You’ve probably already heard of Dallas Stars forward Mats Zuccarello. Even if you’re not reading this piece, you still will have heard of linemate Roope Hintz by the time these playoffs are done. Combined with Jason Dickinson, that second line scored seven points in Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, leading to a 4-2 victory and 1-1 series tie.
Dickinson Gets His Shot
While Dickinson may not be a household name outside of Dallas, he hasn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. He’s actually been in the organization since 2013, when he was selected 29th overall in the NHL Entry Draft. So, he does have first-round skill. It’s just this season he’s played over 12 minutes per game and has been given a chance to stick around, though.
Dickinson responded with 22 points in 67 games in the regular season, which are admittedly far from eye-opening numbers. The chemistry he and Hintz have shown with Zuccarello has really come to fruition during the playoffs, though. With his two assists in Game 2 against the Blues, Dickinson has four points (two goals) overall.
Meanwhile, Zuccarello has looked like a perfect fit with the Stars in the games he’s got in since being acquired at the trade deadline. He scored three points in two regular-season games and now has six points in the playoffs. Most recently though, it’s been Hintz who has been stealing the show.
Hintz Steals Heiskanen’s Spotlight
After a two-goal performance against the Blues in Game 2, Hintz’s seven points (four goals) trail only Jamie Benn’s eight for the team lead. It was the 2015 second-round pick’s assist on fellow-rookie (and Finn) Miro Heiskanen’s second goal this postseason everyone is talking about, though. On the play, Hintz passed the puck through Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson into the slot and onto Heiskanen’s stick for the beautiful marker and 2-0 lead.
If anything, it was a statement play for both Hintz and Heiskanen. After all, the Finnish defender did manage to get the upper hand on Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who just beat Heiskanen out for one of the three finalist spots for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Nevertheless, in spite of Heiskanen’s inspired play at both ends of the ice these playoffs, Hintz is now the league’s leading rookie scorer, with a total 28 skaters having suited up these playoffs. Over half of those are still playing, four specifically in this series (Hintz, Heiskanen, Binnington and Blues forward Robert Thomas).
The overall list also includes such high-profile names as Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar. So, even though the factoid represents just a snapshot of an ongoing postseason that can still play out any which way, it’s impressive all the same and speaks to Hintz’s value to the Stars.
Hintz Earns Stars’ No. 2 Center Spot
For example, Hintz can play both wing and center. If it hadn’t yet though, his performance these playoffs seems to have cemented his spot both in the lineup and as its second-line pivot moving forward. It says a lot, seeing as both Zuccarello and Dickinson can play center too.
Zuccarello may be the veteran presence on the line that gives it scoring credibility, but there are no guarantees the unrestricted free agent sticks around past the summer. So, Hintz, who’s just 22 and still on his entry-level deal, could end up being the most valuable player of the three into the long term for the Stars. Based on these playoffs, there are far worse outcomes.
Re-signing Zuccarello may seem like an easy decision, but there are other factors to consider, namely how, under similar circumstances, the Jason Spezza signing hasn’t worked out for either party. In any case, any lineup with a Spezza on its fourth line is one to be feared and one that can give the Blues’ renowned depth a run for its money. It’s the found-money success of the second line of Hintz, Zuccarello and Dickinson that makes it happen.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.