It's been an exciting couple of weeks for Miro Heiskanen. The Stars selected the 17-year-old Finnish defenseman with the third overall pick late last month at the NHL Draft in Chicago. He made his first trip to Texas this week for Stars development camp. And on Saturday, he signed his first NHL contract, a three-year, entry-level deal with the Stars.
"I am really excited," Heiskanen said. "It's a big day for me."
And the Stars are excited about the slick skating Heiskanen, who played in Finland's top league last season and was considered the top defenseman in this year's draft.
"He's a great young player. He was a player our scouts were watching all year, the last couple of years," Stars GM Jim Nill said. "I was able to go to the Under-18 World Championships and see him. He was arguably one of the best players over there and maybe the best defenseman. He's what you are looking for in an NHL defenseman. He can skate, he can move the puck. He's a guy that is never under pressure; the game looks awful easy to him. We're excited that he is part of our future. I think he really helps moving our defense moving forward."
A lot of people took notice of Heiskanen after that performance at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship, where he tallied 12 points (two goals, ten assists) in seven games as Finland took home a silver medal. He was strong in the Finnish Elite League as well, logging almost 19 minutes per game for HIFK and recording ten points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games. One of his teammates was Stars prospect Roope Hintz, the highly regarded second-round pick from 2015.
"He's very good people, very good guy and very good on the ice," Hintz said. "He's a very good skater, and he can play with the puck. And he has it here (pointing to his head) also."
All of that strong play and those attributes added up to Heiskanen going third overall in the draft.
"I didn't know where I was going, but it's nice to be third overall," Heiskanen said. "It's an amazing feeling, and now I have to work as hard as I can and play in the NHL as soon as possible."
The Stars will give Heiskanen a look this September. Nill said Heiskanen will come back to North America to play at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan and then attend Dallas Stars training camp. If Heiskanen can't crack the NHL lineup, then he'll likely go back to Finland.
"I want to see him in camp. He's a very young player still. Sometimes you can get ahead of yourself in this game. He is still only 17-years-old," Nill said. "My preference is if he isn't making the Dallas Stars he is probably going to go back to Finland for one more year. That's the best thing for him. Let's just see where he's at. I don't want to make any promises either way. He understands that. We've had a good talk with his representatives and him. He knows where we stand. In the end, a player's play will dictate where he ends up. He's either going to be here in Dallas or what I think is probably back in Finland."
For now, Heiskanen is getting his taste of Dallas Stars development camp and his first experience in Texas.
"It's been really great," Heiskanen said. "It's a really hot place, a lot hotter than Finland. I like it here."
*Stars GM Jim Nill is still working on his contracts for restricted free agents. He said he hopes to have the deal for center Radek Faksa done in the "next week or so."
*Nill confirmed that Jim Bedard will be joining the organization to work with goaltenders in the system. The longtime goaltending coach with the Detroit Red Wings will primarily be working with the goalies in the AHL.
"Jim Bedard will be down in Austin with our team. He'll be down there 80 percent of the time," Nill said. "He's going to be working with our minor league team, the goaltending. He's going to be going to North America and Europe scouting our goalies too. We're excited about Jim. I worked with Jim in Detroit for many, many years. He's been in this game a long time and done a great job developing young goalies."
Bedard was on the ice Saturday working with goaltenders at development camp.
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.