I first saw Hejda play way back in the last game of the preseason that a friend and I attended in Vancouver. I really liked his game:
"Hejda was great, stopped Naslund 1on1 without taking a penalty. Best defender on the ice."
Since then I talked about Hejda after the Montreal game:
"Jan Hejda is the real thing. He's physical, can shoot and most importantly, his outlet passing has been VERY good. I know it's only two games, but with what I have seen so far, Hejda has been our best defenseman at moving the puck. If I had the choice between Tjarnqvist and Hejda, I would have to go with the latter. He has played with a lot of heart in his first two games, and shouldn't be taken out of the lineup while he continues to do so."
I thought Hejda played great against the Panthers, and I was worred about him drawing out in favour of one of the real rookies:
"Jan Hejda should stay in the line up. There is no reason why this guy should be sitting in the press box while we field Smid, Greene, and Tjarnqvist. He played a solid game tonight, just like every other game he's played this season. His key pinch led to the all important first goal of the game, and he covered very nicely for Greene's mess up by forcing Jokinen to the outside."
I was happy that Hejda wouldn't draw out when Smid got hurt in the Dallas game:
"Smid is out 7-10 days, at least that means Hejda stays in the line up."
Now, what I love about Jan Hejda is his ability to win battles in corners. The guy gives 100 percent effort when he goes in there, whether it be one on one or two on one. More often than not he is the guy that comes out with the puck. He's actually one of the best defenseman I have ever seen at winning puck battles.
On top of that, the guy has above average offensive tools. He can pass, and seems to grasp the concept that a weak shot ON NET from the point is more valuable than a rocket that misses by 10 ft (clearly he does not subscribe to the Jason Smith school of defense in this category). Moreover, as a 27 year old rookie, he's playing the 2nd toughest minutes on the squad behind Jason Smith, and still putting up a solid plus/minus.
I would love to see Hejda locked up for 3 years at 1.2m/yr, I think it would be a brilliant contract for Lowe to offer him. If you're looking for something to cheer about from this disappointing season, look no farther than the case of Jan Hejda.