Once a week until the start of training camp, we are going to profile a player who could make, but is not guaranteed a spot on, the New York Islanders Opening Day roster. Your opinions on the player and/or their chances of making the Islanders to start the season are more than welcome in the comments section.
In 2011-12, there is no question the Islanders defense could have used an upgrade. On July 1, the Islanders lost the entire Swiss of their Cheese when Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina, and Steve Staios all became unrestricted free agents.
After trading for Lubomir Visnovsky and signing Matt Carkner, Garth Snow all but cemented the Islanders Top 5 defenseman for the 2012-13 season. That leaves one starting defenseman spot left and based on a July 1 interview, Snow plans on filling it from within the season.
"We expect one of our [prospects] Calvin de Haan, [Matt] Donovan and [Aaron] Ness to make the team," Snow said.
A fan favorite to fill that spot at this point of the off-season is Matt Donovan. But if Donovan is the guy that starts the season on the Island, he’s not the only one hoping to finish the season there.
"It takes time. Maybe I won't start the year in the NHL, but my goal is to finish [there], for sure."
That quote was from 21-year-old defenseman Calvin de Haan in an interview with NHL.com in late June. While de Haan may have the talent to play in the NHL, he first needs to prove that he’s healthy enough to play a full season at the professional level.
Since being drafted by the Islanders 12th overall in 2009, de Haan has lost 67 games due to injury, including 20 last year with a shoulder injury. de Haan did get a sip of coffee with the Isles last season (1 game can hardly be considered a cup), and looked more than capable in that game. He got a shorter stint on the Island than both Donovan and Aaron Ness last season, but it is possible that if he had not sustained the shoulder injury, he may have found his way back for a few more games.
While his numbers were pedestrian (2g-14a-16pt), de Haan's first professional season didn't go unnoticed by the Islanders or the AHL. de Haan was rewarded for his good play with a spot in the AHL All-Star game, although he was unable to play because of, surprise surprise, injury.
Listed at 6’ and 165 lbs at the ’09 draft, Calvin now weighs in at 6’1" and 195 lbs. The added size should not only help de Haan at the NHL level, but hopefully help his body from sustaining the injuries that have followed him around since he was drafted.
With both Mark Streit and Visnovsky only under contract through the end of the season, the wise move for the Islanders may be to get a full season out of de Haan in Bridgeport and then let him slide into an open spot on the blueline in 2013-14.
But with only 5 defenseman under contract for the upcoming season, there may be room for two of the three Bridgeport prospects to break camp with the Islanders. Conventional wisdom would say the Islanders would sign a veteran 7 defenseman before training camp, maybe even a return of Eaton or Jurcina (Gulp!).
If that doesn’t happen, there’s little reason to think that de Haan couldn’t make the Opening Day lineup, as long as it means meaningful minutes and not a seat in the press box. But even if he starts the season with the Sound Tigers, it's a good bet we'll see a decent amount of Calvin de Haan in an Islanders uniform in 2012-13.