Playing for the Swift Current Broncos has afforded defenseman Dillon Heatherington many luxuries.
The one he’s most thankful for? Reece Scarlett.
The 2013 NHL Draft eligible rearguard has been paired almost exclusively with the New Jersey Devils prospect, helping accelerate the development of the six-foot-four tower with not only a veteran partner, but all the action he can handle as part of Speedy Creek’s top pairing.
“It just gives me more confidence,” Heatherington said. “Scarlett, my d-partner, has been helping me out with that. He’s always been playing those minutes and I’ve just been slowly matching him. It’s been going really good. I’m learning lots.”
That learning curve is clearly evident to scouts. Heatherington has evolved from a lanky, bottom-pairing blueliner a year ago into one of the Western Hockey League’s top draft eligibles.
It’s what happens when a prospect gets to work with the likes of assistant coach and director of player development Jamie Heward, a veteran of 394 National Hockey League games scattered over parts of 10 seasons.
Much in the way he credits Scarlett for his development, Heatherington acknowledged the importance of having Heward help his evolution.
“I feel like my skating has come a long way and playing with Scarlett and having (Jamie) Heward as an assistant coach, it’s definitely helped me with poise, plays with the puck,” Heatherington said. “That’s been good.”
So is having a team chock-full of players having gone through the draft process already. Along with Scarlett, Heatherington he’s leaned on a few elder statesmen to help him with the ups and downs associated with playing through one’s draft season.
“Our leadership group here is really strong with Scarlett, (Adam) Lowry and Coda (Gordon) and (Graham) Black,” Heatherington said. “We definitely have quite a few guys that have been in the position that I’ve been in. They’ve helped me out a lot with my confidence and what not.”
On and off the ice, it appears.
As much as Heatherington’s left an impression on the ice, NHL personnel are pleased to learn the poise possessed by the Calgary, AB product.
Running up and down the organization, a mention of Heatherington brings to the forefront a discussion on the character and integrity the 17-year-old possesses.
It’s something even Heatherington is willing to admit he gives a conscious effort to bring.
“The community does so much for our hockey club. You really can’t do anything to thank them,” he said bashfully. “You just need to go to the player appearances and give your heart to them. It’s definitely nice to be involved in the community off the ice.
“It’s definitely something I try to bring to the rink and even off the ice. I definitely just try to be a good guy and help whoever I can.”
Including any draft eligible defenseman in the near future that Heatherington can help. After all, he’s the type to pay it forward.
A luxury that Swift Current has in Heatherington.