9/6/18 – Traverse City Night One, in gifs

I’m a bit delirious on 800 mg of Ibuprofen so I apologize in advance if any of this doesn’t make sense.

The Traverse City tournament kicked off yesterday. The Dallas Stars sent their young to play the New York Rangers. The Stars would go on to win 7-5 in a predictably weird game between inexperienced professionals.

Many Stars stood out, but this was the Miro Heiskanen show. If you had any doubt about the quality of Liiga or the level of competition he faced last year go back and watch this game. After dominating grown men in Liiga and the Olympics, the 18-20 year olds had no change of getting on his level on either side.

Adam Mascherin, Riley Damiani, Jakob Stenqvist, Jermaine Loewen, John Nyberg, Ty Dellandrea, Roope Hintz, Nick Caamano, Tony Calderone, and Jason Robertson all showed something. This is a pretty good roster for a tournament like this. It’s important to keep in mind that the Stars NCAA prospects aren’t even here. This isn’t their full complement of prospects.

The system isn’t bad folks.

On to the gifs…

1st Period

Nick Caamano scored after all of the Rangers prospects forgot he existed. Tony Calderone won a puck battle before beating most of the Rangers prospects on the ice with a pass.

CaamanoGoal.gif

Stars first round pick Ty Dellandrea whipped this pass across the top of the offensive zone on an entry.

DellandreaPass.gif

Jason Robertson stole this puck at the blueline then skated in for a scoring chance.

RobertsonSteal.gif

Jakob Stenqvist had a big period. Here he is scoring on the powerplay.

StenqvistGoal.gif

On the next shift he had this opportunity.

StenqvistShot.gif

In his own end I was really impressed with this pass. He fired this puck under pressure with some authority avoid any defensive problems.

StenqvistPass.gif

Hits are fun. Here are some hits. Texas Stars forward Joel L’Esperance trucked a Ranger defender early in the period.

JEHit.gif

Jermaine Loewen got a piece of a Ranger too.

LoewenHit.gif

I saved the best for last. Welcome to Miro’s corner. Here he is casually entering the zone and gliding sideways for a simple shot.

MiroEntry1.gif

Early in the period Heiskanen exited the zone with ease while sucking in a Ranger forward.

MIroExit1.gif

No big deal here, he’s just under pressure then pulls a spin move to avoid it.

MiroSpin.gif

He rang one off the post too.

MiroPost.gif

2nd Period

Roope Hintz showed off his hands early in the period with this slick move to get into the slot.

HintzMove.gif

Adam Mascherin channeled his inner Robertson with this steal that led to a chance for the Stars.

MascherinSteal.gif

Jermaine Loewen tried to kill a Ranger which led to Curtis Douglas setting up a chance in the slot.

DouglasPass.gif

Riley Damiani showed off some playmaking ability as the period moved along with two nice passes in scoring areas.

DamianiPass.gif

This second pass was later in the period.

DamianiPass2.gif

Stenqvist showed off the passing ability again with this pass under pressure at the offensive blueline.

StenqvistPass2.gif

Heiskanen did stuff like this a lot at the Olympics. He senses pressure so he skates with the puck before reversing the exit back to John Nyberg who can then exit easily.

MiroExitAgain.gif

You may have also seen that Heiskanen scored a goal. The entire play was gorgeous, and this is probably the easiest assist of Robertson’s life.

MiroGoal.gif

3rd Period

The third had a lot of goals but, the Stars weren’t any more dominant than they had been. The Rangers goaltending and defensive positioning just collapsed.

Robertson’s line with Dellandrea and Adam Mascherin had a very nice period. Here is Robertson getting a prime scoring chance off in the slot.

RobertsonShot.gif

Mascherin put his hands on display for this Adult Move into scoring position.

MascherinDangle.gif

Mascherin also had a power play goal in the period from about the same spot as that move.

MascherinGoal.gif

Nyberg made a couple of plays in the period. Normally you won’t see Nyberg since he’s playing the defensive foil to Heiskanen, but this flip almost led to a breakaway for Nick Caamano.

