Young talent camping out in a press box isn’t a philosophy the Winnipeg Jets like and subscribe to.
But so far this season, that’s been the scenario for 19-year-old defenceman Ville Heinola.
The 20th overall pick in 2019 has appeared in one of the Jets’ 12 games this season – Jan. 21 against the Ottawa Senators.
Heinola’s lack of game action isn’t due to a lack of opportunity.
The Jets have had a vacancy on their blue line since Jan. 16, when Tucker Poolman was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.
Heinola just hasn’t been tapped to take many trips from the taxi squad to the active roster.
With that in mind, and the AHL season starting on Friday, there’s no question if this was a normal 82-game, non-pandemic season, the Jets would send Heinola down the hall for a chance to play meaningful minutes with the Manitoba Moose.
But this isn’t a normal 82 game non-pandemic season.
Which is why the taxi squad was a concern for Paul Maurice prior to the season’s start. The Jets’ head coach didn’t want it to be a situation where developing young players are sitting and watching hockey unless that’s the only option the Jets have.
Which, unfortunately for Heinola, seems to be the case.
We’ve seen multiple NHL teams decimated in numbers due to the virus. There is no way to predict who, what, where or when it will occur.
Which is why, for a Jets team that wants to give itself the best opportunity to be successful and win hockey games, having Heinola waiting in the wings is a plus.
But the minus may be a lost season of development for a top defensive prospect.