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A Look at Miro

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - There will be plenty of time for the pressure and the expectations. Plenty of time to determine what might become of Miro Heiskanen the highest draft pick taken by the Dallas Stars since the team came to be in Texas.

Plenty of time for the third pick of the 2017 National Hockey League draft to begin the real work of proving that he can become the cornerstone defender the Stars believe he has the potential to become.

No. This night, this moment, is for sliding on his first NHL jersey, the distinctive victory green of the Stars, and donning a spiffy new Dallas Stars hat and for nervous interviews in front of a phalanx of cameras and reporters.

This night is for those memories, the kind that will shine brightly forever no matter the course Heiskanen's hockey career takes.

"Amazing feelings, yeah," the 17-year-old native of Espoo, Finland said. "Really nice team, nice talent. There's a couple guys I know, and it's really nice to be here."

Seventeen. Imagine that. Heiskanen won't turn 18 until after the team's development camp is completed in mid-July.

A long while after Heiskanen dutifully answered questions about nervousness and Texas he stepped off an elevator at the United Center and made the rounds shaking the hands and accepting the congratulations of the Dallas Stars coaching staff and team executives.

Finally, in the suite next door, he was able to embrace his mother and father and older sister.

Heiskanen said he slept fine the night before the draft.

But his father, Jukka Heiskanen, wasn't so cool. He displayed his hands to explain how sweaty they were with nerves.

"Great moment, I think," said Jukka Heiskanen who repairs automatic doors in Finland.

For Heiskanen Friday night is a moment in time, the ending of one process and the beginning of something of even greater import, something potentially magical given his skill set.

"I'm not saying he is him but he reminds me a lot of Nick Lidstrom when we had him in Detroit," said the Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell who won four Stanley Cups working alongside current Dallas GM Jim Nill with Detroit.

"Just the composure level is incredible," McDonnell said. "I think you'd never know that he was a hockey player type thing. And that's how Nick was. He went on the ice and did his thing. He was so composed and (Heiskanen) reminds us a little bit of that. Funny his agent Igor Larionov he says the same thing."

Larionov should know having played with Lidstrom in Detroit as well.

Heady comparisons to be sure. But for Heiskanen's mother, Mia Mattinen, the moment recalled the very start of the journey, the first time Heiskanen put on skates at age three.

"When he started to play hockey he didn't want to go home," Mia said.

Even when he was tiny he would wait at the door with his little skates and stick for his father to come home from work asking when they were going to play.

There's an older sister, Miira, 23, who is studying social work in Finland.

Sometimes the family would tease Heiskanen that he was the star but that was largely because he acted like anything but a star.

"He's an ordinary guy," his mother said and there is a sense of wonder that they are here in Chicago making their first-ever visit to the United States with their son now a member of an NHL team.

"It's quite hard to believe he's here now," she said.

He's the quiet, responsible boy that his mother trusts to look after the family's two dogs.

And now he's considered a cornerstone piece of the Dallas Stars' future.

"I think, of course, they are really happy; happy for me," Heiskanen said.

And of course, he, too, remembers the early mornings and trips to the rink that could not have been made without them.

"Yeah, they were always helping me, do everything for me," he said.

In the days and hours leading up to Friday's draft GM Nill had lots of discussions about moving the third pick.

"There were some good offers," he said.

But at the end there was just something about Heiskanen that kept Nill and his staff from pulling the trigger.

"Just too valuable," Nill said.

Heiskanen will likely spend next season in Finland where he played in the Finnish Elite League this past season.

And sometime, perhaps many years from now, the family will remember the bright lights and questions and finally the warm embrace in the suite high above the United Center and maybe it will seem as impossible as it did on this night.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

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