Vees bolster blueline by trading for Red Wings prospect

Vees newest defenceman excited to improve skills against better competition

Entering his final year of junior A hockey, James De Haas wants to face stronger competition.

That desire led to his trade from the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots in the Ontario Junior Hockey League to the Penticton Vees for forward Mike Sones. De Haas, who was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the sixth round, 170th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, said the plan was either to play in the BCHL or go to the United States Hockey League.

While De Haas enjoyed his lone season with the Patriots in which he said they exceeded the expectations of some, he needed a change.

“Ultimately, I want to be somewhere where I’m on the ice for two hours everyday, working out and playing against better teams,” said De Haas, who in 45 games with the Patriots scored 10 goals and added 29 points, then another five goals and 12 points in the playoffs. “I think I will definitely get that in B.C.”

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said De Haas, who will attend Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, in the fall of 2014, is someone they had on their radar.

“We’ve been hard at work on this deal for quite some time,” said Harbinson. “James has all the tools; size, quick feet and smart puck moving ability. We are very fortunate to add a player with James’ skillset and determination.”

The Detroit Free Press reported on its website that the six-foot-three, 197-pound defenceman will have the opportunity to play every situation.

“We’re losing a lot of players from our championship team and James is a kid that we found out about and kind of targeted and watched,” said Harbison to the Free Press. “James, to me, can play in all different situations. He’s not a one-dimensional player. Our goal is to make sure when he leaves here he’s as well-rounded as he can be when he gets to Clarkson.”

De Haas said he’s excited to join the Vees, especially because of their history and “their past season obviously they put up some impressive numbers in the win column.”

“Definitely looking forward to hopefully having a similar season as they did last year,” he said. “Just to be part of an organization that is so well respected around the hockey community is really something special.”

Vees fans first look at De Haas will come during training camp starting Aug. 23 at the South Okanagan Events Centre. De Haas said he possesses a solid two-way game.

“I’ve really beeen trying to round out all aspects of my game,” he said. “I’m going to try to improve on my offence a bit this year. I’m not gong to try to change too much. I’m just going to play my game.”