[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 2 of 2 that he’s graciously written for your enjoyment and only lightly edited for clarity. You can enjoy part 1 here if you missed it.]
Miro Heiskanen is the last player off the ice at HIFK's practice arena. He wanted to work on some skills but he is also the youngest guy on the team and he still has to collect the pucks off the ice after practice.
There is no chance of missing how popular he is. A group of fans has stayed after practice and he greets them kindly, posing for pictures and signing some autographs before he stops for the interview. While he has had a busy summer, he seems happy to be in full hockey gear getting ready for a new season.
"I feels pretty good, we had a good practice today [Monday] and last week we had a couple of good practices. I think it feels pretty good.”
It was a long season last year, made longer with the draft and the Stars’ rookie development camp in Dallas. "It was different, you go to the United States and that’s very different [to start with], but I think the biggest thing is that smaller rink. I think it is a little bit faster game there but... I don't know... I think its pretty similar things.”
Heiskanen had a standout tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden, last season with the Finnish U20 team where in front of scouts from all NHL teams, he never set a foot wrong. He drew comparisons to Niklas Lidström rather than newer mobile players like Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Heiskanen agrees that he sees similarities, but remains humble about where he is today. "They are really good guys” and he believes he has a lot of practice to do before he is at their level of play. He does, however, agree that you can see similarities in the style of play with the former Detroit Redwing defender.
"I want to be, every day, a better and better player so I have to practice real hard. As for the World Juniors we have to play better than last year. I want to be a better player every time [I am on the ice].”
The question that always looms over an early pick in the NHL draft is when to go over. Some players have stayed an extra year to mature in familiar surroundings — Mats Sundin, Sebastian Aho, and John Klingberg are good examples — others decide to make an impact directly as was visible last season with Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.
Heiskanen has his own idea of what path he’ll take. "Yes, I think it might be really good to play one more year here [in Liiga]. To have a good season here. There are more games in NHL, that means I can practice here really good [to build up my body].”
Speaking about bulking up, Heiskanen has put his effort into the gym this summer. "I am currently at 84kg," Heiskanen confirms trying to do the conversion to pounds in his head. "Of course I need to get stronger, that’s the biggest thing I need to do.” [For those wondering, that’s about 185 pounds. Don’t worry Miro - we had to find a conversion calculator to do the math too.]
The next time the fans in Dallas will see Miro Heiskanen is during training camp, and it remains to be seen if he stays the full season with the Dallas Stars or if he returns to HIFK and Liiga.
You can hear the full interview here; (including me failing to say Heiskanen a couple of times...)