de Haan’s Return a Happy Happening

When I was dispatched to Montreal for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, I had only one — and only one — name on my mind.

Driving up the Thruway, then the Northway and into Canada with New York Times Islanders beat man, Allan Kreda, we spent several hours in debate.

After all, there were several excellent possibilities available as top picks including John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene and, yes, even Evander Kane.

But, no matter how much Kreda and The Maven moved the Hockey Scrabble names around in our heads, the choice that always — and I do mean always — emerged was Tavares.

And so it was my distinct pleasure to host the eventual Captain John in the MSG Networks studio after his selection for his thoughts about being an Islander plus other puck points on his mind.

Then came a surprise.

Not long after Tavares exited stage left another draftee walked in stage right and stunned me to the very core.

He was very tall, very handsome and a total unknown to me; and that lad was the Islanders 12th overall pick in the first round.

Everything about Calvin de Haan impressed me, from his demeanor to his eloquence — yeah just about all points including his few about his future in the NHL which seemed bright whenever that would happen to be.

Alas, it didn’t happen right away.

Matter of fact there were those of us in the media crowd who began wondering whether it ever would happen.

A spate of injuries, the long roads along minor league busways and questions about his relevance in The Show surrounded the native of Carp, Ontario.

Now that Calvin has signed a new $3.3 million, one-year contract with the Islanders the issues seem so long, long ago.

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Avoiding arbitration, de Haan now is part of coach Doug Weight‘s foundation including Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Adam Pelech.

At age 26 de Haan is in position to mature into a long-term leader on the blue line and the reason is rooted into his maturation during the 2016-17 season.

Granted that Cal still is not in the Norris Trophy competition but his ability to alternate between savvy defense and energetic puck-carrying has reached a new level of competence with the hope of improvement very likely to be realized.

Some Islanders-watchers rated de Haan — 6-1, 197 pounds — the team’s best defenseman last season. He set a career high in goals and assists.

No less relevant, Calvin continued to be one of the NHL’s premier shot-blockers — 190 through 82 games; also a testimant to his durability.

Furthermore, he was the second best offensive blueliner behind Leddy.

As for the one-year portion of the deal, it enables management to discern whether de Haan’s performance is capable of enhancement in the year ahead.

On the other hand, Cal will be motivated even more in the hopes of landing a bigger deal ahead. His career Plus-15 rating is nothing to be sneezed at and figures to improve next semester.

From my view, it will be interesting to see how de Haan fits in with the less-experienced Ryan Pulock or Pelech. Maybe even Scott Mayfield.

It’s clear that de Haan now steps into the role vacated by Travis Hamonic.

[Fischler: Hamonic Trade a Win-Win For Both Sides]

One of my favorite Isles-watchers, Rob Taub, opines that the expectations figure to place Cal as the number three defender, with a bigger role on the second power play and penalty-kill.

As a young vet, he also can offer guidance to the younger backliners such as Pulock, Pelech and Mayfield.

Looking backward to my interview with de Haan — following the more highly-touted Tavares — I figure that Cal’s evolution has gained the kind of traction that I had hoped it would that afternoon in Montreal.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.