[Editor’s Note: Patrik Bexell is a European correspondent for Habs Eyes On The Prize, and recently interviewed the Dallas Stars’ 3rd overall draft pick Miro Heiskanen in Finland. The story presented here is part 1 of 2 that he’s graciously written for your enjoyment and only lightly edited for clarity.]
One thing that strikes me is that Mr. Ari Pekka Selin, coach of HIFK, can't stop smiling when he speaks about Miro Heiskanen. When asked about Heiskanen’s development chances for this season, Coach Selin is quick to point out that Dallas will have to decide what will happen with the season since Heiskanen will go over and be part of training camp with the Dallas Stars — even if it means that HIFK will be without their young defender for some games during the season.
It's a difficult situation, but something European clubs are used to working around.
"Miko is so smart [and he smiles even wider] and a good skater. I think that he will be a surprise for Dallas too. That is of course my opinion. We hope that he will come back but let’s wait and see what will happen."
Selin coached Barys Astana in the KHL and the Kazakstan Ice Hockey Team before coaching TPS in Liiga the last two seasons. He has seen quite a few players in his time as a coach and it is clear that Miro Heiskanen stands out for a coach that experienced. He doesn't shy away when he says "Heiskanen is the defender that Finland has lacked the last ten-twenty years".
It's a bold statement that is tough to live up to, and it remains to be seen if Coach Selin is right in his statement. Coach Selin continues, "It was so surprising because Heiskanen came up so quick last season. He is born ‘99 and sometimes its tough to remember that he is only 18 years old. He is not a normal Finnish defender, he is more in the Niklas Lidström mold. He is a smart, puck moving defender that never sets his skate wrong. He has a great future that’s for sure, I am certain of it.”
Coach Selin cannot point to any real weakness when it comes to Miro Heiskanen's game. “His conditioning is great now, he just has to bulk up a few more kilos and he will be set for the NHL.”