With the Detroit Red Wings looking to extend their 21-year playoff streak this season, you knew they were going to need some much-needed help on the blue-line. Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement last year, as well inconsistency from guys like Kyle Quincey and Carlo Colaiacovo has opened the door for Danny Dekeyser. The 23-year-old defence-man from Detroit, Michigan, was signed by the Detroit Red Wings back on March 29th to a two-year contract, and so far has not disappointed.
The former-Western Michigan product has played in 9 games thus far, and has 1 assist and 1+/- rating to his credit. He has seen upwards of 20 minutes of ice-time each night, and consistently plays 25-30 shifts per game (as per nhl.com). Clearly Mike Babcock and the Red Wings coaching staff have a lot of faith and confidence in the hometown kid, giving him playing time in crucial moments of games and matching him against top players of opposing teams.
After being designated the most highly sought-after free agent coming out of the NCAA this year, Detroit general manager, Ken Holland wasted no time in signing Dekeyser. He’s a big kid, standing at 6’3″, and has booming shot from the point. One thing this kid also has is a good hockey sense. In his fifth game as a Red Wing against the Nashville Predators, Dekeyser made a bank shot off the end boards that found the stick of captain Henrik Zetterberg for the game’s winning goal. He actually had an open shot on Pred’s goaltender, Pekka Rinne, but clearly decides to shoot wide of the net, ultimately creating a scoring chance leading to his first NHL assist and point. Now that’s hockey sense, and he’s only 23! Someone with smarts like that will definitely get along with and learn from silky smooth players like Pavel Datsyuk, and leaders like Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.
With his playing time upwards of 20 minutes per game, he’s only destined to see more time as Detroit becomes more desperate to make the playoffs. With his hockey smarts and sense for the game, it is only a matter of time until we see him move up to the second defence pairing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him on the power-play sometime soon. Perhaps it’s the changing dynamic within the Detroit Red Wings roster, but with young kids like Danny Dekeyser playing for one of the most historic franchises in the NHL, the decline that the Central-division powerhouse was expected to experience, may not happen at all. However, if Detroit is to make the playoffs this year, Mike Babcock may have to lean upon the young-American more than he anticipated, but with his play thus far, I see no need to worry.
I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto studying Physical Education/Concurrent Teacher Education. I have been a hockey fan all my life and play in a men’s league during the winter. My favourite leagues are the NHL first and foremost, the MLB, and the NFL. I also work at the hockey megastore Pro Hockey Life. Follow me on twitter @rob_ruscitti and check out my sports blog on twitter as well @EhSport360