It can be easy to get overlooked among the 40-goal-scoring Jason Robertson and never-aging legend Joe Pavelski. And sometimes, that is exactly what happens to Roope Hintz.
Hintz has been named in just about every ‘Most Underrated’ list in the league for the past few seasons. But why?
The truth is, the 26-year-old Finnish center is one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and in fact, belongs in the conversation among the league’s elite all-around players.
“It’s not a bad list to be on, I don’t think,” Joe Pavelski said. “I watched [Aleksander] Barkov be on it for a number of years. Some people take longer to give recognition to certain guys. But he has been doing it for a couple of years. The good thing about it is his game keeps growing.”
“I mean he produces. He is one of the best centermen in the NHL right now,” Jason Robertson said. “I don’t think he cares if people underrate him.”
After getting his first real taste of NHL action in 2019-20 (scoring 19 goals in the process), Hintz really broke out in the 2020-21 shortened season.
Despite playing through a groin injury that eventually required major surgery, Hintz tallied 15 goals and 43 points in 41 games.
He was literally in too much pain to play one night and would record three points the next night. It was often described as “playing on one leg” by former Stars Coach Rick Bowness.
Last season, he exploded offensively. Playing on the vaunted top line with Robertson and Pavelski, Hintz scored a career-high 37 goals and finished with another career-high of 80 points. He also played in 80 of 82 games, his first full season in the league.
This year, he has once again been overshadowed nationally, especially by Robertson, who sits fourth in NHL scoring with 26 points. But Hintz has been dominant in his own right.
In 17 games, Hintz has eight goals and 22 points. He is one of only three skaters averaging more than a point per game (1.30) and has a load of responsibility outside of his offense.
Roope is a mainstay on the power play (seven PP points). He kills penalties (one shorthanded goal). He takes faceoffs (just over 49% win rate). And probably most important, his speed is the eye of the hurricane for the Dallas offense. Without it, Robertson and Pavelski would not have the success that they do. It is that simple.
“His shot is really good, he probably doesn’t get enough credit for how he can shoot the puck and his finishing skills,” Pavelski said. “Great skater, really good vision, and a great little hockey sense. He’s complete.”
Two goalies, two goalsies for the birthday king 👑 pic.twitter.com/umPgarFBNl
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) November 18, 2022
But for Hintz, it goes both ways. In fact, with him on the ice, the Stars offensive potential blasts through the roof, while their defense shines. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Stars expected goals percentage sits at 63% when Hintz is on the ice. That is better than Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and everyone else I could search up.
For comparison, in Hintz’s extraordinary 2020-21 season, that number was 56%. The Stars dominate when #24 is on the ice. And that is not an accident.
“There’s no delay in his game when we don't have the puck,” Pavelski said. “It’s not like ‘oh, we've got to go defend, I don’t really want to go down low’. He makes it pretty easy on his linemates in that sense. A lot of times he doesn’t even put us in that situation. He is back there battling, helping with the breakouts. And then he can come from that low slot area and drive the play the other way.”
Hintz added another two-goal effort on his birthday (Nov. 17) against the Florida Panthers. His opening goal extended his point streak to a career-high 10 games, and has scored six times in the last nine games.
The truth is, the Stars have not just one, but at least two superstars in their lineup right now. Being in Dallas comes with a natural dampened effect within the media. But eventually, talent is recognized (look at Miro Heiskanen.)
Now it is just about the league moving him from ‘Most Underrated” to the ‘NHL Elite’.