Oshawa Generals defenseman Calvin de Haan
is gaining renown in his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League for his poise and decision making.
And those platitudes aren't limited to his performance on the ice, which has been stellar so far - a goal and an assist Friday against the Sarnia Sting gave him 13 points in 12 games. He leads all OHL rookies in scoring, he's third among all league defenseman in assists (11) and points, and his plus-5 rating is tops on the Generals.
De Haan performs as well off the ice as he does on it, with education one of the reasons he opted to spend an extra season in midget hockey rather than play for the Generals last season -- something his coach, Chris DePiero, is sure he could have done.
"Last year I don't know if I would have gotten a lot of ice time," de Haan told NHL.com. "I wanted to play, and I thought that was the best thing for my development. Plus, I was a lot shorter then. I've grown and put on a lot of weight. That gave me a lot of confidence."
So did the results. Playing for the Kemptville 73s of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, he finished fourth among the league's blueliners with 39 assists and tied for fifth with 42 points. Both numbers were team highs, and he played in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League's Top Prospects Game, which draws players from all Junior A-level leagues throughout Canada.
Besides growing from 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds to a sturdier 6-1 and 165, playing an extra season with Kemptville allowed him to keep his options open if he wanted to play NCAA hockey.
"Education is a big thing because you never know where hockey is going to take you," said de Haan. "Tomorrow I could blow my knee out and it could all be over and I need something else to have in my life."
De Haan said he considered a few colleges, including Northeastern, St. Cloud State and Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., which was only about 90 minutes from his home in Carp, Ontario.
He debated his decision until a week before Oshawa's training camp opened in August. At the end, the opportunity being afforded him by the Generals was too good to pass up.
"(The OHL) definitely is the best developmental league in the world," de Haan said. "It was a good situation coming into Oshawa. I thought that if I earned my ice time I could play a lot. The coaches are great. … You can't really turn that down, either. It was hard. And playing only three hours away from home is pretty good for me. My parents have been down numerous times and that means a lot for me."
It also means a lot to DePiero, who has installed de Haan as a top-four defenseman and given him significant time on the power play and penalty kill.
"You look back and it was a very astute and mature decision he made," said DePiero. "It worked out well for him. He needed to know he could compete at the junior level against older guys. That gave him the knowledge and confidence he could step in and play with us."
Speed and smarts seem to be the hallmarks of de Haan's game.
"Calvin shows a lot of patience and poise for a young defenseman," said Chris Edwards, who scouts the OHL for NHL Central Scouting. "He has high-end puck skill and passing ability. He has a very good shot, hard and accurate, and 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."
"He has that uncanny ability to slow things down in his mind and keep a high level of speed," said DePiero.
"Education is a big thing because you never know where hockey is going to take you. Tomorrow I could blow my knee out and it could all be over and I need something else to have in my life."
-- Calvin de Haan
He gets great practice every day in going against teammate John Tavares
, likely one of the top two choices for the 2009 Entry Draft.
"He's a guy with a lot of patience and poise," said Tavares. "He's one of the smartest players in our division, if not the league already. What he's done already in his young career has been exceptional. He moves the puck well, he protects it very well. I've never seen anyone hit him. He always finds a way to miss checks."
At his size, de Haan knows he'll go farther using his brains then he will his brawn.
"I'm a puck-moving defenseman," he said. "I like to try to make something happen every time I'm out on the ice. Make the smart play, not try to do too much, do what I have to do. Move the puck, be a team player. I think I need to be a little more physical on the ice, hitting a little more, but that's going to come with strength and more size if I keep on growing."
If his strong play continues, his stock for the 2009 Entry Draft will continue to grow. Scouts - who flock to Generals games to see Tavares - will start to take notice to the smooth-skating blueliner.
While draft season always is the most important season to junior players, those around de Haan said they haven't seen him feel any pressure.
"His mom and dad did a great job with him," said DePiero. "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."
De Haan said all the draft talk can wait a while. But if he gets curious, he can talk to one of his defense partners, Michael Del Zotto
, who was taken No. 20 by the New York Rangers
this past June.
"I haven't really (thought about it) yet," de Haan said. "It hasn't really started to hit me yet, but June's not that far away. Hopefully I get drafted. I'll start to talk to (Del Zotto) as time starts to come, get some advice on how to stay calm and stuff."
It shouldn't be too tough for him. De Haan is smart enough to know where to apply his focus, regardless of what might be coming at him -- be it opposing forwards or NHL scouts.
"I just like to think of every game as another hockey game and not to change anything," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win, but it's just another hockey game, no matter who's watching."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.