After missing most of the 2012-13 season due to injury, defenseman Calvin de Haan is eager to prove himself to the organization that selected him 12th overall in 2009.
Following that draft, which saw the Islanders selected John Tavares first overall, de Haan remained with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League for two more seasons of junior hockey. One of those was also cut short, as a shoulder injury limited the Carp, Ont. native to play in just 34 games in 2009-10.
The Oshawa captain returned healthy the following season and reminded everyone of his offensive ability, scoring 48 points (six goals, 42 assists) in 55 games. He was an alternate captain for Team Canada in the 2011 World Juniors, where he notched five assists in six games.
de Haan’s first professional season came in 2011-12, when he saw action in 56 American Hockey League games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He also made his debut for the Islanders on Dec. 15 vs. Dallas. Heading into last season, he appeared to be on track to compete for a full-time spot on the Islanders, but after three games with the Sound Tigers, de Haan dislocated the same shoulder that hampered him in juniors, bringing his 2012-13 campaign to a close.
“I’m feeling good now,” de Haan said Friday after the second on-ice session at Islanders Rookie Camp. “Obviously, I got injured last year, but there were no problems at all over the summer and the shoulder feels really good now.”
de Haan, 22, has skated at Islanders Rookie Camp every year since he was 18. Many players in camp are still teenagers, and de Haan is trying to impart as much wisdom on them as he can.
“I know what to expect from the coaching staff in regards to work ethic and things like that,” de Haan said. “I try to pass it on to the younger guys and hopefully they can use some of my knowledge for years to come.”
Sound Tigers head coach Scott Pellerin, who led drills at Rookie Camp on Saturday, has seen firsthand de Haan’s influence on the younger players.
“He's a leader,” Pellerin said. “He's been around. We have a really young group; we need guys like him to step up to help direct the ship a little bit and he's doing that on and off the ice, so that's good to see.
While he isn’t the most vocal player on the ice, de Haan feels he can give the players on the ice some guidance simply by the way he plays.
“I’m not the loudest guy - I kind of like to save my breath here and there,” de Haan said. “But I think I can help the younger guys out by leading by example, making crisp passes and jumping up in the play.”
A goal of any AHL coach is to see his players develop into NHL-ready contributors, but Pellerin wouldn’t mind seeing more of de Haan on his bench, at least a little while this season.
“Cal is a tremendous skater,” Pellerin said. “He skates with a lot of poise. He's so strong with and without the puck. For me, I didn't get a real good chance to see him play last year since he was injured. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play with confidence and bring out his game.”
de Haan, feeling stronger than ever, is brimming with confidence as he looks to bounce back from last season’s injury.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice and playing hockey again,” de Haan said. “If I don’t make the Islanders and end up in Bridgeport, that’s totally fine. But my ultimate goal is to play for the New York Islanders this season.”
Islanders Rookie Camp continues through Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum.