EAST LANSING, Mich. – Backed by the trust of his coaches, James de Haas has seen both his confidence and role rise during his sophomore season at Clarkson University.
The 6-foot-4 Red Wings sixth-round 2012 NHL draft pick (170th overall) has created an identity of being an offensive defenseman who is quick to join the rush and put shots on net. However, he said the key to his success will be establishing himself as a two-way player.
“(Offense) has been a strength of mine for a while, so I’ve tried to keep that up,” de Haas said. “But at the same time, it’s tough to make it on offense alone, so I’ve been working on developing my defensive game as well.”
As a freshman in 2013-14, de Haas helped Clarkson to its best season in six years. He led team rookies in scoring with 13 points (6-7), good enough for recognition on the ECAC Hockey All-Rookie Team.
He said he’s taken a step forward this season, leading to a larger role from coaches and teammates.
De Haas is logging consistent playing time on special teams, and finds himself on the ice in key situations. In Sunday’s 6-4 loss to Michigan State, de Haas was playing in the final minutes of the game -- something he looks at as a sign of confidence from the coaching staff.
“Last year, a lot of the older guys would be out last minute, killing penalties,” he said. “Now they’re showing some trust in me.”
De Haas has been a participant at multiple Red Wings prospect camps in Traverse City, Mich., and he’s utilizing advice from the team that drafted him to help him pinpoint his strengths and weaknesses.
“Some of the guys who are there – you’re looking at Kris Draper, Mike Babcock, Jiri Fischer – these kinds of guys, just to sit down and talk to them and get advice from them and have them teach you and just the lifestyle of a Red Wing for a week,” he said. “It is quite the experience. I’ve met quite a few guys there, can’t say enough about it.”
While the camps help improve de Hass’ game on the ice, he noted the experience extends beyond just on-ice skill development.
“We do a lot of stuff with strength and conditioning, nutrition, social media, PR, as much as we work on our game on the ice” de Haas said.
Midway through the college season, he currently leads the Golden Knights in assists (6), and is first among defensemen and second on the team in points (9).
In 16 games this year, he’s just one assist shy of his total contribution through 38 games last season.
“I think I’ve progressed a lot as a player,” he said. “Coming in as a freshman last year, it was tough to adjust, get used to it. But now coming back this year, I know what to expect. … I know the systems we’re running, and I have a better relationship with our coaches and teammates. I think everything just progressed a lot and it’s all positive, so I look forward to keep it going.”