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Heiskanen impresses early with Stars

Defenseman, selected No. 3 in 2017 Draft, made presence felt at development camp

by Sean Shapiro / NHL.com Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- Miro Heiskanen got his first taste of Texas summers during Dallas Stars development camp.

Although it was relatively cool in the rink, the temperature outside was in the upper 90s during the July 7-11 camp. That could have been a reason to complain, but Heiskanen embraced the heat.

"It's been really great," the defenseman prospect said. "It's a really hot place, a lot hotter than Finland. I like it here."

Heiskanen, the No. 3 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, had plenty of things to like about development camp, most notably signing his entry-level contract July 8.

"I am really excited," he said. "It's a big day for me."

The Stars have big plans for Heiskanen, who is their highest pick since Mike Modano was taken No. 1 in 1988 when they were the Minnesota North Stars.

"We're excited for Miro," Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. "He's a player our scouts have watched all year. He's what you're looking for in a prototype defenseman nowadays. He can skate, he moves the puck, he's a guy that's never under pressure. The game looks awful easy to him."

Heiskanen (6-foot, 170 pounds), who turns 18 on July 18, had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games with HIFK in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. He also had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) for Finland at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, and was named the tournament's best defenseman.

The Stars' other prospects got a firsthand view of Heiskanen's skill set during the five-day camp at their practice facility. Jason Robertson, their 2017 second-round pick (No. 39), went head-to-head with Heiskanen during a puck-control drill Sunday and was impressed.

"He's a very skilled guy, not only on defense, but when I was on defense and how he handled the puck," Robertson said. "I was shocked at how good he handled the puck and how well he skated."

That wasn't much of a surprise to left wing Roope Hintz, a second-round pick (No. 49) in 2015 who was Heiskanen's teammate last season with HIFK.

Video: Heiskanen reacts to being chosen 3rd overall

"He's very good people, very good guy and very good on the ice. He's a very good skater and he can play with the puck. And he has it here also," Hintz said while pointing to his head.

The Stars want to be patient with Heiskanen, but he is going to be on their roster for the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September and could win an NHL roster spot with a strong training camp.

"My preference is if he isn't making the Dallas Stars, he is probably going to go back to Finland for one more year," Nill said. "That's the best thing for him. Let's just see where he's at. I don't want to make any promises either way. He understands that."

That development path fits well with the Stars' current roster. They have a number of young right-handed defensemen, but Heiskanen, a left shot, could fit in after the contracts of veterans Marc Methot and Dan Hamhuis expire within the next two seasons.

"Now I have to work as hard as I can and play in the NHL as soon as possible," Heiskanen said. "I think I can do that if everything goes well."

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