'Dynamite' rookie Hintz's impact on Stars shows future is bright
The 'NHL ready' 21-year-old forward continues to shine during the Texas Stars' Calder Cup runby Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Derek Laxdal likes to call Roope Hintz "a moment player."
"He has moments," the Texas Stars coach said of his rookie forward.
The more this AHL playoff run stretches on, the more chances for the "moments" Hintz is getting. And that's a good sign for the 21-year-old, who was drafted in the second round (49th overall) by the Stars in 2015.
In his first season in North America, the Tampere, Finland native has now played 89 games for the Stars -- 70 in the regular season and 19 in the playoffs. That's the kind of experience that can accelerate his ascension to the NHL.
"I think it's great for his development to be this far in the playoffs," Laxdal said. "I don't think you're going to see the benefits of this run until next year in training camp, but we know what he is -- he's a big strong forward who can skate and shoot, and he just needs to tidy up some areas in his game. That's going to come with experience."
Hintz is listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He plays a strong two-way game and has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the playoffs. He had 35 points (20 goals, 15 assists) in his 70 regular season games and is starting to show that the 30 points (19 goals, 11 assists) he had in 44 games with Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League in 2016-17 wasn't a fluke.
Video: Texas Stars hang on late for Game 4 win over Toronto
He's a legitimate scorer who is getting more comfortable every day.
"That's the best experience you can get," Hintz said when asked about the playoff run and what he has learned. "The season has been going in a good way, learning the small ice and the game here."
Teams overseas play on bigger ice, and that makes the game a little slower and a little less physical, so Hintz has had to make adjustments. But all of the experiences keep building one atop the other. Hintz was one of the last cuts from the NHL roster in training camp and received praise from former head coach Ken Hitchcock at the time.
"Hintz has stepped up here. His game has gone up another level," Hitchcock said. "He's now challenging, where you weren't sure before."
Hintz was called up to the NHL roster in March on an emergency basis and didn't play, but he clearly is showing that he's just a heartbeat away from the big club.
"Hintz has been dynamite," Texas Stars GM Scott White said. "To me, he's NHL ready."
Video: Hintz nets power-play goal
Both White and Laxdal said Hintz is becoming more consistent and adjusting to being a target of the opposition.
"He's engaged more physically, he's learned that it's a grind," White said. "It's hard for European players to adapt to the North American schedule. It's such a grind to get to January, and he got through it. Then, the first-round series, he took a couple of huge hits and got right back up and finished a few hits of his own. I think that's maturity."
While Laxdal added of the playoffs: "Ontario ran him … they ran him hard. I thought he took some important steps in that series. You have to find consistency at a high level. Roope's learning curve is starting to get quicker, faster, better. He's taken some huge steps."
In the Western Conference finals, Hintz tallied the series-winning goal with 8.5 seconds left in the first overtime of Game 6. It was one of those "moments" Laxdal was talking about.
"As this series goes along, Roope gets more comfortable, and we expect more from him," Laxdal said.
You could say the same for his career.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.
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