Clarkson started their season on a tear, going 6-1-11 in non-conference play before starting their ECAC schedule with a visit to Brown last Friday night. The last time Clarkson came to Providence, Brown was on its way to the second round of the 2013 ECAC playoffs after sweeping the first two games of a three-game series against Clarkson. The game started well enough for Brown, taking a 1-0 lead and seemingly picking up where last year's playoffs left off. But the Clarkson power play took control, scoring twice in the opening frame; Clarkson took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission and held the lead until Brown tied it in the third with three minutes left. Clarkson took advantage of an odd-man rush off a neutral zone turnover to deal the finishing blow and win the game 4-3.
I will mention one caveat: I do not go to these games to watch them. I would go anyway if I didn't have to work them, but because I have to work them, my job takes first priority, and doing it means taking my eyes away from the ice sometimes in the middle of play.
James de Haas is listed on the lineup sheet at 6'3", 205 lbs. Even by NHL standards, Clarkson sports a beefy defense corps, having only one player under 6' and averaging 206.7 lbs.2 (NHL average was listed at 6'1.3", 203.7 lbs at the beginning of the season.) If there's a place where de Haas can learn to use his size effectively, Clarkson would be it.
de Haas is one of two freshman on the Clarkson defense, and judging by the lineup sheet, the other freshman hasn't played a game yet. de Haas played all 8 of Clarkson's games before the matchup with Brown, and against Brown, he was listed on the left side of the third defensive pair with senior Alex Boak. College hockey coaches do indeed lean on their seniors for their experience and veteran leadership, and with Boak being the only senior on the Clarkson defense, de Haas stands a good chance of learning a lot about hockey and the collegiate game from the veteran of 115 college games.
Even despite taking my eyes away from the ice for certain stretches of play, I struggled to notice de Haas. He plays a very quiet game, and his fluid skating helps him maintain position easily to cover the middle of the ice. My inability to notice him probably serves him well at this stage, as the freshman is projected by Hockey's Future to be a depth defenseman with mostly stay-at-home duties. He was on the ice for Brown's first goal, which I didn't really notice him on mostly because my eyes were elsewhere on the play. He played the left side of the umbrella on Clarkson's power play and had the assist on the 1-1 tying goal. He wouldn't be on the ice for another goal, but he did get caught out against Brown's top line; they drove wide to the outside and beat him with speed twice for good chances crashing the net. The few outlets he made, he got the puck up to the forwards in his own zone, and he was usually in a good position to help out his defense partner.
He's got quite a bit of developing to do before he sniffs an NHL lineup, but his playing in the NCAA means he and the Red Wings have lots of time before needing to make any sort of decisions on his hockey future. With the Red Wings' stable of defense prospects pretty full at the moment, de Haas will likely need all the time he can get. He is a very low-risk prospect to have drafted in the 6th round, 170th overall, but he will need to progress a lot to push his way into the Red Wings' future plans.
1College hockey has ties.
2This average weight number includes the smallest guy who played on Friday against Brown: 5'8", 182 lbs.