Miro Heiskanen is a future Norris Trophy (best defenseman) winning defenseman. That has been clear since he joined the Dallas Stars as a 19-year-old in 2018. Now, at 22 years old, he is showing that he might just be ready to accept that trophy this season.
Heiskanen Can Do It All
To win the Norris Trophy, a defenseman must be able to impact every part of the game. They need to contribute offense, boost special teams, and most importantly, maintain an elite level of defending all over the ice. Heiskanen provides each of these and more for the Dallas Stars.
On defense, Heiskanen uses his elite speed and hockey IQ to break up passes, pressure opponents, and eliminate scoring chances. Once he possesses the puck, he has the vision and playmaking ability to help his team transition from their own zone efficiently. On the offensive end, his skating allows him to move freely throughout the zone, creating plays for himself and his teammates. Finally, he plays a significant role for the Stars on the penalty kill, power play, overtime, and more.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that he plays nearly 30 minutes on a nightly basis, ranking him 10th in the league for average ice time among active defensemen. Even more impressive, he has only missed three games in his young career, playing in 211 of the Stars’ 214 total games since 2018. He has also played in all 40 playoff games and recorded 26 points in 27 games during the Stars’ run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. This run was not only impressive but vital for Heiskanen to gain league-wide attention after flying under the radar for two seasons. Although he was a well-kept secret (in the smaller Dallas market) early on in his career, he has been a dominant force every step of the way.
“Miro was outstanding; he’s just dominant out there. Miro had a great training camp, and it’s carried into the regular season. It really has. He’s just dominant out there. He played 29 minutes, and it’s effortless. He’s been amazing. Good for him. We need him like that.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness following the Stars home opener on Friday
Not only does Heiskanen do it all, but he does so at a very young age. With his goal on Friday night, he became the youngest player in franchise history to record their 100th career point. He also accomplished this milestone in just 210 career regular-season games, the fourth-fewest in franchise history.
2020-21 Season Outlook for Heiskanen
It was a huge weight off his shoulders when Heiskanen signed an eight-year, $67.6 million contract extension this summer. Now, with a long-term deal in place, he has been able to focus solely on his team and playing the best hockey possible for Dallas.
“I wanted to be part of the Stars, and now I can be part for a long time, so of course it’s a great feeling. I didn’t have to think about that too much anymore. It’s nice to be here for a long time. Love the city, love the organization. It’s great.”– Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen
After a successful training camp and preseason, Heiskanen has continued his dominance early in the regular season. Through the first seven games, he has two goals and five assists, a point-per-game pace. He has been all over the ice and a dominant force in all aspects of the game. For the Stars and their fans, this may be the most noticeable he has been since coming into the league.
“Oh, Miro…Classic Miro…Standard. 29:07, one goal, two assists. Just Miro. Standard. Two hits. He’s hitting guys, too. What else you want from him?”– Stars forward Tyler Seguin laughed as he showed his appreciation for Heiskanen following the game Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings
While the season is still young, Heiskanen has shown enough to prove he will be among the favorites for the Norris Trophy in 2021-22. So far, Dallas has yet to find their overall team game, needing the excellent play of Braden Holtby and Heiskanen to bail them out. Once this team finds the consistent play they are capable of, look for Heiskanen to be even more dominant, possibly on his way to the league’s best defenseman award.
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!