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'It's so special': Heiskanen impressing with calm, skill on biggest stage

Unfazed by postseason pressure, the 19-year-old rookie continues to showcase his All-Star talent

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It seems only the NHL can stop Miro Heiskanen.

The league on Thursday announced that the rookie defenseman scored just one goal in his playoff debut, officially handing one of the Stars' three goals in a Game 1 victory over Nashville to Alexander Radulov, with a deflection of a Heiskanen shot.

But while that scoring change takes Heiskanen out of the small group of teenagers who have scored twice in a playoff game, it does nothing to dent the opinion of the 19-year-old in the eyes of his peers.

 

[HEADS UP: After taking massive hit from Nashville's Brian Boyle in Game 1, Jason Dickinson says he's learned his lesson]

 

"My 19-year-old year when it was April, I was drinking beers in my frat basement," said defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "What he is doing is just incredible … it's so special. He is so good, it is just such a pleasure to watch him play and to be on his team."

Lovejoy is 35 and a veteran of 64 playoff games. He was a member of the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He's seen a lot in this league. And yet, Heiskanen is something special, he said.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm1: Heiskanen's shot deflects in for PPG

Asked if Heiskanen's aura is possibly helped by an innate calmness, Lovejoy said: "It's more than that because he can skate really fast and handle pucks. ... The original move to get himself open on that first goal, with that fake, that was just incredible. He's just so special, we're lucky we have him."

Heiskanen on the first goal, faked a pass to the other point on the power play, stopped, turned, and then snapped a shot on net that sailed through. It was huge, because it tied the game. It was huge, because the first power-play unit was struggling. It was just huge.

"What a game," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "The kid comes to play every night, prepares like a true professional, and approaches the game like a true professional. Played a pretty damn good game tonight."

Heiskanen still is learning English, so his answers are pretty basic, but teammates say he also is pretty simple in his approach. He really does just try to "play his game," as he likes to say. And he really doesn't let things bother him.

Asked about Heiskanen and fellow rookie Roope Hintz, who had six shots on goal Wednesday, Jason Dickinson said both were calm.

Video: Heiskanen relishing historic first playoff experience

"It looked like we were playing a regular-season game, it didn't seem to faze them," Dickinson said. "That's important. Both of them have a great mentality on hockey and life, and being very even-keeled. They don't get too high and they don't get to low, and that's going to favor them going on."

Heiskanen has top-end talent, as well. He was taken third overall in 2017 and played for Finland in the World Junior Championship, the Olympics and the World Championships last season. He was voted best defenseman in the Finnish Elite League as an 18-year-old.

As coach Jim Montgomery has said: "Special is special."

"I guess I would say I'm not surprised anymore, but it's truly impressive," said goalie Ben Bishop. "He plays like he's been in the league for 10 years. He just goes about his business quietly and efficiently.

"Like I've said before, this guy's going to be a star in this league for a long time."

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm1: Radulov crashes net, puts Stars ahead

Heiskanen is expected to be in the mix for Rookie of the Year, but likely won't win. Yet, he leads all rookies in total time on ice by 150 minutes and ranks 17th in the league among defensemen for total playing time. He has been crucial in helping the Stars get to the playoffs, and teammates have stopped being surprised by anything he does.

"We all know how good he is," said John Klingberg.

And even more so after he put together a pretty historic performance in his first ever playoff game, tallying a goal and an assist in 23:24 of ice time.

"He's not a 'rah-rah' guy. He just puts his head down and his boots on and goes to work," Bishop said.

"That's what the playoffs are about: Some guys who aren't recognized in the regular season get a little bit more press, and he's definitely deserving of it."

For complete postseason coverage, visit Stars Playoff Central.

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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