Miro Heiskanen was the third overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and that brings certain expectations. Yes, the now-24-year-old leads the Stars in time on ice at 24:30 and is among the leaders in NHL defensemen scoring with 51 points in 66 games, but the measuring stick is pretty high for a player with Heiskanen’s pedigree.

His time on ice is 12th. His scoring is 14th. Could he be even better? That’s always the challenge for players like Heiskanen.

But last week, we saw the true value of having a skilled defenseman when Heiskanen was part of an effort that kept Edmonton’s Connor McDavid off the scoreboard. And on Sunday, we’ll see another great player in Nathan MacKinnon get plenty of attention from Heiskanen.

“It’s the old Norris Trophy million dollar question: How much weight do you place on points and offense?” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said.

Heiskanen finished sixth in defenseman scoring with 73 points in 79 games and finished seventh in Norris Trophy voting last season. He might actually do better this season with fewer points.

“I’m a little biased,” DeBoer said. “For me, the best defenseman in the world, you have to defend. You have to be the guy the coach is putting out against the best players. That should be part of it, and that’s where I think Miro comes in. I think we use him in all situations, and he might be better defensively than offensively.  That tells you a lot about his game, because he is a 70-point defenseman.”

Heiskanen has helped young defenseman Thomas Harley improve this year, and Harley said he can learn a lot by watching Heiskanen.

“It’s a little bit of footwork, a little bit of stickwork, positioning, how he gaps out,” Harley said. “You just watch him and you see he does the little things right.”

When asked to name Heiskanen’s strengths, DeBoer said, “I think, in order, feet, stick, and then sense. Those are probably all as important. He’s got all three of those things. Even if he’s off on an angle a little bit, his feet allow him to keep gap and recover. That’s the great equalizer for defensemen. If you can skate, you can be out of position and still recover.”

Because Harley and Heiskanen have come together well, the Stars have been able to use Esa Lindell on a second pair with Chris Tanev. That duo has been great. Plus, with Jani Hakanpää out for the past few games, Nils Lundkvist has stepped up and paired well with Ryan Suter.

“I think we have good balance, good chemistry,” said Lindell. “We all feel comfortable playing together, and Miro just leads us all.”

He already has had a huge game against McDavid. Now, the opportunity is there to do the same against MacKinnon.

“I think he likes these types of challenges,” DeBoer said. “I also think with a team this deep, your whole group has to defend.”

Key Numbers

Colorado leads the NHL in scoring average at 3.70 goals per game. Dallas is second at 3.64.

Dallas has already tied the franchise record for road wins in a season at 25 and for road points in a season at 55. The Stars have one remaining road game to break those records.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger is on a career-best shutout streak of 152:21. Oettinger is on a six-game winning streak.

He Said It

“We have lots to play for. We want to win the conference, finish first in the division, so we have a great spot for the playoffs. It’s huge.”

- Stars forward Radek Faksa on the battle for playoff positioning

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.