The Dallas Stars called up Dillon Heatherington on Friday morning after sending Connor Carrick to the injured reserve. Here is why this call up could actually further round out the Dallas defense.
After acquiring the defender from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2017 trade deadline, the Stars quickly immersed him in the system. Heatherington was a top defender for the Texas Stars during the 2017-18 season while also making his NHL debut and playing six games with Dallas throughout the year.
He showed promise and looked to be a potential piece of the franchise going forward. But then, the 23-year-old was hit with a new challenge.
The Stars spent the offseason signing defenseman Roman Polak in free agency, adding yet another veteran defender to the mix. With that, the Dallas Stars seemed to have their seven defensemen for the 2018-19 season.
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But after Stephen Johns moved to the IR during the preseason with chronic headaches, the Stars made a move in the trade market and acquired Connor Carrick to fill the void.
Considering the misfortunes that Dallas dealt with when carrying eight defenders during the 2017-18 season, the deck looked stacked against Heatherington becoming an NHL regular in 2018-19. There simply wasn’t the room and his two-way contract labeled him as the easiest piece to send down.
That ended up holding true as Heatherington started the year in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars.
But now, he’ll get a chance to once again make his case.
On Friday morning, the Dallas Stars announced that Carrick had been placed on the IR and that Heatherington had been called up to fill the void. That should end up being a great move for the Stars’ defensive structure.
The thing about Heatherington is that he plays an enforcing style of hockey while also finding a way to contribute offensively. Last season, he had one assist and 26 penalty minutes in six games with Dallas. This year, he already has one goal and four points in 10 games along with a +2 rating and six penalty minutes.
Standing at 6-4, 225 lb., he brings size and physicality to any lineup. He can hit, dig into the corners, and provide strong help on the back check. He can shut down opposing rushes and makes very few mistakes in the defensive zone.
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And right now, that could be just what the Dallas blue line needs.
With Stephen Johns still on the IR and Marc Methot being in and out of the lineup with lower-body soreness, the Dallas blue line is lacking in the physicality department. John Klingberg, Julius Honka, and Miro Heiskanen are offensive-leaning, puck-moving defenders. Esa Lindell and Connor Carrick play more of a two-way game that keeps them effective in both zones.
Roman Polak is their only real source of physicality and size on defense right now. That’s where Heatherington can help out.
The Dallas Stars are on a bit of a roll right now, but could still use some help in winning the physical battle. They have been outhit in three of their past five contests and could always use some help in the size game.
Heatherington brings that physical and overbearing trait, combining grit and an enforcer’s mindset in his play. He’s a big body that can help the Stars bring a new sense of dominance to their play.
At the moment, the Stars own the sixth-lowest goals against average in the NHL at 2.58. That’s impressive enough considering the pieces they are missing and the youth they are rolling out on a nightly basis. Heatherington should only add on to that success, assuming he gets a few games under his belt.