Winnipeg Jets’ Ville Heinola ready to play

After helping Finland capture bronze at the world junior hockey championship this week in Edmonton, Ville Heinola was ready for a bit of a break.

An entire week off from hockey wasn’t quite what he had in mind. The 19-year-old defenceman must complete a week of quarantine before he can join the Winnipeg Jets in training camp.

“Seven days is too much for me,” Heinola said on a video call Friday. “It’s good to get some rest but I just want to get back on the ice and focus on what’s going to happen next.”

Heinola is anxious to return to the Jets after seeing action in eight NHL games last season, where he registered a goal and four assists.

The experience will make joining training camp easier this year, because he knows the coaches and his teammates, and can live with fellow Finn Patrik Laine.

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Whether there’s room for Heinola on the roster this season remains to be seen.

“He’s going to get through the quarantine. We’ll be up and running by that time, pretty close to it. So he’ll be an option for us to play,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

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Decisions on where young players will slot in will have to wait until there’s more certainty about what’s happening with the American Hockey League this season, Maurice said, because he doesn’t want developing talent lingering on the taxi squad.

“I don’t really want young players sitting and watching hockey unless that’s the only option that we have,” he said.

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After a long off-season, Heinola feels he’s ready to play in the NHL this year. He feels stronger and believes he can skate better today than a year ago.

“I had a long summer over in Finland because of COVID,” Heinola said. “I had a lot of time to work on my body and I feel good now.”

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