Though he's still limited to non-contact activities at the Islanders' development camp as he recovers from a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in late January, it's obvious the 19-year-old has grown physically and mentally in the year since the Isles traded up to take him with the 12th pick of the 2009 Entry Draft -- 11 picks after taking John Tavares at No. 1.
De Haan impressed the Islanders enough at training camp last fall to make it through to the final cut before being returned to the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. But his season was cut short when he got tangled up with an opponent and hurt the shoulder, which had been injured only a few weeks earlier while he was playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
The post-surgery recovery period was expected to be six months, but de Haan said he's been pushing to get back on skates, and he got his wish just in time to get back on the ice at the Nassau Coliseum this week.
"I put on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle and I think I grew an inch or two. I want to play at about 190 to 195 pounds. I don't want to get too big to where I lose my speed. But I was a kid last year, and I'm starting to turn into a man a little bit." -- Calvin de Haan
De Haan impressed everyone on Long Island last fall with his ability to think the game. His puck-moving and passing skills already were NHL-caliber, and he looked right at home running the power play. Physically, though, he had to get bigger and stronger in order to deal with the pounding that comes with being an NHL defenseman -- the Isles optimistically listed him at 170 pounds.
In that regard, de Haan definitely has accomplished his goal. He's taller, and his upper body is noticeably bigger.
"I put on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle and I think I grew an inch or two," he said. "I want to play at about 190 to 195 pounds. I don't want to get too big to where I lose my speed. But I was a kid last year, and I'm starting to turn into a man a little bit.
"I can feel (the extra strength) on the ice. I've been working out for four months and I'm more powerful out there."
He's also visibly more mature, and he exudes a confidence that wasn't in evidence a year ago.
"A whole year helps you mature," he said. "That extra year makes a difference. I'm still growing, I'm still putting weight on. This year (at development camp), I know what to expect, and I've been trying to help out some of the young guys who haven't been here before."
"I'm a grizzled vet here," he added with a laugh.
De Haan said the shoulder "feels great. I can't remember the last time I felt any pain in it." But Isles coach Scott Gordon said de Haan's injury might make it tough for his to crack the lineup in training camp.
"Obviously Calvin missed a lot of time last year with his injury," Gordon said. "In a very short amount of time he's put on some weight -- it's very noticeable. The other day I saw him go on the ice and he looked more like a pro than he did a junior player."
Though de Haan is understandably eager to start his NHL career, he said he realizes he might have to spend another season in junior after losing so much of 2009-10 to injuries.
"If I end up in junior again, that's OK," he said. "I want to develop at the right pace and be the best player I can be. If I'm back, I'll be a leader on the team this year. I like to help out the younger guys -- some guys are going into their draft year and they worry about their rankings, but they've just got to play their game."
"They (the Islanders) signed me to a contract (in May), so I guess that means something," de Haan said. "I just want to be the best player I can be, whatever the timetable for that is."