Roope Hintz was arguably the Dallas Stars’ best player in 2021. His speed and skill were noticeable on a nightly basis on his way to being a point-per-game contributor. He finished the season with 43 points in 41 games playing on the top line alongside Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson. Oh, did I forget to mention that he did all of this playing through an extreme groin injury?
Going into the season, Hintz believed that he had fully recovered from his lower-body injury suffered in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. However, it quickly became apparent that the injury was worse than he thought. General manager Jim Nill announced that Hintz would be a game-time decision for the rest of the season, playing through the injury. That stood true as it was unknown each night whether he would play until pregame warm-ups began. When in the lineup, he showed no signs of his ailment flying up and down the ice controlling play. He showed his toughness night in and night out, determined to help his team win and battle for the final playoff spot in the division.
“In a normal season, he probably wouldn’t be playing,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said of the fact Hintz would’ve had a surgical repair at the beginning of the season, rehabbed, and then come back for the end. “We would’ve been able to get it fixed, but we haven’t because of the shortened season.”
He found instant chemistry when placed on a line with Pavelski and Robertson as they carried the load of the Stars’ offense in pursuit of a playoff spot. The three of them combined for consistent success and some highlight-reel goals ending the season as the top scorers on the team, and not by a close margin. Hintz averaged 18:41 of ice time despite the injury and was key to just about every part of the game.
As Stars fans have grown accustomed to, he was frequently seen streaking through the middle of the defense and beating goalies on the breakaway. Perhaps his best play of the season came in the closing minutes of the Stars’ first victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning since Game 5 of the 2020 Final.
His stats showed just how much of an impact he had on every game for Dallas. He carried a 49.3% rate on faceoffs, was a plus-13 on the season, and had a 57.% Corsi-for rate (showing that Dallas consistently controlled the puck more when he was on the ice). Hintz has also continued to develop his defensive game as well, molding himself into a true number-one center.
“He’s made so many leaps and bounds since he first came into Dallas, and now he’s one of the most underrated players in the NHL,” forward Blake Comeau said earlier in the season. “The way that he skates, his big body, he can shoot, he’s got great vision, great IQ, he’s very responsible defensively. When he’s out of the lineup, it’s a huge loss for us. When he’s in the lineup, it makes us a better team.”
Hintz was nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication on and off the ice. He underwent surgery to repair his groin last week and is expected to be fully healthy when training camp begins in September. There is no telling how high his potential ceiling can be when playing at 100%, as he has only continued to grow in his young career.
“He’s a tough kid,” said forward Andrew Cogliano. “He’s one of those Finnish kids. They work hard, they play hard, and he’s one of those guys. It’s commendable to him. It speaks to the character and who he is as a person and a player.”
Hintz will continue to develop, and the Stars are looking for another breakout season from him in 2021-2022.
Overall Grade: A
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!