Hintz has already played in three preseason games and although he missed a tournament game over the weekend with what appears to be a minor issue, he is way ahead of where he was one year ago.
Last summer, Hintz hurt his back while working out and missed all of HIFK's training camp and the first two months of the season. He didn't return until late October, sitting out the first 16 games.
"It was five months injured," Hintz said. "That was a lot."
Despite missing the extended time, Hintz put together a strong 2015-16 season. He helped HIFK advance to the league championship series and was a key member of the Finnish team that won a gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship.
"When he came back It didn't look like he missed a game," said Stars scout Rickard Oquist. "He was really good, and he was really good all the way through the season."
The Stars drafted Hintz in the second round (49th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft. The Stars, who had him ranked in their top 20 heading into the draft, like Hintz's size (6-3/203), speed and skill.
"We are really excited about him," said Oquist. "When he gets the puck in the neutral zone and comes with speed, he is tough to stop."
Hintz, a left-shot who can line up at center or wing, played 33 regular season games for HIFK last season, registering 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) and a plus-15 rating. HIFK, which finished with the best record in the league, advanced to the championship series in the playoffs before losing to Tappara in six games. Hintz finished with 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) and a plus-2 rating in 18 playoff games.
"Very impressive player. He plays with speed and skill," said Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. "He had a good year with the elite team in Finland."
Hintz also had a good showing on the international stage, helping Finland win a gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship in Helsinki. He recorded 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) in 7 games.
"He was very good," said Joe McDonnell, Stars director of amateur scouting. "He is just one of those kids who is big, can skate and he can drive in off the wing. He just looks like a hockey player."
It was Hintz's second time playing in the World Juniors. In 2015, Finland lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals and missed out on a medal. This time around it was a much different story.
"It was amazing [to win the gold medal]. And it was played in Finland," Hintz said. "It's very good to see how good you are in your age and the tournament. And it shows how strong your team is, and we had a very strong team."
The 19-year-old will play with HIFK in Finland's top league this season, and he expects the team to be strong again, putting it in position to compete for the league championship.
"I think we have a very good team this year," Hintz said. "We got a couple good people in and I think we will be same as last year."
Expectations are high for Hintz as well. And after he completes this season in Finland, there's a good chance he'll be ready to make the jump to North America.
"He has a really good foundation in his game. It will be interesting to see how he goes this year and where he gets to," Jackson said. "He is not far from going to the American League. This kid has a really good upside."
Notes: Tufte breaks wrist at U.S. evaluation camp
*Stars 2016 first-round pick Riley Tufte suffered a broken wrist at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Michigan earlier this month. The time frame at the time of the injury was put at 6-8 weeks, according to the Duluth News Tribune. That means Tufte should be ready when his team - the University of Minnesota Duluth - opens its season in early October. Tufte was injured in a collision in a game between the U.S. and Sweden at the camp, which is the first step in helping select teams for the 2017 World Junior Championship. Tufte played two games for Team USA at the camp before the injury and registered one assist. He will continue to be in the mix for a spot on the USA World Junior team.
*Dallas defense prospect Joseph Cecconi played four games for Team USA at the evaluation camp and registered one assist. Cecconi, a fifth-round pick in 2015, survived a round of cuts and was among the final 32 players on the USA roster at the camp for the final four days. The 19-year-old defensive defenseman will be a sophomore at the University of Michigan this season.
*Dallas goaltending prospect Markus Ruusu was also at the camp in Michigan as part of the Finnish national junior team. He was one of two goaltenders on Finland's roster. Ruusu, a sixth-round pick in 2015, played one game, allowing eight goals on 32 shots in an 8-2 loss to the United States. Ruusu will play in Finland this season.
NHL Prospect Tournament
Stars prospects will play at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan from Sept. 16-20. The Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers will also participate at the annual tournament.
Here is the Stars schedule, according to the Centre Ice Arena website:
Fri, Sept. 16: vs. Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. (CT)
Sat, Sept. 17: vs. NY Rangers, 2:30 p.m. (CT)
Mon, Sept. 19: vs. Carolina, 5:30 p.m. (CT)
Tue, Sept. 20: TBD
Dallas' roster for the tournament will be released at a later time.
This story was not subject to the 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.