Young Finn Miro Heiskanen proving he's ready for the NHL
Defenceman was 3rd overall pick in 2017 draft by Dallas Stars
It has been a busy year for Miro Heiskanen and it's not over yet.
The talented defenceman opened up his year at the junior world championship in Buffalo before becoming a mainstay on the Finnish men's national team at the next two top tournaments: the Pyeongchang Olympics and the ongoing world championship.
In that time the 18-year-old has established himself as a reliable defenceman who has passed the test against top NHL talents at the tournament in Denmark.
NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid can attest.
On Saturday, Finland upset star-studded Canada 5-1, and Heiskanen was one of the stars on ice.
He played 18:25 but his best moment came in the second period when Canada was trailing 3-1 and desperately pressing to score. At one point, McDavid had just an empty net in front of him. Goaltender Harri Sateri was still at the far post and McDavid's shot from the left circle was heading for back of the net.
But Heiskanen came seemingly out of no where to Finland's rescue, tipping the puck to safety.
'It was a good save'
"It was almost in the net but I hit the puck," Heiskanen said. "It was a good save."
When the two met in the third period, the result was a Mcdavid double-minor for high sticking, effectively ending Canada's chances of a comeback.
Finland captain Mikael Granlund praised Heiskanen.
"I have seen him at the games here and nothing really surprises me about him," Granlund said. "The way he skates, the way he handles the puck and sees the ice. He can play these games. He's been really, really good this tournament. He's got a great career ahead of him."
The obvious next step is the NHL.
The Dallas Stars picked him with the third overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft and signed him to a three-year entry level contract. He spent last season on loan with IFK Helsinki.
He finished with 23 points including 11 goals in the regular season and added three goals and nine points in the playoffs.
He said the transition has not been a problem.
"It was tough sometimes but mostly quite easy because I play with smarter players. Of course, the play is faster than at the junior category and I face stronger guys," he said.
The Denmark tournament proved he is ready to stop the best.
"It's nice to face those guys and see where I am," Heiskanen said. "It's a good test to play them, maybe I will play them next year in the NHL. I want to play there as soon as possible, that's my goal."
There's no doubt that he has the skills to become a highly-effective defenceman. But he knows he still has homework to do.
"I have to practice hard this summer and get little bit stronger," he said.