I recall being pretty bummed out when the Red Wings lost out on coveted college free agent defenseman Justin Schultz. While the circumstances weren’t exactly the same, Detroit got another shot at a hot commodity during the 2013 season and sealed the deal, inking Danny DeKeyser. The Western Michigan product didn’t disappoint, repaying Mike Babcock’s faith that he could handle the NHL game by showing why he should be a fixture for years to come.
Looking Back At Danny DeKeyser’s 2013:
Because of his local ties, the Red Wings were always considered the favorite to sign DeKeyser, and he officially agreed to terms on March 30. With the team engaged in a season-long battle with injuries on the blue line, DeKeyser got an immediate chance to play in the NHL, making his debut at Colorado on April 5.
The hype turned out to be justified, as DeKeyser’s skating and hockey sense stood out from day one. He played smart but not flashy hockey, staying out of the box and making good passes out of the defensive zone. DeKeyser managed just a single assist in 11 regular season games, but it was still a memorable one, as he shot a puck off the end boards to be converted by Henrik Zetterberg like he had been playing at The Joe for years.
DeKeyser got a taste of playoff hockey too, but it was a short one. The rookie broke a thumb during Game 2 of the Anaheim series, with Babcock simply saying, “He’s done,” when asked about the chances of a return.
Yet that wasn’t quite true thanks to the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Calder Cup run. After the Wings were eliminated, DeKeyser joined the AHL squad in time for the finals against the Syracuse Crunch, just enough time to help win a championship.
Oh, and he made history by becoming the first Detroit player ever to wear number 65.
Looking Ahead To 2013-14:
DeKeyser is locked in for another season at $1.35 million, and you’d better believe he’s going to be a big part of the team’s plan. His two-way contract allows him to be sent down to Grand Rapids if necessary, but barring an unforeseen sophomore slump, that shouldn’t be in the cards.
While he does have good size, DeKeyser could use more functional strength, and he’s already been quoted saying that will be his main focus during the offseason. Like several other Wings d-men, it would be nice if he’d offer more offensively, but his college numbers don’t suggest he’ll ever be a truly prolific point producer.
That’s okay, because his positional play at a young age suggest he’ll help keep things from getting too hectic in front of Jimmy Howard. The DeKeyser story had a fine first act in 2013, but the next one should be even better.