Devils at the 2009 NHL Draft: A Calvin de Haan Overview

Yesterday, I took a stab at rounding up what's out there for USNTDP U-18 center Kyle Palmieri and what is said about Palmieri's game is quite positive. So much so that I wonder why some project him to be in the lower third of the first round.   Moving onward, as mentioned, Brandon at Defending Big D had an awesome chart that aggregated all of the various scouting services rankings. A good feel for who may be available in that area. 

Today, the subject is Oshawa Generals defenseman Calvin de Haan. While de Haan (somehow) ends up at 20th overall on that chart, ISS, CSS, and THN all rank him below then.  He could very well be available at 23rd overall and so he's worth a look.

Calvin de Haan - Defenseman - 6'0" - 170 lbs. - Hometown: Carp, Ontario
2008-09 Team: Oshawa Generals -  68 GP - 8 G - 55 A - 63 PTS - 40 PIM (source)

De Haan is seen as a prospect who really broke through in his rookie OHL season with Oshawa. He finished second in the league among rookie defensemen (only John Carlson put up more points with London); and second on his team in scoring (Brett Parnham finished ahead of him with 50 G, 26 A). According to the  News Durham Region, de Haan was invited to World Juniors evaluation camp this summer, so he's definitely getting notice from Team Canada.  Though, that's not being completely fair, de Haan did represent his nation for the first time at this year's World U-18 tournament in Fargo.  Canada did not even earn a medal, but de Haan definitely contributed with 6 assists and 14 shots in 6 games according to the stats at the IIHF's site (stats via a .PDF file, come on IIHF, embrace the internet).  Regardless, de Haan's stock has been rising - to the point where NHL.com has an article about how he has emerged from the John Tavares show in Oshawa (which picked up and moved to London mid-season).  So let's see what others are saying about him.

First, let's take a look at the brief scouting profile on him at NHL.com:

NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards

"Calvin shows a lot of patience and poise for a young defenseman. He has high-end puck skill and passing ability. He has a very good shot, hard and accurate, and a very good ability to get the puck through traffic to the net. He sees the ice very well and moves the puck through traffic. His skating is excellent, mobility, agility and speed. His biggest asset is his hockey sense. He makes very few mistakes."

Oshawa head coach Chris DePiero

"He has that uncanny ability to slow things down in his mind and keep a high level of speed. He's such a down-to-earth, unassuming, humble guy. That's the nice thing about Calvin. The NHL part hasn't entered his mind. Certainly he wants to get drafted, that's his goal, but it hasn't been a distraction or a topic of conversation."

Chris Edwards, quite frankly in my opinion, loves this kid from what is written here. He raves about his speed, his shot, his skating, his passing, and then states his hockey sense is his best asset.   His coach takes a completely different focus, noting his personality.   Humble is good, considering all the other things he does so well.

According to this article by Steve Fitzsimmons at Ontario Hockey, de Haan says he models his game after former Devil and sure-fire Hall of Famer, Scott Niedermayer.  Not a bad choice for a model!

The style of game that de Haan plays is modeled after Anaheim Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer, who has won at every level he’s played at.

"I like to model my game after him," said de Haan. "He’s obviously had a great career. I like to play like he does. Smart, simple, but he does a lot with the puck and makes the most of his ice time."

OK, that's all well and good, but what do other people say about his game? Well, later on in Fitzsimmons' article, we get the always-wonderful quote from an unnamed NHL scout.  It's a Western Conference team, I wonder if it's, say, Vancouver (picking 22nd) or Calgary (picking 20th)?  Anyway, here's what the scout said:

A Western Conference NHL Scout, who has seen de Haan play eight times this year, feels he has strong potential to develop into a solid NHL player.

"The thing that strikes me about him is how calm he is under pressure and his smart decision-making. He could be a little more physical, but he has excellent offensive upside and is a thinker. Defensively he’s solid and I like what he might turn into. We’re watching him closely."

Very nice.   Defensemen, in my opinion, need to be remain poised and smart on the ice. If he's like this already at 18, then it (should) bode very well for his future, I would think.  What's also great about this quote is that it brings up a weakness with de Haan.  The boy is a wire standing at 6'0" and 170 lbs.   In fact, NHL.com's profile is being generous with that weight; Oshawa's site lists him at 165 lbs.   His size was a focal point of Holly Gunning's interview with de Haan back in February of this year at Hockey's Future:

HF: So you don't think you're done growing.
CdH [Calvin de Haan]: No, I don't even shave yet (laughs), so I don't think I'm done growing yet.  Maybe I've got an inch or two left yet, we'll see.