NybergFlip.gif

Nyberg took this pass from Heiskanen and turned it into a shot from the low slot for a teammate with a nice pass of his own.

NybergPass.gif

The Rangers began exposing Stenqvist a bit in the period, or rather he began exposing himself defensively. In this gif he’s the RD in front who completely lost his man.

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In this gif he drifts way too far to the opposite side of the rink before Damiani sprints over to cover for him. Stenqvist is at the top of the left faceoff circle engaging a Ranger physically for…reasons.

StenqvistNo.gif

That was fun. Game two is tonight against the baby Red Wings.

5/9/18 – Miro Heiskanen’s European Fancy Stats

I’ve been doing some digging to get ready for the upcoming NHL Draft. I would like to give as much information as I can reasonably find on each of the players I think would be reasonable targets for the Dallas Stars at the 13th pick so I’m diving deep.

Spoiler alert: very near the top of that list is Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His profile is coming soon. In looking him up I came across something I didn’t realize existed: fancy stats for Liiga, the top league in Finland. Also playing in Liiga is Stars uber prospect Miro Heiskanen. So natural curiosity made me look him up.

Simo Teperi appears to have put the stats together based off of the work of Micah Blake McCurdy. The full list of player cards can be found here. This is how Heiskanen looked last season.

Miro

Let’s look into it piece by piece starting with his scoring rates.

Scoring

We knew Heiskanen got first pairing ice time, but it really sticks out when the visual aspect is added. The fact that his even strength goal scoring and primary assists per hour each individually made him score at the rate of a first pairing defender is something I didn’t realize.

ShootingZone

His point totals could have been even better. Miro’s IFK teammates only shot 4% with him on the ice. Bump that up a little and the assists will be racked up quickly.

Impacts

IFK was solid at generating shots and goals without Heiskanen on the ice. They were dominant with him on the ice though. The goal for these charts is to be in the upper right hand corner as much as possible.

Finnish teams don’t score against him, but they allow goals. The heat map shows how that happens. Remember that Heiskanen plays on the left side. I marked the areas of the ice to take note of on the chart below.

HeatMap

Teams just don’t get shots against IFK with Miro on the ice. The only red that shows up is on the fringes of the left face off circle outside of the prime scoring area. The left wing probably bares more responsibility for that than Heiskanen anyway given how tidy the area in front of the net looks.

Heiskanen puts puck on the net too. In the offensive zone you see an abundance of red at the left point into the face off circle, but also in about the same area on the right. He’s so damn good.

Stats

The rate stats look stupid for an 18 year old playing against grown men. They would look great for anyone, but an 18 year old performing the way he did is simply unfair. This was an NHL talent playing in Europe, and he’s going to look so good in North America in just a few months.

CoastToCoast

The Olympics gif posts are here if you need an adrenaline boost this morning.

 

2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal

One thing I’m fairly confident I know about Miro Heiskanen at this point is that he learns quickly. I mean yeah he can pass, skate, use space exceptionally well, and has a very high hockey IQ, but he adapts so quickly. Sure, they played Korea in Team Finland’s 5-2 victory, but this was probably his best overall game with or without the goal.

The first period was the best period I’ve seen him play in the Olympics. Heiskanen came out firing. He took around four shots in the period, and probably attempted six or seven in the game. He scored his first goal of the Olympics and took his first slap shot of the tournament.

When Heiskanen fully decides, or is allowed, to take over a game he’s going to be a genuine bad ass. The talent is obvious and you see moments where he looks the part. As he gets older and more consistently finds that top gear they should happen more frequently.

On to the gifs:

The first of many shots Heiskanen took in the game.

17minShot

Heiskanen was on the attack here and came under pressure. Instead of turning it over he chips it into the corner to keep the attack alive.

17Mirosmartpuck

The degree of difficulty on this pass is fairly high.

Miro Outlet

Here is his second shot of the game.

2nd Miro Shot

This gif is my favorite one from the four games. Heiskanen skates the puck out of the zone under pressure all the way up the ice to lead a rush before dishing the puck off to a teammate.

