Maybe he’s just got the gift.
Perhaps it’s even a little bit hereditary.
But Dany Heatley admits it’s more than just good genes that are responsible for the back-to-back 50-goal seasons he produced in his first two seasons with the Ottawa Senators.
“You have some ability,” Heatley said of the touch around the net that’s made him one of the National Hockey League’s elite goal scorers. “But I played a lot of street hockey when I was younger, shot a lot of pucks in the backyard. I still shoot pucks in the summer time.
“Shooting is the biggest thing, just repetition and a lot of one-timers on the ice and a lot of shooting. I’m a believer in repetition on the ice and (practising) a lot of different types of shots. That’s one of the best ways to get better at shooting.”
Still, Heatley figures he was probably destined to be a goal scorer. It’s a family thing, you see.
“My dad was a forward when he played and a goal scorer, so I guess it started out wanting to be like him,” said Heatley. “It’s something you’re either good at or you’re not. I’ve always been pretty good at it and it’s been my most fun in the game, scoring goals.”
By the time he was a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Heatley figured he had a special knack for it.
“A lot of kids score when they’re younger but I think at those levels, if you’re still scoring, you have some ability at it,” he said.
Two years later, Heatley notched 41 goals for the Atlanta Thrashers, the NHL team that drafted him No. 2 overall in the 2000 entry draft. That same season, he fired home four goals in the 2003 NHL all-star game and was named the contest’s most valuable player.
But since joining the Senators in 2005-06, he’s taken it to an even higher level. It’s not uncommon to see Heatley by himself on the ice after practice, honing his skill even further by wiring shots at an empty net from a variety of angles.
“When I’m just shooting at the net by myself, I’ll just try to pick posts or crossbars or corners,” he said. “Just kind of have little challenges for yourself, see how many shots it takes you to hit left crossbar or right post. It’s more or less to kill the time over the 100 pucks you shoot … it’s just fun stuff.”
Heatley is also blessed with a quick release that serves him well when space is at a premium during tight-checking games.
“It’s just something I work on, trying to get rid of it as quick as I can,” he said. “The more you do it and more you’re familiar with it, the better you are at it.”