HF: What are you doing to gain weight and have you gained since the season started?

CdH: No, I have a tough time gaining weight right now.  I'm still growing, I know that for a fact, so it's hard for me to put on weight.  I eat a lot, as much as I can.  But it's hard to gain weight during the season because we're on the ice every day and you burn the calories off.

HF: Have you maintained the same weight this year though?
CdH: Yeah, I've been steady around 170 all year.  I'm pretty happy about that, I haven't lost any.

HF: You do look a little skinny.

CdH: Can't see my heart beat though (laughs), so that's a good thing.

Yeah.  I get the feeling that after he's drafted, a NHL trainer or someone will help with him gain some muscle. Physical play and strength seem like issues to an outsider like me; but fortunately, strength can be earned.  Either way, it's a pretty solid interview by Hockey's Future where de Haan revealed that he was playing more physical since the CHL Prospects Game, and it's worth your time. 

Also worth your time is this audio interview de Haan did at Hockey Prospect from the end of December.  He's already talking like a pro hockey player.  You'll learn that he was still deciding between going through the major junior leagues and the NCAA, so he played in a lower league in 2007-08 before deciding with Oshawa.  You'll also hear again that de Haan wants to improve his physical game as he understands his strength is, well, not a strength.  He told Hockey Prospects that his goals were to get at least 30 points and to get drafted.  He already took care of the first goal and he will certainly get drafted in 2009.

The most comprehensive profile I've seen has come from the three contributers at OHL Prospects, a blog focusing on the NHL prospect pipeline that is the OHL.  All three writers watch and follow the OHL closely; and Brock Otten and Sean Keogh used to write at Hockey's Future.  What I'm saying is that I figure these guys know what they're talking about.  Ryan Yessie ranked him a little low at #9 with this blurb:

De Haan has great offensive instincts, a good shot and moves the puck well. He needs a lot of help with his defensive coverage and needs to add about 20 lbs to become a legitimate pro defenceman.

OK, he needs muscle and mass, I get that.   But he needs help with his defensive coverage?  After reading about his hockey sense and decision making, I wonder if it's an issue related to or can be addressed by experience?   Sean Keogh and Brock Otten rank de Haan much higher, with both putting him 4th on their respective lists. Excerpts from their lists are below:

Although de Haan’s upside is not as an impact player, and he is not going to be compared to Mike Green, I do think he has the potential to be a solid puck-moving rearguard for a long time, and with the premium placed on such players, I would have no hesitations selecting him in last third of the first round. - Sean Keogh

Truly, the most underrated player from the OHL this year. Calvin de Haan is just one solid defenseman. His transition from Tier 2 this season was effortless, jumping right into the top pairing for the Generals. He moves the puck incredibly well and makes the intelligent player [sic] every time. He picks his spots in pinching, and he carries the puck up the ice with ease.

...

With added strength, his game could be taken to another level. I also think he was Canada's best defenseman at the Under 18's. Calvin de Haan is only hitting the tip of the iceberg here and I expect him to continue to surprise a lot of me and show them how good he truly is.  - Brock Otten

Excellent stuff from all three writers at OHL Prospects.  It seems to me that while the consensus is that he's a first round defenseman, whose stock really rose this year (e.g. CSS ranked him 38th in the midterm, finally ranking him 25th).   But those who favor him, really do favor him (Brock Otten, Chris Edwards).   The consistent issue I keep seeing is that he needs to get bigger.  But as the three reasonings at OHL Prospects also indicate, his upside only goes so far - he's not going to be like Mike Green.  Frankly, I'm OK with that.  "a solid puck-moving rearguard," as Sean Keogh put it, is perfectly fine with me.   As far as the style of defenseman that he is, I would think he is an offensive or a two-way defenseman.   He put up a ton of points in the OHL for a rookie defender, de Haan says he likes to model his game after ; and scouts like his offensive capabilities

Unless I'm mistaken, the Devils really don't have too many puck-moving defenseman in the system.  OK, there's Tyler Eckford, but off the top of my head, that's it.  I know that the idea in the NHL Draft is to select the best player available as the majority of these players won't play right away, making drafting for need a folly.  However, given what de Haan can bring to the table; he could very well be the best player available and fit a need in the system should he fall to the Devils at 23rd overall.

Have your say about the possiblity of the Devils drafting Calvin de Haan.  Have you seen him play in the OHL up in Oshawa? And if so, what do you think? Are you encouraged by what you have read?  Or are you still a bit skeptical?   Before you jump in with the comments, check out the only video I can find of Calvin de Haan uploaded by TVCtvguy, which goes over his path to the OHL and has some video of him actually on the ice.

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