Ville Heinola had a nice debut under Broadway’s bright lights.
On Oct. 3 at Madison Square Garden, the Winnipeg Jets’ 2019 first-round selection recorded his first point in his first NHL appearance, hitting Nikolaj Ehlers with an outlet pass who, in turn, set up Blake Wheeler for a cross-slot tap in.
With the secondary assist, the lefty Finn — who made the Jets at the tender age of 18 thanks to his outstanding training camp — became the first player born in 2001 to record an NHL point and the fourth-youngest Jet to do so.
Heinola, who skated 18:04 and looked right at home on a big-league blue line, also became the fifth Jets first-round pick to record a point in an NHL debut.
In honour of Heinola’s accomplishment, here’s a look at the four he joined and how they got on the scoresheet in their first-ever tilt.
Kristian Vesalainen: Oct. 4, 2018
Kristian Vesalainen’s first NHL point, is thus far, his only NHL point.
In the Jets’ first 2018-19 contest, in St. Louis against the Blues, the 2017 24th-overall pick snagged a secondary assist on Brandon Tanev’s third-period goal, which put the Jets up 5-0 and completed the scoring.
The milestone was perhaps the high point in what was ultimately a tumultuous season for Vesalainen. After five games, he was sent down to the Manitoba Moose and played only eight games there before activating an out clause in his contract that allowed him to go back to Finland and play for Jokerit.
It was the wrong decision that caused him to waste a year of potential development. Despite seeming a lock to make this season’s squad, Vesalainen had an abysmal preseason and showed he simply still doesn’t know how to play on the smaller NHL ice surface. He was deservedly sent down to the AHL, and when that second NHL point will come is a huge question mark.
Patrik Laine: Oct. 13, 2016
It didn’t take long for the highly-hyped Finnish phenom to light the lamp for the first time.
The 2016 second-overall pick, known for his laser shot, showed it off in the third period of the Jets’ season and home-opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, ripping a wrister top-shelf from where he’s since scored many of his 110 (and counting) goals.
The goal made it 4-3; Laine would later tally the secondary assist on Mathieu Perreault’s game-tying goal with just 1:29 left on the clock. The Jets would go on to win the game in overtime.
“In the third, when we absolutely needed it with our backs against the wall, he came up big with a goal and an assist at the end of the game. That’s what those special players do, they step up at the right times,”Perreault said at the time.
The goal was the first of 44 on the season for the rookie, behind only Alexander Ovechkin. Laine recently signed a two-year bridge-deal after his worst statistical season and a lengthy stalemate. Despite his undoubted scoring prowess, he still has much to prove if he wants to cash in big after 2020-21.
Kyle Connor: The Same Day as Laine
Laine wasn’t the only one who debuted and recorded his first point in the contest.
Kyle Connor, drafted 17th overall in 2015, was also skating in his first professional game after spending the 2015-16 campaign with the Michigan Wolverines.
Connor actually recorded the secondary assist on Laine’s goal, the first of his five 2016-17 NHL points. After 20 games, he was sent to the Manitoba Moose for more seasoning and lit it up, scoring 25 goals and putting up 19 assists for 44 points in just 52 games.
Connor’s time in the AHL served him well: the next season, he exploded onto the scene and has since recorded back-to-back 30-goal seasons while evolving into a consistently dynamic and dangerous player.
Connor is set to tally plenty more points for the Jets in the seasons to come: he recently signed a seven-year, $50-million contract that will keep him in Winnipeg through 2025-2026.
Jacob Trouba: Oct. 1, 2013
It’s a name most Jets fans don’t want to hear at the moment, first because he basically forced a trade out of Winnipeg this summer that seems to have netted the Jets a subpar return, and second because he torched his old club for three points in his Rangers debut.
However, just six short years ago, Jacob Trouba was the fair-haired blue-liner in the Jets’ organization and the toast of the town.
On Oct. 1, 2013, the d-man suited up for his first NHL contest and became the first top-round pick in Jets 2.0 history to hit the scoresheet in his debut, notching an assist on Michael Frolik’s second period goal against the Edmonton Oilers.
Trouba fired home his first NHL goal a period later, intercepting a Taylor Hall pass at centre ice and rifling a slap shot past Devan Dubnyk to tie the game 4-4.
The points were the first two of 179 Trouba recorded in a Jets’ sweater during six seasons of on-ice excellence but off-ice antics.
The lone Jets’ first rounder yet to make an NHL appearance is towering defenseman Logan Stanley, selected 18th overall in 2016. Given the Jets’ in-flux d-corp, he could very well get a look sometime this season.
Will he be the sixth to join the list and the third defenseman after Heinola and Trouba, or will the next player to do so be someone yet chosen? Only time will tell.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.