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De Haas battles in Penticton

Wings' defensive prospect is excited about bright future

Friday, 09.28.2012 / 1:42 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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De Haas battles in Penticton
Defenseman James de Haas is playing the BCHL this season with the Penticton Vees. (Photo by Garrett James Photography)

Red Wings prospect James de Haas was asked about the nobility particle in his family name this week.

“Nobody ever gets it right,” said de Haas, in a phone interview with

So what is ‘de’ story?

Like de Gaulle or da Vinci, the de Haas family prefers to recognize the lower-case letter. However, whether right or wrong, it isn’t a battle that de Haas cares to wage, at least not now.

This month, de Haas began a different crusade – one that potentially has greater consequence to his hockey future – when he packed his things and moved to Penticton, British Columbia.

De Haas, who was the Red Wings’ sixth-round selection in last June’s NHL draft, stayed close to home last season, spent the year with the OJHL’s Toronto Lakeshore. Though he led the Patriots defensemen in scoring, with 10 goals and 19 assists in 45 games, de Haas was ready for a change of hockey scenery.

To maintain his U.S. college eligibility, de Haas chose to stay in Junior A, but in a league that could provide better competition, which would help him prepare for the rigors of the collegiate game.

Jumping to the British Columbia Hockey League was an easy decision, de Haas said, even though it’s the first time he’s lived away from his family’s home in Mississauga, Ontario.

“From what I heard from scouts, coaches, people that I know who played there, it’s just a better league to play in as far as development goes,” said de Haas, who will attend Clarkson University next fall. “This is my last year before I go into school and I figured that it would be better to be in a place where I would development more and get the experience of living away from home.”

Considered to be a solid puck-moving defenseman, the 6-foot-4 de Haas has already produced two assists and a game-winning goal in overtime in six games for the Vees (5-1-0).

“I think my strengths are making the first pass out of the D-zone and I like to join in the rush a little bit,” de Haas said. “I think working the power play is another one of my strengths.”

While it’s only the first month of the BCHL season, the 19-year-old feels that he has already seen measurable improvement from a year ago.

“So far, I’ve improved on my battling down low and my D-zone coverage,” de Haas said. “It’s been something that I’ve really been focused on since I’ve been out here.

“You have to battle hard if you want to play here and the coaches have made that apparent. They’ve said that they don’t care about your track record; they don’t care where you’ve committed or where you were drafted. If you’re not going to battle and play hard down low than you’re not going to get the opportunities to play on the power play and stuff like that.”

If de Haas is to become the lockdown defender that he’s projected to be by many pro scouts, then his physical strength must continue its current course.

“One of the things that I’m always working on is my leg strength,” he said. “When you get higher and higher with each level you go it’s really important. Even since I’ve been out here I’ve tried to workout as much as I can after my team workouts. If I have a free 45-minutes or an hour I try to get a little workout in or go on the ice and maybe do some foot-work (drills). I’m always working on improving my strength.”

With the physical aspects of his game on the rise, attending the Wings’ development camp in Traverse City provided a glimpse to future expectations.

“I got to see some of my competition for the next few years, all the older guys,” said de Haas, of the week-long camp last July. “It showed me what level that I need to be at when I get a few years older. It was definitely good to get that experience under my belt and what I learned there on-ice and off will certainly help me.”

In hindsight, Clarkson certainly could have benefited from a player of de Haas’s caliber this season after the Golden Knights learned they will start the ECAC campaign without sophomore defenseman Kevin Tansey, who was savagely assaulted in Ottawa this summer.

While de Haas is excited to begin college life in Upstate New York, he’s equally eager to getting his college playing career underway.

“In speaking with the coaches, I really liked what they had to say,” de Haas said. “I just thought it was a good opportunity there, so I decided to take it and until this day I’m really happy about it.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
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11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
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13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


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P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
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D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80