a dime.  He's got good reach, an active stick and has the smarts to always be on the correct side of the puck.  His physical play has also shown solid growth this season, engaging the body more and learning to use his size and weight in the corners and in battles for loose pucks.  He competes hard and rarely gets exposed by a forecheck.  Very smart with the puck and if he doesn't have a passing lane in his own zone, he'll simply chip the puck out and avoid any risks. He's been paired mostly with Devils prospect Reece Scarlett this season, playing top-pairing minutes against other teams top lines.

Offensively, his game has also grown since last year.  In 2011-12 he was counted on to be mostly a defensive player as the Broncos battled many injuries and his minutes were increased because of it.  As it turns out, those minutes have really increased his development speed and it looks to have really given him a push in the right direction.  He makes a strong first pass and is able to use his skating ability to join the rush if he wants.  From my viewings, he does appear to be a guy that will have offensive value more as a player that starts the rush with a pass, rather than a guy who leads the rush or unleashes huge shots from the point.

It's been a steady climb up my rankings for Heatherington and I think that will only continue.  Coming into this season I had him as an honourable mention in my rankings, sitting in the 13-15 range among WHL players for the 2013 NHL Draft.  Looking back at that list now, I wouldn't hesitate to call him a top 12 WHL player in that ranking and a guy I expect to be picked inside the top 90 at the NHL draft next June.

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