SAN JOSE — Sharks defenseman Tim Heed figures there are at least a couple of reasons why he possesses such a blistering slap shot.
Heed spent countless hours practicing on a net at his home in his native Sweden since he was eight years old. But his dad, Jonas, also had a terrific shot that helped him play professionally in the Swedish League from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s.
“So I don’t know if it’s genetic or something,” Heed said, “but I’ve always worked on my shot.”
Heed’s shot, not to mention his hockey sense and playmaking ability, have helped him make a big impact with the Sharks organization since the start of last season.
After he signed with the Sharks as a free agent out of Sweden in May 2016, Heed registered 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda last season.
Heed played in one game with the Sharks in 2016-17, but his NHL career essentially began this season. He made the Sharks out of training camp and stepped into the lineup three weeks ago as Paul Martin suffered an ankle injury and Dylan DeMelo was taken off the third defense pair.
Since then he’s put up six points in nine games — accounting for the only two goals Sharks defensemen have scored this year — and has made a noticeable difference on the first power play unit.
His early third period goal Monday against Toronto — a patented ‘Heed Howitzer’ from above the circle — gave the Sharks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they went on to an impressive 3-2 win.
Heed, 26, also assisted on Joe Pavelski’s second period goal and finished with a NHL career-high 21:06 of ice time.
“When I look at his game last night, I thought it was excellent,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday. “There isn’t a whole lot I would change.”
The hockey net that Heed practiced on as a kid was actually two in one. There was a normal-sized net, and another bigger one behind it to stop pucks that were off target. He used a smooth surface on the ground to shoot from and stick-handle.
“Mostly every day when I was younger after school I went out and shot pucks,” Heed said. “You always want to improve and get better, aim better, get shots off quicker. It was a work in progress every day. Still working on it every day.”
It has definitely caught the eye of his teammates.
“He’s got a huge shot but I remember all last year, him just getting big time goals for us and making big time plays,” said Sharks center Ryan Carpenter, who spent the majority of 2016-17 in the AHL. Heed had 14 goals for the Barracuda last season when his shot earned the ‘howitzer’ moniker.
“He sees the ice really well, plays a ton of minutes. It’s no surprise to see him doing what he’s doing here.”
Center Logan Couture thinks Heed might already have the biggest slap shot on the team, a huge weapon to have as the Sharks look to become more consistent with the man advantage.
“I think we’ve got to get him the puck more,” Couture said. “I think our power play still needs to be a little better. We’ve got to find ways to generate looks like we did last night.
“But (Heed’s) goal was setup by a nice drag by (Brent Burns). Right before that we used our middle to relieve the pressure and then we had a great look from Heeder. We need more of that.”
It’s the first time in recent memory the Sharks have had two defensemen on their first power play unit. Heed’s presence gives the group another right shot, and allows Burns a bit more freedom to roam away from the blue line, knowing he has another blueliner by his side.
“Usually, it’s only been me and (Pavelski) that have been righties,” Burns said. “When you use Pavs in that net front area, you don’t really want that. For me at the point, it’s great to have that right hand option and a lefty on the other side. It just creates so much more time.
“(Heed’s) got an unbelievable shot. He’s fast, he’s a great playmaker.”
Heed only became a defenseman like his father when was 16. His team at the time needed more defensemen and Heed told his coaches that he’d like to give it a try.
“Right now, I’m kind of happy I made the transition from forward to D,” said Heed, who was drafted two years later in 2010 by Anaheim in the fifth round.
Heed wasn’t ready to make the jump to North American hockey then. With a cannon of a slap shot, and other assets, he looks like a keeper now.
“Everything was new and I knew it was going to take a little bit of time,” Heed said of the transition. “But I think I improved every day, got better as the season went on last year and I still think I’m improving every day.”