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Stars' Heatherington excited about first NHL call-up

Coach Ken Hitchcock hopes to get the young defenseman into a game during the road trip

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Defenseman Dillon Heatherington didn't play in Saturday's game against Colorado at American Airlines Center, but he did get to take warm-ups. For a young defenseman experiencing his first call-up to the NHL, it was a neat experience.

"I've never dressed for an NHL game, so it was a fun opportunity," said Heatherington. "It was exciting and pretty cool."

The Stars called up the 22-year-old Heatherington due to the injury to Marc Methot, who will be out a couple more weeks due to a knee issue that has sidelined him 27 of the last 28 games. Heatherington got the word he was joining Dallas after Texas played at Stockton on Friday night.

"It means a lot. It means you are doing something right and all the hard work is paying off," Heatherington said. "I am extremely humbled and privileged to have an opportunity to come join the Stars. Hopefully, I can stick around here for a while."

Heatherington, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive defenseman, has been playing well in the AHL, recording 13 points (three goals, ten assists) and a plus-three rating in 39 games. He's been logging big minutes primarily on a pair with Brent Regner.

"It's been great," Heatherington said. "Having [Regner] as a defense partner is awesome. He's a good veteran guy and he's reliable, so I just try to model my game after him. It's been going good, just building confidence and the team has been playing really well."

Dallas management gives Heatherington, a Calgary native, high marks.

"He's good. He's been solid," said Dallas assistant GM Scott White, who also is the Texas GM. "He's a shutdown type defensive defenseman. His first pass is fine. He's not going to come up here and play on the power play or anything like that, but he is going to give you minutes. He's been a good shutdown guy down there. He's done a lot of good things in Texas. He's been very positive."

This is Heatherington's first full season in the Dallas organization. The Stars acquired him at last season's NHL trade deadline from Columbus in exchange for forward Lauri Korpikoski.

Video: Hitchcock addresses tomorrow's game in Boston

"It was a whirlwind. I've never been through a trade before in my career," Heatherington said. "It was quick. One day, you are having lunch with your teammates, and the next thing, you are on a plane. But it's been smooth. Texas and Dallas have been great welcoming me and letting me play. It's been an unreal experience."

Heatherington, whom Columbus selected in the second round (50th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, has had plenty of team success in his career. He won a gold medal with Canada at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship and gold with Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championship.

And then in his first professional season, he won the 2016 Calder Cup with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.

"I've never been through that before, the long grind and everything," Heatherington said of the Calder Cup run. "It was an unreal experience and I learned so much, and it's kind of built me up to the player I am today."

Now, he is on the verge of getting his first taste of NHL experience. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock called him a younger version of Marc Methot, another player Heatherington uses as a role model.

"We really liked him in camp, and he's had a heck of a year," Hitchcock said. "He's a defined player, a defending, big physical defenseman. He plays the left side. So, he's really a younger version of Marc. He's waited a long time to get in this situation. He's chomping at the bit, and he is more than ready."

Hitchcock said he'd like to get Heatherington into a game on the upcoming road trip, but time will tell. Among the games on the trip is Thursday in Columbus, Heatherington's previous team.

"I've had that marked on my calendar," Heatherington said. "It would be neat to play against them."

But for a young player looking to play his first NHL game, any opponent would be a neat experience.


Notes: Road trip starts with 'big-time test'
  • The Stars hit the road for four straight games, taking on Boston, Detroit, Columbus, and Buffalo. The first game, Monday afternoon in Boston, will be a big test for the Stars. The Bruins are on a roll with points in 12 straight games (9-0-3) and an 18-3-3 record in their last 24 games.

"[Boston] is one of the best teams in the league right now, so our game is going to have to be at the top of the heap to be competitive," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I want to see what our competitive level looks like against a really good hockey club. I am excited to see how we perform. It's going to be a big-time test, and hopefully, we are up for it."

  • Hitchcock said Kari Lehtonen would start in goal vs. Boston. It will be Lehtonen's first start since Dec. 15. Ben Bishop, who has started the last eleven games, is scheduled to play against Detroit on Tuesday.


Stars Practice Lineup

Here's how the Stars lined up at practice in Frisco Sunday afternoon.

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov 
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick 
Mattias Janmark - Martin Hanzal - Devin Shore 
Remi Elie - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie/Gemel Smith

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg 
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn 
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka/Dillon Heatherington

Kari Lehtonen 
Ben Bishop

Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @StarsInsideEdge.

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