TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Dallas Stars would like to keep expectations in check for defense prospect Miro Heiskanen heading into this season, but that may be hard to do after Friday night's opener at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
Heiskanen was outstanding.
Stars head coach Jim Montgomery just nodded his head and smiled when asked about Heiskanen's performance in Friday's 7-5 win over the New York Rangers.
"Loved him," said one Stars scout.
[RELATED: Complete coverage, including live stream information, of the 2018 Traverse City Prospect Tournament]
"Two words: special player," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who is coaching Dallas' prospects in Traverse City. "He was just outstanding in all areas of his game, his puck possession, his reads, his communication, just his ability to jump in and join the rush.
"He's a special player."
It didn't take long for Heiskanen, who is expected to start in the NHL this season and possibly be one of the league's top rookies, to stand out Friday. By the 2:50 mark of the first period, there was already a checklist of what makes him that special player. On his first shift, he jumped up on the rush to try to help the Stars create some offense and then got back on defense and tied up highly-touted New York Rangers center Filip Chytil and denied him a scoring chance. On his second shift, Heiskanen made a slick pass through traffic to Stars forward Curtis Douglas in the offensive zone and then moments later, after he got the puck back, zipped a shot through traffic that a surprised Rangers goaltender Chris Nell had to fight off.
And as the game moved along, the plays continued to mount. A slick pass here to set the Stars off on the rush. A blocked shot there. Shutting down a rush by an opposing player by riding him into a low danger area. A pinch in the offensive zone to keep a play alive.
Then in the second period, a highlight-reel goal as Heiskanen wheeled out from behind his own net and dashed to the other end of the ice and rifled the puck into the net from the slot to tie the game 3-3.
"Yeah, I got good speed behind the net, and there was a lot of room. I just tried to shoot the puck and got a goal," Heiskanen said. "That was nice."
And there was more. To start the third, Heiskanen pinched down deep below the goal line and helped create a scoring chance and then immediately skated down to the defensive zone and tied up a Ranger forward in front of the Dallas net.
There was an assist late in the third, a secondary helper on Adam Mascherin's empty-net goal that sealed Friday's win in the tournament opener for the Stars.
"It was a nice game," Heiskanen said. "There were a couple of mistakes there. It was the first game of the season, so it doesn't matter that much. But I think it went pretty good."
Laxdal said it was better than pretty good.
"For a 19-year-old kid to come in here and dominate just shows you how special he is," Laxdal said. "This is going to be a great stepping stone for him going into this training camp with the Dallas Stars and his future NHL career."
And while you don't want to read too much into one prospect game in early September, it's pretty easy to see why it can be hard to keep expectations in check when it comes to Heiskanen.
Stars rally past Rangers, 7-5
The Stars opened the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City with a 7-5 win over the New York Rangers, rallying from a 5-3 deficit in the third period.
Adam Mascherin's power-play goal started the rally, cutting the New York lead to 5-4 at 7:57 of the third period. Curtis Douglas tied the game at the 14:35 mark and Niklas Hansson's power-play goal 46 seconds later gave the Stars a 6-5 lead. Mascherin sealed the win with a late empty-net goal.
"I liked our game. I liked the way our guys played 5-on-5," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who is coaching the Dallas prospects. "I thought we dominated 5-on-5. We made a few mistakes on the [penalty kill] and gave up four PK goals. I thought our power play was outstanding; both units did a lot. But overall, I liked the team effort of the group."
Other goal scorers for the Stars included Nick Caamano, Jakob Stenqvist, and Miro Heiskanen. Jason Robertson had four assists, and Ty Dellandrea had three assists.
"I thought Robertson was outstanding," Laxdal said. "He put a lot of work in this summer to drop his weight. I thought it showed tonight. A lot more energy in his game. A lot more speed. … I thought Dellandrea was good. This is good experience for him that he can take back to juniors."
Laxdal also praised the play of the fourth line of Jermaine Loewen, James Phelan and Douglas.
Colton Point got the start in goal and stopped 21 of 26 shots.
"It was a lot of fun. Obviously, at the beginning there was a lot of nerves, but I feel like I settled down pretty well," Point said. "I'd like to have a couple of [the goals] back. No one is perfect. But for the first game in a while, I feel pretty confident with myself, and I am going to progress from here."
The Stars play Detroit on Saturday at 6 p.m. (Central Time).
Here is the lineup the Stars rolled out Friday in Traverse City:
Nick Caamano - Roope Hintz (C) - Tony Calderone (A)
Jason Robertson - Ty Dellandrea - Joel L'Esperance (A)
Adam Mascherin - Brett Davis - Riley Damiani
Jermaine Loewen - James Phelan - Curtis Douglas
Miro Heiskanen - John Nyberg
Ben Gleason - Niklas Hansson
Ondrej Vala - Jakob Stenqvist
Scratched: Liam Hawel (F), Samuel Laberge (F), Adam McCormick (D), Dawson Barteaux (D)
Photo credit: Dan Mannes / Detroit Red Wings
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.