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Injuries Stranding Calvin de Haan at Bridgeport?

Once bright future, more cloudy now?
Once bright future, more cloudy now?

In the 2009 NHL Draft with the first overall pick the Islanders selected John Tavares, hoping that they were taking a franchise player to build around. Check.

Later in that round the Islanders proceeded to move up twice, from 26th overall to 16th and then to 12th to finally draft Calvin de Haan. It was considered a bit of a reach even by de Haan, as he was rated as the 25th overall skater in the final Central Scouting report.

Three years removed from the 2009 draft, despite being one of the last defenseman cut from camp the previous two years, it seems like de Haan has dropped on the Islanders depth chart. Although this is worrying because of the value and hope invested in a first round pick, on the bright side part of the drop has been due to the outstanding play of his Bridgeport teammates Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness, who were each drafted the year before.

The part which is worrying are his struggles to stay healthy. A shoulder injury his first season after being drafted left him missing half the season. Last season he missed 10 games after an injury in a strong WJC outing. This season in the AHL he's missed nearly half the year with two separate injuries.

Even more unsettling are the number of players who currently have a higher point total than de Haan while playing fewer games without coming close to his pedigree. De Haan has 14 points (2 g, 12 a) in 49 games played. Those defenseman above or near him include Steven Olesky 11 points, 43 GP, Jon Landry 18 points in 30 GP, Dylan Reese 15 points in 27 GP. Brandon Gentile, who is now back in the ECHL, had 5 points in 15 games during his stint with the team.

To make matters worse, de Haan, an offensive defenseman, has been near invisible on the scoresheet since his return. In 16 games since his return, in which Bridgeport has been playing some of it's best hockey, de Haan has 4 points across 3 games. He had a 9 game pointless streak and is currently on a 3 game pointless streak. He's still getting 1-2 shots on net a game like earlier this year.

Going into this season de Haan was the jewel in the crown among the incoming Bridgeport rookie defenseman. Aaron Ness appeared to stall during his three years in Minnesota, despite reports that he was commonly the best player on the ice for a bad Minnesota team. Matt Donovan meanwhile had two strong seasons for Denver as a 19- and 20-year old (spending a year in the USHL). Both Ness and Donovan though seemed like long term projects considering their size, and their puck moving ability being something the Islanders have in spades among their prospects.

Both '08 draftees have exceeded beyond anyone's expectations. Donovan leads all BP players in assists and is second on the team in points among players on the roster. Ness meanwhile looked good enough to get an 8-game stint in the NHL and not look out of place. Both of them appear to have their foot in the door when it comes to next seasons Islander team.

With Mark Eaton, Steve Staios, Milan Jurcina and (possibly) Dylan Reese on their way out after the season, there are going to be holes needing to be filled. It seems that you wouldn't want to start the season with half of your starting 6 defenseman being rookies. It's also likely that the Islanders will be chasing one of the big name UFA defenseman again this summer. That leaves 2 spots and signs right now pointing to Donovan and Ness being ready for the NHL.

Meanwhile that leaves de Haan possibly in Bridgeport for the second season of his ELC deal. The one thing going for him is that he might end up getting the call up just because his contract is worth nearly as much cap space as Ness and Donovan's combined. But rushing up De Haan to fill up cap space might be one of the worst moves for the team in a while. He has shown an inability to stay healthy in both JRs and the AHL.

While his height is listed differently at multiple sites (6' or 6'1") his weight is the same at most of them, 180 pounds. Only Michael Grabner is listed as weighing less. (Similarly disconcerting is that Rhett Rakhshani has struggled to stay healthy too.) Even defenseman who are good on their skates are going to have wear and tear over the grind of an NHL season, and it's a question if de Haan could survive a whole season.

Hopefully next season one of the kids (Ness/Donovan) makes the team out of camp. The Islanders finally manage to sign the big name defenseman they've been chasing. For the final spot they use Dylan Reese for at least the start of the season and slowly work in one of other youngsters. Not everyone blooms at the same time, just ask Matt Moulson or P.A .Parenteau; another year of the AHL might not be bad for De Haan.

De Haan was always a gamble though, and if he doesn't work out it's an expensive hit. Nick Leddy was taken with the 16th overall pick in 2009, and in his 2nd NHL season he's looking good with 35 points. Kyle Palmieri was taken with the 26 overall pick in 2009, and while he hasn't become an NHL regular he's already got 106 points in 107 AHL games. That doesn't even consider the other picks that were packaged in order to move up. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made next season to revamp the defense.