During the first week of July, Calvin de Haan was just like every other faithful follower of hockey. The Islanders' skilled defense prospect was as absorbed by the free agent frenzy as anyone else who cares about the sport. Of course, de Haan had a vested interest.
"I want to play here, right"? de Haan asked rhetorically in a talk with Point Blank.
The 12th overall pick in the 2009 - the more high-end of the Islanders' pair of top blueline prospects with Travis Hamonic - learned via the internet that Garth Snow signed Mark Eaton for two years and Milan Jurcina for one. Add Eaton and Jurcina to the team's returning six defensemen on one-way contracts, and the bright 19-year-old knows eight could be more than enough.
"It's going to be tough with the good D we added and the good D we already had," said de Haan. "There's no question about it. But I'm not going to sit back and approach this like I'm not going to make the Islanders. At my age, with my contract signed, I have two options - I can't play in the 'A' (American Hockey League), so it will be either the Islanders or another year of junior. I'm going to fight as hard as I can to stay with the Islanders."
A year ago, de Haan impressed head coach Scott Gordon with his poise, polish and puck-moving ability. In the mind of management, de Haan was not a no-brainer to be returned to the Oshawa Generals. After they said goodbye, the young defenseman won a coveted spot with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and played well for Oshawa.
Late in the season, de Haan suffered a serious shoulder injury that required surgery. His rehabilitation extended into Canada's WJC evaluation camp in August, but this week at Islanders rookie camp, de Haan has been able to play at 100% efficiency.
"The shoulder is healed and strong," said de Haan. "I'm healthy and that's behind me. In no way should it stop me from being my best at camp."
Gordon said he's excited to see what the prospect can do when the Islanders' main training camp begins on Friday.
"Calvin's a smart player and a talented player," said the head coach. "Last year, he was impressive enough that we had a long discussion about what would be best for him and the team. This year, with us adding some very good depth on defense, it's going to be a challenge for him.
"I think it's harder at the NHL level for young defensemen compared to forwards, like Josh (Bailey) and John (Tavares). As a forward, you can get away with some mistakes as you're developing. With defensemen, you have to be ready physically and mentally or the mistakes are going to be glaring and costly. Calvin is going to be with us for a long time. It's just a matter of whether this is the right time. He's going to get a chance to prove himself."
If de Haan - whose personal goal is "to continue to get faster and stronger" - doesn't make the big club, he understands that he is still in a good position to progress.
"If I'm back with the Gens, I'll have the chance to play a lot of minutes," he said. "I'll also have a shot at another World Juniors. You're not going to hear any compliants out of me. I just don't want to think about that now. I want to make the Islanders, right"?
Notes: Islanders single-game tickets go on sale exclusively today from 5-9 pm at the Team Store in the Broadway Mall in Hicksville. Trent Hunter is signing autographs during the first hour. All fans will have the chance to purchase tickets at the Coliseum box office and through Ticketmaster beginning Wednesday at 10:00 am.
Congratulations to Trent and Terri Hunter on becoming parents again in July.
David Toews, one of the team's third round picks in 2008, is expected to miss camp with a shoulder injury. The 20-year-old Toews, who left North Dakota after two poor seasons to play junior hockey in the WHL, is the brother of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Injury or not, he has a long way to go and not much time to prove that he is at least a mid-level prospect worthy of a contract.
Prodigal son Kirill Kabanov was welcomed on the ice at rookie camp today. Kabanov, who was benched Monday after reporting late for camp, skated hard - some on his own accord, some with direction from a coach.
John Tavares did not work out with the veterans today because he had another commitment. Along with Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal, Drew Doughty and other stars, Tavares is taking part in the NHL's media availability in New York with league media partners.
Comments regarding this post are welcomed. See you later.