COLUMBUS, Ohio - Life has not slowed down for Dillon Heatherington since he was selected 50th overall by the Blue Jackets at the 2013 NHL Draft.
After being a regular, significant contributor on defense for the Western Hockey League's (WHL) Swift Current Broncos - a club that allowed the fewest goals in its league - Heatherington experienced a steady climb up NHL Central Scouting's draft rankings throughout the 2012-13 season. He established himself as a "strong and steady" defenseman whose best strength (according to him) is killing penalties.
He even had four goals and 23 assists for 27 points last season over a 71-game span, plus three assists in five playoff games. Heatherington's best stat? He finished the 2012-13 season at plus-25, showing that his team performed better with him on the ice.
The Blue Jackets were seriously interested in Heatherington and saw him play a lot during the season. Andy Schneider, an amateur scout for the Blue Jackets and former Swift Current assistant coach, knows Heatherington well and former director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright saw him often in western Canada.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was excited to trade out of the No. 44 selection (dealt to Pittsburgh), acquire the No. 50 pick and still select the player he wanted with the original pick.
This week, Heatherington traveled to Columbus for development camp in order to grow as a player and get to know the other prospects.
“It’s been really fun," Heatherington told BlueJackets.com. "I’m learning a ton and being around the guys is fun. Overall, it's been a very good experience."
The guys he has spent the most time with at development camp are those he shares a common bond with.
“Oliver Bjorkstrand is also from the WHL and Ryan Murray is fellow d-man in the WHL, so we have those connections," Heatherington said. "I also met a couple guys at the draft and some older guys here. You try to find connections and talk with the guys.”
During on-ice sessions at development camp, it's been clear that Heatherington uses his size to his advantage. At 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., his defensive prowess and good positioning was most evident during odd-man rush drills.
While he's enjoyed building relationships with other players and the skating sessions, his first professional camp has been a chance for Heatherington to focus on and eliminate his weaknesses.
“I've focused on improving everyday," Heatherington said. "Whether it's been puck stills or smart decisions, I try to pick something every day and work on it.”
That lesson is something Heatherington plans to carry with him even after he heads out from development camp, hoping it will one day lead to ice time in the NHL.