Roope Hintz — The X-Factor

Hintz improved greatly during the 2018-19 season and was a huge factor for the team down the stretch and in the playoffs. Just how big was his turnaround and what are the expectations for him this coming season?

One of the best evolutions the Dallas Stars saw to improve their roster this past season was the emergence of Roope Hintz 2.0. The young Finnish forward found another gear that helped propel a struggling Stars forwards corps into the postseason and deep into the second round against the eventual Stanley Cup winners. Hintz was noticeably one of the most improved players on the roster and at the tail-end of the season it became evident that he was poised to be a difference maker in the team’s top-six. If, at the beginning of the season, you would have told me that Hintz would be one of the league’s most improved forwards and would lead the team in postseason goals, I would have been (joyfully) shocked.

Hintz started the season with the Stars on opening night against the Arizona Coyotes. He played on the fourth line and logged nine minutes of ice time, registered zero points and only one shot. His next five games in the NHL weren’t much better. He registered goose eggs for goals and assists and only seven shots within that timespan. It was after that five-game stint that he was sent to the Texas Stars. Hintz was recalled a month later on November 21, but was sent back down just two weeks later. It was at this time that fantasy sites like Rotoworld were telling people “the 22-year-old winger should not be owned in any fantasy leagues.” Ouch.

The Evolution of Roope Hintz

But all of that started to change in 2019. In fact, Hintz was one of the most improved forwards in the entire league after February. Whenever something passes the eye test for me, I’m always eager to dig into the numbers to see what will show for it — and that’s exactly what I did. Below is a list of 294 forwards who played at least 300 minutes before and after February 1. Feel free to interact with the chart to see how Hintz compares to the rest of the league:

Hintz’s points per hour went from .92 to 2.09 after February. That increase of 127% was the sixth best out of 294 forwards. His production increase rate of 1.17 points per hour was also good for 15th best out of all eligible forwards. Plain and simple, Hintz’s scoring was one of the most improved in the league. Let that sink in for a moment. From no points and minimal shots at the start of the season to one of the most improved forwards throughout the NHL is not only great for Hintz’s career, but also bodes well for the Stars going forward.

2019-20 Expectations

Hintz will no doubt be an x-factor going into the 2019-20 season. The Stars added a core piece to the top-six with Joe Pavelski, and a scoring threat to the depth with Corey Perry. In the pipeline, the Stars could also see production from players like Denis Gurianov or Jason Robertson. Hintz has solidified his spot in the top-six despite the rough start to the 2018-19 season and his points are going to be welcomed. His flexibility at left wing and center is a great asset that will allow a lot of different combinations in the top lines. I think it’s likely he will start the season on the second line at center with Pavelski on his right side, which could mature into a very productive duo. Hintz has the speed to open up the defense and allow Pavelski to linger around the net and slot for opportunities. Adding in another speedy winger to help funnel shots to the net for Pavelski to clean up could make for a very productive line.

The Dallas Stars haven’t had five forwards score 45 or more points in a season since the 2010-11 season (Jamie Benn 56, Brenden Morrow 56, Mike Riberio 71, Loui Eriksson 73, Brad Richards 77). I believe the Stars can break that slump in 2019-20 with Benn, Radulov, Seguin, Pavelski, and Hintz. Hintz would be the biggest question mark out of the group. However, if we look at other players who have scored at a pace of 2.15 points per hour, we see those players usually end up in the 40-50 point range. Some examples of players around the league who scored at a 2.0-2.2 points per hour pace were Anders Lee (51), Max Pacioretty (40), William Karlsson (56), and Colin White (41). Hintz scored at a pace of 2.3 points per 60 minutes in the playoffs and a 2.1 pace in the final three months of the season. If he were to maintain a pace of 2.15 points per 60 through the season, it is very likely that Hintz can hit the 45-point mark and help propel the Stars into the postseason again in 2020.