CoastToCoast

Miro finally got on the board. The NBC broadcast gave us four beautiful angles of our sweet boy scoring his first Olympic goal. The first gif goes all the way back to the pass he took from Eeli Tolvanen. Note that he got hit before taking the shot.

MiroGoal.gif

On the reverse angle you can see how the puck found its way into the net.

The third angle gives you a better idea of how quickly he got the shot off.

Goal3

The fourth angle shows off the traffic he had to fire through to get the puck on net.

Goal4

I enjoyed this play too. Its a simple play, but very effective. Heiskanen chips the puck into space in his own end to eliminate the Korean forecheck.

MiroChip

We rarely get to see him play any defense because of how quickly he gets the puck out of his own end. This gif shows him in coverage off the rush.

MiroD

This guy really likes South Korea.

KoreanMan

I think Heiskanen was going for a body check on this play, I guess? I don’t know. Either way he stopped the rush at the line so the attack could go the other way.

MiroD1

This next gif is pretty nice. It’s just a simple pass in the defensive zone under pressure, but it is oh so nice

MiroPass

I think this is the first and only slapshot I’ve seen him take in four games.

MiroShotAgain

Team Finland plays again Tuesday morning at 7:10. They take on Canada for the chance to move on further in the medal round. Heiskanen is already playing against adults in Finland, but this game should be the biggest test of the Olympics for him outside of Sweden. Norway, Germany, and Korea are fun games to watch, but anyone who follows the Stars should be closely watching him play against legitimate teams to get an idea of how NHL-ready he is.

For us to get to see a sixth Heiskanen Olympic game, Team Finland may want to use him more. The only pressure Korea got on Finland was with him off of the ice. He’s the alpha. Use him guys.

Hey, click these:

2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines
2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1

2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3

My first headline for this was “back on my bullshit”, but then Sundays With Miro sounded more pleasant. Tuesday’s With Morrie doesn’t have shit on this.

Miro Heiskanen finishes up the preliminary round with zero points, maybe three or four hits, and if I had to guess about 17 minutes per game. And yet, he’s easily the best defenseman on Team Finland. Unfortunately it took them seven and a half periods to realize it.

Sami Lepisto is fine. Lasse Kukkonen has his uses. They’re older, and vets, especially in a short tournament like this, are going to get preferential treatment. If you have two eyes (hell, one of mine barely functions) it’s hard not to see that Heiskanen is the best skater and passer in the defense corps. I don’t know if he’s the best defensively, but that’s because he rarely had to play defense since he moves to puck so well from his own end of the rink.

Heiskanen is still buried on the second powerplay unit which gets about 30 seconds of each penalty. Late in the game he didn’t even get on the ice for it despite the Finns pulling Mikko Koskinen for an extra skater.

In the Finland win over Norway I was pleasantly surprised to see Heiskanen being more assertive offensively. Against Sweden he was back to being moderately conservative in the offensive zone until late in the game. Even when he wasn’t being conservative he didn’t turn the puck over. The kid is just a machine. When he decides he wants to be an offensive force consistently he will be a monster.

Would it be nice if he had some points? Yes. Would he have some points if Finland had some offensive weapons besides Eeli Tolvanen? Absolutely. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Alexander Radulov won’t have that issue however. With a little bit of luck Heiskanen could easily have a goal and four assists in the Olympics so far.

If you don’t feel the spirit of The Lord flowing through your veins this Sunday just yet, you may soon. Here are the gifs. As usual, these are in chronological order.

Miro wins a lot of these board battles.

See? More proof.

At this point it is almost a given that he’s going to win virtually all puck battles.

Here Heiskanen goes skating between two Swedes in his own end to make a safer outlet pass.

He finally lost a battle.

This was the first penalty Miro took from that same play. I mean….eh? Kind of a slash?

Heiskanen dropped some filthy stick language to lead to a prime chance.

Heiskanen now beats all three Swedish attackers to spring a chance. On the broadcast they gushed about Eeli Tolvanen, but he never even gets the puck without this ridiculous breakout.

