Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen Striding Towards NHL Starting Spot

The Dallas Stars will open their 2018-19 season in 23 days and begin yet another new era for the franchise. Part of that new era should include defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who has quickly proven himself to be an NHL starting-caliber skater.

The 2018-19 regular season will bring yet another tidal wave of change to the Dallas Stars organization. That can be both scary or exciting, depending on how you look at it.

The Stars ended the 2017-18 season on one of the most sour notes in the organization’s history. After succumbing to a brutal 0-6-2 skid in mid-March that all but negated five solid months of progress with a new head coach, scheme, and lineup, Dallas fell short of the playoff race for the second year in a row. And while the lack of playoff action in 2016-17 was due to one of the worst performances in franchise history, the shortcoming in 2017-18 was almost unpredictable and unimaginable.

And so, the Dallas Stars entered yet another early offseason in search of balance, answers, and above all else, hope.

They started this search by hiring a new head coach in Jim Montgomery that should fit the Stars’ current setup nicely and complement the team as a whole. Then, they made some organizational decisions on July 1, signing new players while cutting ties with others. And to top it all off, a contract extension for Tyler Seguin seems to be well in the works, leaving plenty of hope for success in the long-term future.

It’s scary because the Stars are once again trying something new while the Central Division continues building on years of success and offering a deeper challenge. But it’s promising because a new era brings necessary change that could breed quick and effective results.

Oh, and there’s also the addition of Miro Heiskanen to the lineup. Did you happen to forget? Hopefully not.

The expectation and assumption throughout the Dallas Stars organization is that on Oct. 4, 2018,  Heiskanen will make his NHL debut as a 19-year-old defenseman. That cannot be pointed out enough.

Following the catastrophic 2016-17 season, the Stars lucked out when they were awarded the third overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. And after two months of deliberation, the team spent their pick on defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The 17-year-old was considered the top defensive prospect in the draft class. And it was obvious why.

After spending the 2016-17 season playing in plenty of junior championships and spending a brief stint in Liiga (the top league in Finland) as a 17-year-old, Heiskanen’s skill stuck out among the rest.

Dallas ended up sending him back to Finland for one more year to further develop his skill while they sorted out their own defensive situation. And throughout his 18th year of life, Heiskanen just about did it all.

He posted 11 goals and 23 points along with a +17 rating in 30 games for HIFK in Liiga and followed it up with three goals and nine points in 14 playoff games. He skated the most average ice time of any player in the league and won the Pekka Rautakallio Award as the best defenseman in Liiga.

Heiskanen also skated for Finland in the Olympic Games and the World Championships. And yes, he was 18 years old throughout all of this.

All in all, he showed off what he could do. He looks to be a generational talent with elite two-way abilities. Heiskanen is a defender that builds his game on smooth skating, an incredibly accurate shot, a top-notch hockey IQ, impressive passing skills, and a superbly creative offensive mind that balances well with a dedication to defensive focus and structure. He’s everything that an NHL team could want from a 19-year-old that might become the next face of the franchise.

That’s why the Dallas Stars will likely put him in the lineup for game one.

One of the lingering questions about Heiskanen’s game, though, centered around whether or not he could translate his success to the best league in the world. And if you were one of the speculators asking this question, the last three days should have given you a good enough answer.

Heiskanen competed with the Dallas Stars prospect team at the annual Traverse City Tournament over the past few days. Held in Traverse City, Mich. and hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, it’s a chance for eight NHL teams to send their best prospects to compete head-to-head and see how they do.

And through the three games that he skated in, it was clear that Heiskanen was among the best of the best. He scored three goals in three games, including two in a span of 5:16 in his final performance. He was a catalyst on offense, put up a superb effort on defense, and looked like one of the best players on the ice.

He is taking today off and will not skate in the Stars’ final game of the tournament, but his impact has already been felt.

And with all of these positive performances and results stacking up, Heiskanen is not only building his argument to be a full-time starter for Dallas right out of the gate, but also to make a quick impact in the NHL.

Now, there is always a certain “knock on wood” aspect to these kinds of situations. But as of right now, Miro Heiskanen looks like he could be another shot of adrenaline and skill to an already young and talented Stars blue line.

One year ago, Dallas Stars fans really didn’t know much about Heiskanen besides the pre-draft hype centered around him and the potential that he boasted. But now, he’s given them a consistent and up-close look at just where he could go.

And if that isn’t enough to get you teeming with excitement for the potential of the 2018-19 season, you might consider rethinking it.

The Miro Heiskanen Show should make its debut in Dallas this coming October. And if he can follow his current trend, there is a strong possibility that the show will be renewed for many, many seasons to come.