by Rob Picarello - NHL.com Feature
When Barrett Heisten was sent to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League earlier this season he was disappointed. Still Heisten was optimistic he would one day soon return to Broadway to play for the New York Rangers.
The kid out of Anchorage, Alaska was grateful for the chance the Rangers gave him from the first day of training camp, and he took full advantage of the opportunity by playing his way onto the opening night roster.
"I was like a kid in a candy store," Heisten said. "Just having a chance to practice and play in games with players like (Mark) Messier, (Eric) Lindros, (Theo) Fleury and (Brian) Leetch. Those guys are some of the best players in the game. And for a kid to come in and play with them in my first year was an unbelievable experience.
"I grew up in Alaska and on the pond we always dreamed and imagined one day playing in the NHL, so I still get the jitters every time I walk into that locker room."
Heisten, who was originally drafted 20th overall in the 1999 Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, was signed as a free agent by the Rangers on June 11, 2001 and the physical forward couldn't wait for training camp to begin so he could show the organization what he could do.
"I'm very thrilled to be part of the New York Rangers organization," Heisten said. "The Rangers have shown a great deal of interest in me and it's an amazing feeling to now be a part of their organization."
Rangers GM Glen Sather and his management team were high on Heisten ever since his draft year in 1999, so they were more than happy to have the scrappy winger on board.
"We really liked him during his draft year in 1999," Rangers VP of Player Development and Assistant General Manager Don Maloney said. "He's a very competitive and energetic player."
Heisten, 21, ranked second in scoring for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL) during the 2000-01 season, notching 20 goals and 57 assists for 77 points in 58 matches, along with 61 penalty minutes. He also ranked third among rookies with 77 points. The winger played alongside Rangers 1999 first-round pick Jamie Lundmark on the club's top line in Seattle last season.
"It was a great opportunity for me to compete at a high level and get used to the longer schedule," Heisten said. "I learned a lot last year and really enjoyed my time in Seattle."
Former NHLer and current Seattle Thunderbirds head coach Dean Chenowyth liked what he saw of Heisten.
"He's a good passer, a good skater and is pretty fundamentally sound," Chenowyth said. "We've only seen the tip of the iceberg with his abilities. He has a lot more to offer and to bring."
Prior to joining Seattle, he spent two seasons with the University of Maine Black Bears and was a member of their 1999 NCAA Championship squad. In his two seasons with the Black Bears, Heisten notched 25 goals and 40 assists for 65 points, combined with 158 penalty minutes (1998-2000).
The 6-foot-1, 191-pounder was also a member of the United States team at the 1999 World Junior Championships, appearing in six matches, tallying two goals and four assists for six points. The reason Heisten has found success everywhere he's played is because he is a hard-working, tenacious player, who is willing to take a hit to make a play. He also dishes out his share of checks and is very strong on the puck.
Heisten grew up admiring NHLers like Mark Messier, Cam Neely and Mike Modano and hoped to one day have a chance to play on the same ice surfaces with his idols.
"Those guys have a tremendous passion for the game and it shows on every shift," Heisten said. "I grew up watching players like Cam Neely and Mark Messier and since I wasn't the most-skilled player around I liked to use my body a lot and bang around like those guys did. I tried to model my game after those players and hoped that one day I can play just like them."
And even though he's had the great fortune to land in the same organization as one of his idols, Heisten knows that his future is in his hands alone.
"I need to work hard every day on and off the ice and show everyone what I have," he said. "I don't get a lot of minutes, but when I do I need to make the best out of the opportunity and hopefully they'll still like me at the end of the day."
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