Vees defenceman impresses captain

James De Haas is looking good to his partner captain Troy Stecher early in the BCHL season

VEES CAPTAIN Troy Stecher defends against two Trail Smoke Eaters during his club’s 7-2 win at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday. Below

VEES CAPTAIN Troy Stecher defends against two Trail Smoke Eaters during his club’s 7-2 win at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday. Below

Troy Stecher knows a thing or two about good defencemen.

As a 16-year-old he played with Joey Laleggia, who was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 2012. Last season he skated alongside Mike Reilly, who he said was likely the best defenceman he would ever play with.

Now he is partnered with James De Haas, who was selected by the Detroit Red Wings at the June draft.

“He’s a good player. He’s a real big boy but he’s real light on his feet,” said Stecher of the six-foot-four, 210-pound blueliner. “He’s got good feet. He’s got an offensive side to him too. I love playing with him.

“We’re both still learning,” continued Stecher, who collected a goal and  two assists in wins against Vernon and Trail during the weekend. “He’s not overly physical. He doesn’t have to be just with his reach. He takes away so much of the ice with his stick. He makes a good first pass. Just simple things that maybe the average person wouldn’t notice.”

Stecher said they have already found chemistry and that has come from spending time together away from the rink. They decided to hang out when they were told they would be paired together. Prior to training camp they played golf, but also hit the lake and went tubing with their other teammates. Recently they had lunch.

“He’s a really good person,” said Stecher, who let De Haas use his clubs since the former Toronto Lakeshore Patriot didn’t bring his own when he moved. De Haas gave Stecher the nod of being the better golfer, but liked the suggestion it was because he wasn’t using his own clubs.

“I think that has translated pretty well on the ice,” said De Haas of their friendship.

After playing a season with the Toronto Marlboro AAA midgets, De Haas, made the jump to junior A with the Patriots in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

He’s enjoyed the transition to the BCHL, and credits his teammates and coaches.

De Haas has found the BCHL to have a quicker pace and players are competing harder.

“That is always good to help your development,” he said, adding the speed did catch him off guard at first. “The first game was a little eye-opener but after that I got used to it pretty quick.”

De Haas said it’s been different playing with Stecher.

“He’s a really good defenceman, he’s sort of all over the ice but at the same time he never really screws me over,” he joked. “It’s good to be with him and he has been in this league, this is his third year, so he has some experience that he can share with me.”

Stecher believes they will become a strong pairing. It’s something they have been working hard on in practice.

Focused to improve his defensive zone play, De Haas feels he has. Time has been put in  battling low in the defensive zone. He’s enjoyed working with assistant coach Michael Hengen, who is in his third season working with defenceman after playing two years in Germany following the end of his junior career.

De Haas said that Hengen being younger (25) helps with interacting with the players. While Hengen has his serious moments, he also has fun.

“You can joke around with him,” said De Haas. “It’s definitely a good balance to have with the coach.”