Release: 07/19/2011
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By John Kreiser  - Columnist
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- In terms of his NHL career, Calvin de Haan is a rookie trying to make the NHL for the first time. But at this week's New York Islanders development camp, he's one of the old hands.

The Isles' "other" first-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft -- de Haan was taken 12th, 11 slots after New York grabbed John Tavares with the No. 1 pick -- is attending his third development camp this week at the Nassau Coliseum, the place he hopes to call home this fall. That makes the 20-year-old a veteran among the 18- and 19-year-olds who are getting their first look at professional hockey.

"I'm old news now," de Haan said with a laugh after Wednesday's workout at the Coliseum. "I try to be welcoming to the younger guys, kind of show them the ropes a little bit."

"Just go out and have fun," he added when asked what advice he offered to this year's newcomers. "It's a great camp, very instructional. The Islanders are giving us a lot of time to gel, to bond. This is the future right here -- we're trying to form a brotherhood. I just try to be welcoming and include everyone in every activity we do."

The Islanders have big hopes for de Haan. They envision him as a first-pair offensive defenseman who can run the point on the power play. His skills and smarts carried him deep into training camp each of the last two years, but the Islanders sent him back to his junior team, the Oshawa Generals, both times -- largely to get stronger.

He did that -- but he also had to cope with some major injuries, including a concussion in 2010 and a shoulder injury that limited him to 55 regular-season games. He had 6 goals and 48 points in that time, and added a goal and 11 assists in 10 playoff games. He feels all the rehab and other off-ice work he's done has made a difference.

"I felt way faster than I did last year," he said. "I felt great. I thought I was flying out there. But there are still a couple of months before the season starts, and I've got to get bigger and stronger."

De Haan was listed at 6 feet and 160 pounds at his first camp. This year, he's 6-1 and 189. The difference is noticeable, though de Haan said the team hasn't given him any kind of a target it wants him to reach.

"There's no real specific weight," he said. "It's an overall strength thing. I've traded a lot of fat for muscle this summer, slimmed down a lot. But I've kept my weight up -- I've just lost body fat.

"I think when I hurt my shoulder last January it kind of put me back a little on the depth chart. I've come back stronger this summer, and I feel awesome right now -- no problems with my shoulder. It's definitely stronger than what it was before."

While there's no question that de Haan would rather have spent the last couple of seasons on Long Island than in junior hockey, he feels the extra time with the Generals -- he was their captain in 2010-11 -- were a valuable experience.

"I had a great time in Oshawa. I wouldn't have traded it for the world," he said. "It was one of the best times of my life. This is just another chapter coming up."

It's a chapter he hopes will begin with the Islanders, as opposed to their AHL farm team in Bridgeport.

"They haven't really said anything," he said when asked if the Isles have indicated where he'll begin the season, "but I've been the last cut the past two years, and I think that's shown what I can do. Obviously I want to make the team this year, but I don't think they're going to say much until the deadline comes."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said de Haan will have every chance to win a job when training camp opens in September.

"He's a guy who was injured for a while in junior hockey, but we've got some young players like Calvin … who are going to challenge for jobs. I'm not afraid of young -- I never have been. Guys that want that job and want to earn it are going to get the opportunity come September."

Words like that are music to de Haan's ears.

"I want to make the team," he said. "I want to play in the NHL. It's my dream. I'm trying to prove I can play at the professional level. I've been the last cut the past two years for the Islanders, and I'll do my best to make the team this year.

"Whatever management thinks is best for me is the path I'm going to take, but I'm going to do my best."

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist

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