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'He knows he belongs here': Hintz making case to stick with Stars

With confidence growing, the rookie forward is finding his stride in Dallas

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Stars forward Roope Hintz has been part of six transactions this season, sent down to the AHL three times and recalled three times. Stars coach Jim Montgomery doesn't see Hintz heading back to the AHL anymore.

Hintz, the 22-year-old rookie, seems to have found his stride at the NHL level.

"I think it is confidence. He is a confident player that he knows he belongs here," Montgomery said after Tuesday night's game against Nashville.

"I don't think you'll be seeing him go down anymore. That's my own personal opinion. I can't see it because he's just playing like he not only belongs in the league, but that he's an impact player right now."

 

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Hintz, who has three goals and six assists in 35 games this season, has been a regular in the Dallas lineup for the last 21 games. He's starting to use his size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and speed effectively, and he's started to chip in offensively recently, recording points in four of the last seven games.

"I am trying to work every day, hard. I am trying to get better every day," Hintz said. "I think now I am more used to the game. It comes when you play more, so I think it is getting better all the time."

Video: NSH@DAL: Seguin goes top shelf to beat Rinne

In the Feb. 4 game against Arizona, Hintz redirected a Jason Spezza pass into the net for his first NHL power-play goal. In last week's game at Florida, he made a slick pass off the rush that Tyler Seguin redirected into the net for Dallas' first goal of the game. Tuesday night, he put a shot on net off the rush, grabbed the rebound and circled the net and set up Seguin, who scored from the right circle.

"He's just someone who's adding to our being a more dynamic offensive team, and he's very responsible defensively," Montgomery said. "His speed and his strength on pucks right now is very impressive."

Hintz logged 17:26 of ice time Tuesday, matching his season-high which he recorded in the Oct. 19 game against Minnesota. In both cases, he got a top-six role. Recently, he's played the top six three of the last four games, lining up on the left wing with Seguin and Alexander Radulov. For Hintz, the role may change, but he stays the course.

"I don't try to change anything," Hintz said. "I just try to play my game every night same way."

Seguin said the speedy Hintz may need to make a change here and there, perhaps tapping the brakes now and then.

"I actually had to tell him halfway through the first to slow down a little bit," Seguin said after last week's game at Florida. "He was so fast. I'm not even kidding. When he goes, he goes. I feel like I am a quick player, but he is so fast. I told him he might have a little more patience. I felt I was like (Jaromir) Jagr telling me as a kid to slow down out there. But it's funny, he can fly, and he's going to be a heck of a player for a long time."

Video: ARI@DAL: Hintz redirects Spezza's pass past Kuemper

This is the second season in North America for Hintz, whom the Stars drafted in the second round (49th overall) out of Finland's top league in the 2015 NHL Draft. After a solid campaign with the Texas Stars last season, he came into the Dallas' training camp in September with a strong shot at a roster spot. An impressive showing late in the preseason helped earn him that spot, but two weeks into the season he was on his way back to the AHL. A month later, he was back up in the NHL, and then three weeks later, it was back to the AHL.

Both times he went down to Cedar Park, he made the most of the opportunity. During the first assignment, he put up 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in nine games. During the second one, he tallied eight points (four goals, four assists) in eight games.

"When I went down, I just tried to use my skills and get confidence with the puck," Hintz said.

Since being recalled to the NHL on Dec. 29, Hintz has been a regular in the Dallas lineup. He went briefly to the AHL during Dallas' bye week and the NHL All-Star break but was back up as soon as Dallas resumed playing. And if Montgomery is correct, Hintz is staying put.

"He's just got to keep it going," Montgomery said. "He just can't get satisfied."

"That's what I am working every day for," Hintz said. "That's what I want to be, everyday player in the NHL."

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.

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