Calvin de Haan is a pro player now. He wrapped up his third Islanders rookie mini-camp appearance with a goal in Saturday's Blue-White scrimmage at the Coliseum, but these exhibitions are nothing to the 20-year-old defenseman now.
His goals are higher, and the expectations are higher. He was the No. 12 pick in the 2009 draft, one of 12 defensemen taken in the first round that year. Six of those defensemen have played at least one game in the NHL, including Tampa's Victor Hedman ( picked No. 2) and the Panthers' Dmitri Kulikov (No. 14).
But even with the shoulder injury that cut short his 2009-10 season in juniors, de Haan isn't any different than most defensemen drafted in 2009. The process takes a while for defensemen, especially ones with de Haan's puck-moving skills and size -- he's up to 189 pounds now, nearly 20 more than when he was drafted, but he understands what defensemen must do in the pro game.
"I think juniors is a little more run-and-gun, and this is more wear-and-tear," he said. "It's not necessarily the physical, big-hit part of the game, but how hard you have to skate and work to keep up with the play. It's probably just as tiring as battling in the corner with someone."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano expects de Haan to challenge for a spot on the team's defense, despite a glut of veterans and the Isles' continuing search for a top-four defenseman to add to the roster before September's training camp.
"I don't think he has anything else on his mind but being an Islander next year," Capuano said. "His play and his camp will dictate whether we feel he needs some more development in the AHL or not. I think he's seen enough and played in enough preseason games that he realizes what he needed to work on. It was trying to put more muscle on and be in better shape."
Of the 42 players on the ice before a crowd of 5,235 Saturday, Nino Niederreiter has the best chance of wearing an Islander jersey for the season opener against the Panthers on Oct. 8.
First-round pick Ryan Strome may get a longer look, with the nine-game window allowed before he would have to return to the OHL.
De Haan will get a long look too, as he did the last two training camps. The difference now is this upcoming camp isn't about giving de Haan a taste of the pro life. He's in it now, and if he doesn't show he belongs, he'll be at Bridgeport.
"My goal is to play pro hockey this season and I want to challenge myself and play at as high a level as I can," he said. "Whatever the management thinks is best for me is the path I have to take. I respect their decision no matter what."