In our final Tuesday edition of Dallas Stars’ News & Rumors this month, John Klingberg & Ryan Suter are fitting together nicely, the preseason begins, and Miro Heiskanen prepares himself for a bigger role this season.
Klingberg & Suter Finding Chemistry Early
One of the main topics heading into this season was which defensive pairings head coach Rick Bowness would choose. He has the ability to keep Klingberg with Esa Lindell as they have been for years or swap Lindell next to Heiskanen, moving Suter up with Klingberg. So far through training camp, it has been Suter and Klingberg that have been skating well together.
Top Four Defensive Pairings in Camp
On paper, this pairing works perfectly. Klingberg is a strong skater that loves to take chances up ice, while Suter is a no-frills lockdown defenseman with elite hockey IQ. Those two should mesh well together, allowing Klingberg the freedom to roam, bringing more offense from the back end.
“We’ll see how that chemistry works,” Bowness said. “If you look at Ryan, and I’ve always been a fan of his, he’s a very smart, cerebral player. He gets the puck and doesn’t fool around with it. It’s up quick, and it’s on the tape and we’re gone. He’s very solid positionally. He makes very few mistakes. We’ll see how that works out.”– Stars Head Coach Rick Bowness
For both players, this season is vitally important. Klingberg is set to become a free agent next summer and is looking to prove he is worthy of a raise, while Suter looks to prove he can still play at a high level after being bought out by the Minnesota Wild. After using Suter’s play as an example to learn from, Klingberg looks forward to being able to skate with the veteran defenseman for the first time.
“I remember talking to him (former Stars assistant coach Rick Wilson who coaches Suter in Minnesota), and he explained a lot about what Suter did and what made him so good,” Klingberg said. “I feel like I know a lot about him. Obviously, you know him a little bit different when you see him like this, but as a player, I feel like I know pretty good how he plays. It’s just about getting to know him as a person. I feel like we’re steps ahead there.”– Stars defenseman John Klingberg
The defensive pairings will be something to keep an eye on throughout the preseason, as Bowness would love to find the combinations that will work long term.
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Heiskanen Ready for a Bigger Role
Heiskanen has already proved he is nearing the NHL elite. His speed, skill, and awareness on the ice make him dangerous both offensively and defensively. After signing an eight-year, $67.6 million deal this summer, he and the Stars will look to take the next step this season.
“I have good feelings,” he said. “We have a great team and have a chance to go far. We’ve got some great guys on the team. Really good feeling. We have lots of leaders on the team and good, young guys, too. There’s a good mix of guys. It’s really exciting. Can’t wait to get it going.”– Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen
Heiskanen began camp paired with Lindell on the blue line. These two have only played a few games together, but they’ve had chemistry in the past and are looking forward to the opportunity. Both players also represent a large part of the current ‘Finnish Mafia’ in Dallas, so their communication and style should mesh well off the start.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “[Esa’s] a great player. We’ve played some games together, but it’s great to be paired with him.”– Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen
With a more even top four this season, Heiskanen will likely see increased minutes. He has already been a staple on special teams and still has plenty of room to grow his game. One big improvement he is searching for is more scoring. Last season, he struggled to find offense, not tallying his first goal until early March. Finishing the season with 27 points in 55 games, he knows he needs to be better.
“I think I played really well defensively, but of course I want to do more offensively and be more effective. That’s the one thing I want to be better at. I think I had really good chances during the season where I didn’t score, and I want to be better at that.”– Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen
Heiskanen has the ability to be among the best in the league. This season, he should have more help throughout the lineup to allow him to be at his best. At the age of 21, he is already trusted to play in nearly every situation on a nightly basis, and the sky is the limit.
“There are a lot of obvious things – the skating, the stick-handling, the passing, the reads,” Bowness said. “But, to me, the best thing about Miro’s game is the calmness when the game is on the line. He wants to be on the ice when the game is on the line. Whether it’s a one-goal lead or we’re down a goal, he wants the ball. He has that hunger, and then mix in the calmness, and he’s just the perfect player for those situations.”– Stars Head Coach Rick Bowness
This week, Dallas will begin their preseason schedule, which features six total games. As important as camp is, the preseason schedule will determine a lot going forward into the regular season. As each week winds down before the season opener on Oct. 14, we will continue to get a closer look at what this team will look like in 2021-22.
Stars Preseason Schedule
- Monday, September 27: Stars at St. Louis Blues
- Wednesday, September 29: Stars vs. Florida Panthers
- Friday, October 1: Stars at Florida Panthers
- Tuesday, October 5: Stars vs. St. Louis Blues
- Thursday, October 7: Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche
- Saturday, October 9: Stars at Colorado Avalanche
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!