TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The 2012 edition of Red Wings development camp got underway on Saturday, with 41 aspiring NHLers convening at Traverse City’s Centre Ice Arena for Day 1 of the team’s annual week-long training and evaluation session.
After arriving in northern Michigan throughout the day on Friday, camp participants met as a group for the first this morning and were promptly divided into two squads – Team Lidstrom and Team Zetterberg – prior to partaking in an arduous fitness test led by members of the Wings’ training staff. Comprised of an eclectic mix of draft picks, AHL/ECHL players and free agent invitees from all over the world, the two teams hit the ice in the afternoon for a series of drills led by Grand Rapids Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek, along with members of the Wings' staff, including video coach Keith McKittrick, goaltending coach Jim Bedard, director of player development Jiri Fischer and hockey operations advisor Chris Chelios.
While a significant portion of the players attending development camp this year have previously been to at least one NHL-sanctioned event, defenseman James de Haas was experiencing what it felt like to be involved with the most prestigious hockey league on the planet for the first time on Saturday. De Haas did not attend last month’s NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh and resultantly missed his name being called by Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill in the sixth round.
“I was at home doing some yard work with my dad,” says de Haas. “I got a phone call from one of my buddies who was there at the draft and it was just chaos from there. I can’t even explain it. It was everything I’ve ever dreamed for, to be picked by a team like the Red Wings.”
De Haas spent the 2011-12 season with the OJHL’s Toronto Lakeshore Patriots where he tallied 29 points in 45 appearances en route to picking up First Team All-Prospect honors. The hulking 6-foot-2, 201-pound blue-liner is thrilled to now be a part of the Wings' organization and was pleased with how Day 1 went.
“Detroit is known for doing a really good job of developing their players so it’s good to know I’m in good hands here,” says the 18-year-old Torontonian. “It felt really good, just to get out there and get camp going today. It’s going to be a long week and I was just happy to get things started.”
Set to join western Canada’s BCHL in 2012-13 prior to embarking upon his collegiate career in 2013-14 at Clarkson University, the future appears to be bright for the young defenseman. While a new league in a new province beckons next season, de Haas is currently focused on making the most of his first NHL experience in Traverse City.
“I just want to make a good impression, to improve as much possible and to learn a lot from the older guys and the coaches here," he said. "I want to take as much as I can from this experience.”
De Haas and his fellow prospects will be back at Centre Ice Arena on Sunday for a full day of action. A full camp itinerary and roster can be seen HERE.