I know the series is supposed to be "Top 25 Under 25" because symmetry like that is cool. I can’t write about current Detroit Red Wings prospects and not talk about defenseman James de Haas, though, so thank/blame everybody else for letting me indulge in writing this piece. This won’t be the first time I’ll have written about de Haas in this space, and I sure hope it won’t be the last.
Born: May 3, 1994
Weight: 209 lbs.
The Red Wings selected de Haas with the 170th pick (sixth round) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he played one season of junior hockey with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League and three seasons with Clarkson University of the NCAA (ECAC Hockey).
The biggest takeaway from de Haas’ career at Clarkson is that he’s become a bona fide NHL prospect after being simply a draft pick that maybe could have a shot in the league some day. His skills and his all-around game have progressed each year in college, and beginning last season, he took on more of a leadership role with the Golden Knights, wearing the "A" on his sweater. He was officially named a "team leader" for Clarkson for the upcoming season.
de Haas has all the tools to become a reliable NHL player. His biggest asset is actually not his size, but his skating. He moves exceptionally well for a player of his size, and while his great skating was already apparent during his freshman season, he has improved even in that department each season. He has the hockey sense to know what to do both with and without the puck, but his execution without the puck in his own zone still needs work.
While he probably won’t be quite the same kind of player once he hits the professional ranks, de Haas still possesses a high level of offense from the blue line. He led the Clarkson blue line in scoring each of the past two seasons, and he was the rookie scoring leader during his freshman campaign. At times in the last two seasons, de Haas led his whole team — not just the defensemen — in scoring and in shots on goal. He knows when to step up and take chances, and he’s not afraid to put the puck on net.
I’ve marveled at the progress that de Haas has made, and personally, I consider myself fortunate to have been able to follow his Clarkson playing career as closely as I have. That said, this coming senior season for him is make-or-break for his NHL future. After making an impact as a freshman and growing significantly in his sophomore season, the results on the ice took a minor step back for de Haas in his junior year. He split time between first- and second-pair duties, but now is the time when he needs to prove that he can lead a defense corps and dominate his competition. de Haas should expect to lead his team’s blue line corps in scoring for the third straight year, if not outright lead his team in scoring.