TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- There was a lot of hype about Stars defense prospect Miro Heiskanen over the weekend at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. But one national media observer wasn't biting. He was more focused on the other Dallas prospect from Finland whose last name begins with the letter "H."
"Hintz is on the Dallas team this year, right?" he asked a member of the Dallas media. "He's an NHL player."
"He's pushing for a spot," the Dallas media guy answered. "He's close."
And that's where forward Roope Hintz is heading into the 2018-19 season -- on the cusp of the NHL.
[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Get the latest headlines from the Traverse City Prospect Tournament]
"He's knocking on the door," said Dallas Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "With the way he developed under (Texas Stars coach Derek) Laxdal last year in the American Hockey League, and how hard he played in the playoffs, he is someone that is definitely knocking on the door."
Hintz, a second-round pick (49th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, is getting a good look from Dallas management and coaches in Traverse City. He's played well while centering the Stars' top line with Nick Caamano and Tony Calderone in the first two games and then Adam Mascherin and Jason Robertson in Monday's game against Minnesota.
He was good in the first game, better in the second. The chances have been there for Hintz, but no goals. He did pick up two assists in Monday's 5-4 shootout loss to Minnesota and has two assists and a plus-3 rating through three games.
Video: Hintz tours 'beautiful' hometown of Tampere, Finland
"Good. Lots of chances, but haven't got one in yet," Hintz said. "But it's coming; it's close. [Saturday] was post to post at the line. It's coming."
The 21-year-old Hintz is coming off a solid rookie season with the Texas Stars of the AHL, ranking second on the team in goals (20), fifth in points (35), and second in shots on goal (153) in 70 games played. He tallied another 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 22 games as Texas advanced to the Calder Cup Finals, losing in seven games to the Toronto Marlies.
It was a strong showing for Hintz in his first season in North America. He had to adapt to a different game while adjusting to life in a new country.
"My first year was a good experience," Hintz said. "Biggest thing was the game speed, smaller rink and guys finish their checks all game more than what we have [in Finland]."
As for living in Texas, Hintz said he adjusted well. He enjoyed the warmer weather in Cedar Park. And he made sure there was a taste of home as well.
"Those foods that I eat back home, I try to make on my own," he said. "And sometimes I'd go out."
Video: Hintz nets power-play goal
The Stars saw big strides in Hintz's play last season, improving on the small details in his game, playing through traffic and playing through hits. That was evident during the playoffs when the intensity of play ramped up.
It's been noticeable in Traverse City as well.
"He's really starting to learn how to play through the hard times of the game and push himself in those hard areas," Laxdal said.
The prospect tournament is a great opportunity for Hintz to get up and running before Dallas opens training camp later this week in Boise, Idaho and he tries to push for a roster spot. He knows he is right there and close to making the NHL. Of course, there is no guarantee.
"Yeah, I am ready to do the work to do everything I can to take a spot," he said.
And those who know Hintz well believe he's poised to make the best of the opportunity.
"He is big, strong, can skate and can shoot the puck like an NHLer, pass like an NHLer," said Laxdal. "He's only going to get better once he goes to main camp, and nothing against the guys that are here, but once he starts playing with NHL players, I think you'll really start to see his game pick up and be able to play at that pace."
Heiskanen, Robertson shine in shootout loss
Miro Heiskanen and Jason Robertson both scored two goals, but the Dallas Stars fell, 5-4, in a shootout Monday at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City. The Stars are 1-1-1 at the tournament and will play for fifth place Tuesday.
Robertson scored off a rebound on a power play to stake the Stars to a 1-0 lead 15:20 into the first period. The Wild scored on a five-on-three advantage with 52.1 seconds left in the first to tie the game and then tallied twice in the second to take a 3-1 lead into the third.
Robertson cut the lead to one with a breakaway goal at 3:42 of the third to make it a 3-2 game. Heiskanen scored off a backhand shot to tie the game 3-3 at the 11:25 mark and then tallied on a blast from the point to put the Stars up 4-3 at 16:41 remaining.
But the Wild scored late with an extra attacker on the ice to tie the game and force overtime where the Stars had great chances by Robertson, Adam Mascherin, and Joel L'Esperance but couldn't get the winner. The Wild scored the only two goals of the shootout and will play for third place at the tournament on Tuesday.
Ben Gleason had three assists, Roope Hintz had two assists, and Colton Point stopped 23 shots for the Stars who outshot Minnesota 43-27.
"I thought we played well in the second half of that game. We led in the shots, 43-, 27 and their goaltender played well obviously," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who is coaching the Dallas prospects. "As the game went along we got better. I had to challenge the boys a little bit after the second period. We had 10 guys driving the bus, and we needed all 20 guys driving the bus. I thought the third period showed that the guys cared. I thought we deserved a little bit better with the shot clock and the effort."
Adam Mascherin - Roope Hintz - (C) - Jason Robertson
Nick Caamano - Ty Dellandrea - Tony Calderone (A)
Jermaine Loewen - James Phelan - Joel L'Esperance (A)
Sam Laberge - Brett Davis - Liam Hawel
Miro Heiskanen - Niklas Hansson
Ondrej Vala - Ben Gleason
Adam McCormick - Jakob Stenqvist
Scratched: John Nyberg (D), Dawson Barteaux (D), Riley Damiani (F), Curtis Douglas (F)
Photo credit: 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.