OTTAWA — Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan may have been the happiest man in Ottawa Friday evening. Raised in nearby Carp, several snowball tosses away from the Canadian Tire Centre, de Haan not only had the opportunity to perform in front of family and friends, he was reunited with former blueline partner Travis Hamonic.
Hamonic returned to the lineup after missing four games with a hairline fracture in his foot.
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De Haan and Hamonic were a go-to pairing last season and again in the early-going of the present campaign before being split up after the 20-game mark.
The 24-year-old was excited for their reunion of sorts. “I think we played well together in the past. I’m looking forward to it. He’s hungry to get to back into the lineup,” said de Haan.
Itching to get into action, Hamonic heaped praise on his partner’s game. “Each game, he’s getting better and better. People are talking about it now. In our locker room, he’s someone we rely on a lot. When they put the two of us together, we both play really well. We’ve built up a lot of chemistry. Hopefully we can hit the ground running again.”
The Islanders compiled a 2-1-1 record without Hamonic in the lineup, but coach Jack Capuano realizes they’re a much better club with him in it. “He’s only had a couple of days of practice, but anytime you can get a top defenseman back, right shot, good leader for us.”
During Hamonic’s absence, de Haan averaged 23 minutes of ice time per game, a fact that wasn’t lost on Capuano. The coach is impressed with the youngster’s work ethic and his progression. “As a defenseman and a goaltender, it’s real tough to make the jump from the AHL to National League. He went through half a year with the injury before coming up and could’ve been one of our best defenseman.”
“He plays with a lot of confidence, has great hockey sense, is a great teammate. Cal is one of those guys who comes to the rink and wants to get better everyday. He goes about his business in little different ways. He is a quiet kid, reserved guy, but he plays big for us. Plays a lot of minutes. I don’t know if he goes under the radar in the league, he’s been one of our top defenseman. Uses his feet, has ability to move the puck, has a great first pass. He’s a great skater, his gap control is great. Utilizes his stick real well. The more he plays the more he excels.”
De Haan is heeding Capuano’s words, “The coaching staff has a lot of faith in me. It’s a big boost of confidence getting a lot of ice time and I’ve been rewarded with minutes.”
Rewarded indeed, de Haan leads all Islanders playing 111:08 on the league’s second-ranked penalty kill.
“It takes time. With younger players, you’re hungry, maybe you get too complacent, but then you learn how to play the game and play it smart.”
One would think this is a statement Capuano made about his defenseman, but it was by de Haan himself.