MiroExitAgain

This pretty neutral zone pass led to another big chance moments later. If Finland had more finishers Heiskanen would be putting some points on the board.

MiroOutlet

Heiskanen skating out of danger for an outlet pass.

Miro with a smart little chip to avoid Swedish pressure.

MiroChip

Three Swedes, one Fin. Who wins?

Heiskanen skating himself out of trouble once more.

The second penalty call of the day on Heiskanen was also pretty weak.

His passes are so crisp. Here he is springing another chance for Finland.

MiroOutletLate

Heiskanen and Tolvanen on the ice late in the game setting up a great chance off a give and go.

On the very next faceoff Heiskanen picks the puck up and dances into the home plate area for a great chance.

Nothing came from this pass off of the stick of Heiskanen, but think about how ridiculous it is.

Heiskanen had to spot his teammate all the way across the ice. The pass was on the button. It was crisp and flat.  It beat almost all of Team Sweden and some of Team Norway without them even being on the ice. Let’s not get carried away with comparisons in a bad tournament missing virtually all of the good players in the world, but that’s a Sergei Zubov/Jason Spezza/Alexander Radulov kind of pass. Unreal passing ability.

If he can ever pull that off in the NHL I may faint. And that’s kind of the point to all of this. The raw skill is obviously apparent. His ability to get the puck out of his own zone is next level and so are both his skating and passing. Now, how does it translate into the NHL?

The smaller rink is going to be a factor in his ability to skate the puck out of the zone, but the broadcast made mention repeatedly of the fact that Finland trains on smaller rinks. Maybe it won’t make THAT much of a difference, but some of these plays are unlikely to happen because these rinks are, in fact, international in size.

Finland should play on Tuesday in a qualifying match to head to the medal round.

Hey, click these:

2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good

2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen

Driving into work this morning I was thinking more about Miro Heiskanen after his Olympic debut on the 16th in Team Finland’s 5-2 win over Team Germany. He obviously went third over all for a reason. He was so impressive despite the ugly turnover that led to the first German goal.

The more I think about it the more impressed I am with how he uses his hockey IQ to maximize his skills. Often against Germany he would tap the puck into space then use his skating to beat the opposition to the puck. It’s such a small play, but really smart for an 18 year old to be pulling off against adults.

Fortunately I wouldn’t have to wait long to see Heiskanen in action again. He and the rest of Team Finland took on Team Norway Friday night. Finland handled them fairly easily, 5-1. Eeli Tolvanen was really good again and is going to terrorize the Central Division with Nashville. We’re #HereForMiro though.

One thing I found odd about his Olympic debut is that he did almost nothing in the offensive zone. He shied away from shooting at every turn despite scoring at a high clip in Finland. Someone on the coaching staff must have thought the same thing because against Norway he came out firing.

How about some gifs?

You’ll see Heiskanen come in on the top left corner to pick up a puck at his own blueline and skate it out of danger.

Don’t get me wrong, he still tried to pass the puck. On this opportunity off-screen is a wide open winger. The player in the slot decided he wanted the puck though.

Heiskanen’s first of, I believe, three shots on the night. This one made a legit thud when it popped the blocker.

The reverse angle:

One of the many fun zone exists Heiskanen attempted (and succeeded) to make.

Miro playing some…interesting (???) defense. He had good gap on the forward, but I’m not sure what he was doing after the forward stopped skating.

More fun exiting the zone:

This play was actually horrific to watch live because you couldn’t tell that the puck hit the net over the glass until they showed the reverse angle. Heiskanen looks like a kid chasing butterflies in the outfield in their first little league game.

I mean look at him.

Heiskanen’s second shot of the night was another hard wrister from the top of the circle.

The reverse angle again:

Here he is nonchalantly skating the puck out of danger to make a crisp outlet.

And now it’s time to watch Miro dance.

On day two his skating still stands out. The hockey IQ is off the charts. He pretty clearly has confidence to pull off some of the moves he attempts. But how many of those plays are really jaw dropping? They’re just really solid to good hockey plays, but there are so many of them.

