Rumors were flying about what would happen at the top of the NHL Draft. The general consensus was that Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick would be the top two picks in the draft regardless of any trade activity. The Vegas Golden Knights tried pretty hard to get up higher in the draft, including to number three, but the Dallas Stars held on to take the top defenseman in the class. 17 year old Miro Heiskanen is now a Star.
The 6’1, 172 pound left-handed defenseman doesn’t turn 18 until next month. He has been described by every single report I’ve come across as a smooth skating player with a high hockey IQ who likes to get into the dirty areas of the ice. Many question how high his ultimate offensive upside is, but who even knows at this point?
As a 17 year old he played in Liiga, the top level of professional hockey in Finland with HIFK. Heiskanen recorded five goals and five assists in 37 games.
Pulling down a 53% Corsi as a 17 year old playing close to 19 minutes per game without being sheltered is pretty salty. This is a player that could grow into a top pairing defenseman fairly quickly. Heiskanen is easily the best defensive prospect the Stars have ever pulled directly out of the draft. As much as last season stunk to watch, getting Heiskanen as a “reward” is nice.
It isn’t fully known where he will go from here. On an interview with The Ticket he indicated that he didn’t know if he would be in the Stars prospect camp that takes place in early July. He’s eligible to head right to the AHL, or technically NHL if he really shines in camp, so it’s possible we see him in North America this year.
Jim Nill indicated that the club will figure that out as time goes on, but the Stars do have a history of getting their top picks to professional hockey in North America quickly. Denis Gurianov spent one year in Russia. Val Nichushkin came right to the NHL. Julius Honka joined the AHL right out of the draft. You have to think the number three pick in the draft, if he feels ready to come over, would fit in quickly in Austin.
If you want to get a taste of what Heiskanen brings YouTube comes through in the clutch.
The Stars obviously really like Heiskanen. They had opportunities to move the pick in at least one deal that brought in an NHL defenseman, but no team met their asking price. One of the stories to follow will be if the Stars use that second round pick to plug an NHL hole to acquire a defenseman like Marc Methot, now of the Golden Knights.
But that’s for another time. The Stars got the guy they were expected to get all along. The top defensive prospect from the draft is in their system. As a fan you have to be thrilled by that fact.
The hot mess that ended up being the Dallas Stars 2017 campaign reached a crescendo at the trade deadline when everything that wasn’t bolted to the floor became available. Patrick Eaves was shipped to Anaheim for a conditional pick that ended up being the 29th pick in the NHL Draft. The Stars used that pick as a means to select goaltender Jake Oettinger.
I say as a means because they actually took him at number 26. Reportedly the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators wanted Oettinger, the top goalie in the draft. The Stars traded the 70th pick in the draft, their third round selection, to leapfrog both teams and ensure they got their guy. St. Louis pulled the trigger on a trade for Brayden Schenn of the Philadelphia Flyers using the 27th pick as a piece of the deal as soon as the Stars made their selection.
Oettinger is an 18 year old American goalie from Minnesota. The 6’4 205 pounder already has one season under his belt at Boston University. He has the full pedigree you want to see. He has already won gold and bronze medals for the Team USA U-18 team and a gold medal in the U-20 World Championships too.
Michael Blinn of Sports Illustrated put together an awesome profile of Oettinger that you really should read. This is my favorite excerpt:
“His mind is beyond elite,” says Dave Rogalski, a goaltending coach with Impact Hockey who has been training Oettinger since he was in eighth grade. ”The kid does not get rattled. He's hard to defeat, he can handle the biggest or smallest of moments. He's a wise, young kid, I'll say that. He's as calm as ever, so whoever gets him is going to be very lucky as part of their system.”
Mentally sound, calm, and confident goalies are a refreshing idea, but one of that matters if you can’t play. Oettinger was wonderful as a freshman. He got into 35 games and had a 2.11 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. People who have watched him consistently rave about his future prospects.
AllAboutThatJersey puts together awesome profiles yearly for the draft. This year their Oettinger profile has a ton of good information. They pulled some information from Chris Dilks of SBN’s college hockey blog that further emphasizes the kind of prospect Oettinger is:
Oettinger was the youngest goalie, and second-youngest player overall in college hockey this past year, and played fantastic as the starting goalie for Boston University this year, putting up excellent .927/2.11 numbers.
Oettinger is the prototypical combination of size, positioning and athleticism that NHL teams are looking for in a starting goalie, and should be selected very high in this year’s NHL Draft. It’s rare to see goalies be selected in the first round of the Draft these days, but Oettinger’s measurables, combined with him showing he can play at the college level make him as safe a bet as a team could make in a future goalie.
In their profile they linked to a YouTube highlight package from a Boston game against Vermont from earlier this year. It’s only two minutes long, but it’s worth watching. Boston had many NHL prospects up and down the roster so I wondered how much action he really saw. This clip shows he’s got a little something.
You can see how well Oettinger anticipates the play and moves laterally. He also handles being bumped extremely well for a big goalie. It’s very important to keep in mind that he was only a freshman for all of this too.
The selection of Oettinger wrapped up a very successful day for the Stars. They got the two guys they were expected to get and only had to move a third round pick to ensure it happened. In day 2, the Stars will be on the clock for another premium pick at number 39 shortly after the draft picks back up. Whether or not the Stars make that pick remains to be seen, but at this point they’ve added what they think are the top defenseman and goalie in this draft so no matter what happens this draft can be viewed as an immediate success.
For additional hyper-thorough Stars coverage, follow Josh Lile on Twitter at @JoshL1220.