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Prospect tournament begins adjustment for Roope Hintz

The forward starts acclimation to North American game as Stars prospects open play in Traverse City

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Stars forward Roope Hintz will make the jump from Europe to North America this season, and the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan is giving him a head start on the adjustment process.

Hintz, a second-round pick (49th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, centered the first line as Stars prospects opened the Traverse City tournament Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was a taste of the game on the smaller North American rink for Hintz.

"Pretty fast," Hintz said. "It was hard. Lots of hits and lots of pucks to the net. You have to be faster to pass and every little thing that you do, the decisions, have to be quicker. The rink is smaller, so you can shoot from wherever."

The 20-year-old Hintz had one assist, one shot and an even rating in a game that the Stars lost 7-2. He played primarily on a line with Denis Gurianov and Nick Caamano on his wings.

"This tournament is going to be great for him to make the transition into training camp," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who is coaching Dallas prospects in Traverse City.

"Instead of having four or five days of training camp to get used to it, he'll be used to it here."

Hintz got a head start on transitioning to North America a few years back. When he was 15 years old, Hintz spent five months playing in North America, suiting up for 20 games with the Tampa Bay Juniors of the Empire Junior Hockey League and two games with Bismarck of the North American Hockey League.

"There were two things. First was to learn some English. The other was there was a very good skating coach," Hintz said. "The agent that I had then said it was good to go there. It was [a good experience]."

The speedy, skilled Hintz is coming off an impressive season in Finland's top league. Despite missing the first 11 games of the season, he put 30 up points (19 goals, 11 assists) in 44 games for HIFK, tying for ninth in the league in goals. He led the league in playoff scoring with 14 points (three goals, eleven assists) in 14 games as HIFK advanced to the league semifinals.

Hintz, is who is considered one of Dallas' top prospects, is expected to start the season with the Texas Stars of the AHL and isn't that far from being ready for the NHL.

"He's a big, heavy guy who skates well," Laxdal said. "He just needs a few more games to find his way in the North American style."

Stars fall 7-2 in tournament opener

Stars prospects opened the tournament with a 7-2 loss to Columbus on Friday at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City. The Stars fell behind 2-0 early in the first, were down 3-1 after two periods and never got on track in the game.

"We had some breakdowns on the goals, and they had a bounce or two early," said coach Derek Laxdal. "You could see some plays leading up to the goals where we had some turnovers that ended up in our net, and we ended up chasing the game."

Niklas Hansson and Nick Caamano scored the Dallas goals. Hansson skated into the high slot and roofed a shot with the Stars on a five-on-three power play to cut the Columbus lead to 2-1 in the first period. Caamano scored off a backhand shot in the second to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2. Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, and Shane Hanna all had assists. Goaltender Landon Bow, who didn't get a lot of help at times, stopped 21 of 27 shots. The Stars also surrendered one empty net goal.

"I'd expect Bow to be a little stronger," Laxdal said. "A couple of goals in the second I thought he could be a little stronger on. He was deep in his net. But we didn't have a really veteran team out here, and they had a couple of guys that played in the American League last year. Our group just looked really young. The message was you've got to compete a little harder, you've got to be a little harder on pucks and the battles, and you've got to be ready to reset tomorrow."

The Stars prospects play St. Louis Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. Click here for full coverage and streaming information.

Notes: Heiskanen update

* Stars defense prospect Miro Heiskanen, the team's first round pick (third overall) in this summer's draft, will fly to North America Sunday. Heiskanen was held out of the prospect tournament in Traverse City after taking an elbow to the head during a Champions Hockey League game in Europe earlier this month. Stars GM Jim Nill said Heiskanen appears fine.

"He took nine stitches, took an elbow to the head. We just wanted to be precautionary," Nill said. "They didn't know if he had a concussion or not. The minute you think you do, you go into the protocol. We just said it's not worth [bringing him over for the tournament], especially with the travel. We just said let's give it another week."

Nill said Heiskanen is expected to depart Europe for North America on Sunday.

* Defenseman Gavin Bayreuther wore the "C" for Stars prospects in Friday's tournament opener. Forward Denis Gurianov and defenseman Chris Martenet both wore the "A."

* Stars management is well represented at the tournament at Traverse City. Owner Tom Gaglardi and team president Jim Lites are on hand to watch the prospects play. Stars GM Jim Nill, assistant GMs Scott White and Mark Janko and special advisor to the GM Les Jackson are in Traverse City along with Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock and assistants Rick Wilson, Stu Barnes and Curt Fraser. Several of the team's scouts are in Michigan as well.

* Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal is coaching the Dallas prospects. Also on the coaching staff are Texas assistant coach Karl Taylor and Idaho head coach Neil Graham. Dallas player development coordinators J.J. McQueen and Rich Peverley, and goaltending development coach Jim Bedard are working with players as well. 

Stars Lineup

Nick Caamano - Roope Hintz - Denis Gurianov

Jason Robertson - Sheldon Dries - Brett Davis

Samuel Laberge - Max French - Vince Loschiavo

Zach Roberts - Tomas Soustal - Shaw Boomhower

Gavin Bayreuther - John Nyberg

Shane Hanna - Niklas Hansson

Chris Martenet - Ondrej Vala

Landon Bow

Jeremy Brodeur

Scratched: Eric Sweetman, Cole Tymkin

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.

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