It was great to see Heiskanen being more assertive offensively. If that is fully part of his game he’s going to be an easy number one defenseman. Right now he’s playing about 15 minutes a night. I found a gif from each shift except a couple in the third period. He is always doing something productive. If that is all he ends up becoming he’s going to have a solid 15 year NHL career.

If some more of that offense we saw tonight comes out as he gets older? You’ve got yourself a player there.

Hey, click these:

2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/12/18 – Jamie Goligoski
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good

2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1

I’m now an old man and I’ve witnessed enough bad hockey to appreciate what the Dallas Stars are doing this season and recognize how bad 2017 truly was. That was a hot ass mess that somehow didn’t warrant a coaching change midsession. I’m already getting distracted.

The biggest consolation by far was “winning” the draft enough to move up to the third pick where the Stars selected defender Miro Heiskanen. The NHL abandoning the Olympics this year gave him the chance to play for Finland. They took on Germany tonight for what was the first chance for many of us to see him play in a live game. In the 5-2 win he showed quite a bit,

These are the thoughts and first impressions of a 32 year old man lovingly watching and dreaming about the future of an 18 year old hockey player:

I feel like I have a good read on Heiskanen, but I also don’t. He was easily the best defenseman on Team Finland and arguably looked like their most dynamic all around player outside of possibly Eeli Tolvanen. But, something was missing. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Several aspects of Heiskanen’s game stick out. He’s a very fluid skater who stops and starts with ease. He isn’t a speed demon. He’s just a really really really good skater. He makes a very good first pass and it’s usually a pass with a high probabilty of being completed successfully.

The kid is a horse with the puck. He was so strong on his skates and he’s only 18. Heiskanen won puck battles in every zone, fought for everything and usually came up with the puck, and only had one real turnover I noticed. It was a bad one, but only one.

Offensively there wasn’t much there, but I swear he was doing something on each shift to disrupt a play or move the play to the other end of the rink away from his net. He’s just always there. The thing is he clearly has the offensive tools to be a top tier offensive player if he decides he wants to use them.

I don’t remember him doing much anything in the offensive zone at even strength. The couple of offensive plays he did set up were on the powerplay. I’m not sure he even attempted a shot on net which is kind of crazy since he has 11 goals and 8 assists in 25 games playing against adults in Liiga.

I wonder if we’re seeing a young kid defer to veterans on an international stage. I mean he’s only 18. That isn’t even really a criticism. You’re supposed to do that. He’s just so clearly more talented than the rest of them that I left that game wondering how dominant he would be if he really asserted himself.

The most dangerous play he attempted was a Stars-esque exit pass that led to a German goal against. Where was the creativity in the offensive zone? With all the talent he has I’m looking forward to see how he looks against Norway, and I hope he punches the gas more. He’s a keeper.

I tweeted out a bunch of bootleg iPhone 8 Plus (boogie) videos of him showcasing his skils. Here they are.

Here he is skating the puck out under pressure:

Here’s an example of how quickly he can get a pass fired off:

Heiskanen brushes off a hit to make a play in the offensive zone:

This play wasn’t perfect, but he did recover to break up an opportunity:

Look how hard the Germans have to work to get him off the puck:

Miro does a really solid job of breaking up forechecks:

Here he is carrying the puck out of the zone again:

And again:

This is the powerplay opportunity I was referring to:

Followed by determined puck retrieval:

….and this is the ugly turnover that led the the first German goal:

Miro came back shortly thereafter to jack a puck and find a safe outlet:

He can play. Watch him now while you can. He’s the best prospect the Stars have had since Val Nichushkin by far, and I would be shocked if he isn’t a very good player for the Stars for a very long time. Your next chance to see him is on Friday against Norway.

Hey, click these

2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?
2/12/18 – Jamie Goligoski
2/8/18 – Team USA Men Would Have Been Really Good
2/6/18 – Jaromir Jagr and Tom Brady
2/6/18 – .insert(“Really Bad Chess Pun”)