Time is on the Detroit Red Wings’ side when it comes to James De Haas — and that’s a big reason why they like him so much.
The Red Wings selected De Haas in the sixth round, 170th overall, at the 2012 NHL draft in Pittsburgh, landing a college-bound defenseman who they won’t think about signing until at least 2016.
De Haas played junior A last season with the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He’s expected to spend next season playing junior A in British Columbia with the Penticton Vees before heading to Clarkson in 2013-14.
“If he was playing in the (Ontario Hockey League), we would have loved his potential because of his size and skating, but now we’ve got five years to work with him (instead of two),” said Red Wings director of scouting Joe McDonnell. “He’s a long-term project but we think he’s got a lot of upside.”
De Haas produced 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points in 45 games last season, leading the Patriots in defense scoring. He added five goals and seven assists in 21 playoff games, ranking second in scoring among all OJHL blueliners.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and and 197 pounds, McDonnell said De Haas is actually 6-foot-4, and he complements that impressive frame with surprising skating ability.
The Red Wings don’t project De Haas as a big offensive guy, rather, more of a calm, steady No. 4 or 5 defender who keeps it simple with the puck and chips in on the second power-play unit from time to time.
“Real good skater, moves the puck, makes a real good first pass,” McDonnell said.
De Haas is still extremely thin and needs to get stronger and be harder to play against in the corners and in front of the net, but the Red Wings hope a lot of that will come with maturity.
“It’s just an overall progression,” McDonnell said. “In the end, he’ll be a good shutdown guy, a guy you can use in any situation.”
De Haas was ranked 176th among North Americans by Central Scouting, and it’s possible his ranking would have been higher had he played in the OHL and had more exposure to scouts.
But the Red Wings had good luck drafting Brendan Smith out of the Ontario junior A ranks before he went to Wisconsin, and they’re hoping De Haas might be another success story.
“Four or five years from now, if he puts everything together, I think we’ve got a pretty good player,” McDonnell said.