The Western Michigan University star will be joining his hometown team after a long process that was very similar to the one current Edmonton Oilers blueliner Justin Schultz went through in the summer.
Many teams were active in trying to sign the now-former Bronco. Among them were reportedly the Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Chris Peters of CBS Eye on Hockey recently wrote that DeKeyser is “the college defenseman every NHL team wants.”
“One NHL scout thought DeKeyser could transition into an NHL team’s lineup right away, whether that team is in the playoff hunt or not,” Peters wrote. “At the risk of over-hyping DeKeyser, wherever he signs, it’s highly likely he’s in the NHL lineup perhaps even before the ink dries.
“The 6-foot-3, 198-pound blueliner is a gifted two-way defender who excels in his own zone. He plays a simple, mature game, can play the body and makes a good first pass out of the zone. DeKeyser had two goals and 13 assists after two previous seasons of 17 points at the college level. He might have a little more offensive upside than his numbers suggest, but his defensive game is high end already.”
DeKeyser was the prize of this season’s NCAA free agent class. The 6-foot-3, 200 pound junior is a two-time CCHA Best Defensive Defenseman award winner. And now, the Red Wings have their man.
Can Confirm that Western Michigan D man Dan DeKeyser has agreed to terms with the Detroit Red Wings.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) March 29, 2013
DeKeyser is an obvious significant addition for the DET organization. 2nd best young dman in the org for them now behind Smith.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) March 29, 2013
His hometown is 50 miles from Joe Louis Arena – so makes sense. RT @tsnbobmckenzie: Dan DeKeyser has chosen DET.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) March 29, 2013
#RedWings win D Danny DeKeyser sweepstakes. He’ll join practices asap, but won’t play Sunday when Wings host Blackhawks.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) March 29, 2013
DeKeyser is the top player of this college free agent class and would have been so last year had he not decided to go back to school. DeKeyser is the two-time best defensive defenseman in the CCHA and was named to the CCHA’s first All Star team. Some may wonder when you look at his numbers — 49 points in 118 NCAA games, 15 points in 35 games this season — and ask what all the hype is about; and it is because he has such great defensive value. DeKeyser has high-end hockey sense, good if not great mobility and a big frame that he’s not afraid to use. Given how well he processes the game, how many defensive stops he makes, the low amount of errors he commits, and where he is in his physical development, it is conceivable the 23 year old DeKeyser could step into the NHL right away upon being signed. He does have average offensive ability as a puck mover, and could potentially play a 2nd power play unit on a non elite team. His potential is that of a good #3 defenseman with a low amount of risk on that projection.
DeKeyser isn’t going to be guaranteed loads of ice time right off the hop. He’ll have to earn it just like anyone else would. Having said that, the expectation is that DeKeyser will be able to step into Detroit’s lineup and play steady minutes. It’ll take time for him to become acclimatized to the pro game, but he should grow accustomed to the speed of the NHL fairly quickly.
The next Nicklas Lidstrom? Probably not. But Red Wings fans are pretty pleased with themselves for being able to attract DeKeyser to an ageing roster that recently lost a legendary defenseman to retirement.
David O’Connor is a managing editor with the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. His writing has been on the Los Angeles Times’ website, among other places. O’Connor also does some scouting work for the local Junior B hockey club. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.