For those who have not been tracking the “Midterms” series that is checking in on Carolina Hurricanes prospects below the AHL level, you can find a clickable link to the most recent article on Jake Bean and also the previous 13 articles in this Menu.
Up next is the fourth of five stops in the Western Hockey League for a check in on defenseman and 2017 draftee Brendan De Jong.
Brendan De Jong
Defenseman Brendan De Jong from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League was the Carolina Hurricanes sixth round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. What jumps out first about De Jong is his size. He is still in the process of filling out his frame, but his starting point at 6 feet 5 inches tall, he already has NHL height. During the 2016-17 season, De Jong scored eight goals and had 23 points in 72 games. He is again playing for the Porland Winterhawks in the WHL for the 2017-18 season.
Interview with Brandon Rivers from DUBNetwork
About the Interviewee
Interview on Brendan De Jong
Canes and Coffee: What has been Brendan De Jong’s playing situation thus far for the 2017-18 season?
Brandon Rivers: Brendan De Jong has been a relied upon d-man this year for Portland. He spent much of the year playing with 20-year-old and team captain Keoni Texeira and still plays with him on the penalty kill. He has played quite a bit recently with Dennis Cholowski, who was a first round pick by the Detroit Red Wings and has signed an entry-level contract. De Jong has gradually grown into a larger role on the second power play unit (playing with Texeira) and has become more of a quarterback with a lot of the play setting up through him. He has also played quite a bit on his off side (the right side) and has shown a strong ability to play on that side without causing any issues.
Canes and Coffee: Can you please provide a short summary of Brendan De Jong’s 2017-18 season so far?
Brandon Rivers: De Jong has improved dramatically in his own end this. year. He’s gotten stronger on the puck and has become better at using his size and reach to disrupt play. He has also improved at reading the play and anticipating where the play is going. Portland’s coaching staff seems to trust him in his own end as much, if not more than any other blue liner on the team. Considering he plays on a blue line with two first round NHL picks that really is something.
Offensively, he has not had the same improvement. A lot of the lack of production could be blamed on his role on his pairing. When playing with either Texeira or Cholowski, he is more the stay-at-home guy, while the other jumps up into the play more. However, another reason he has seen his eight goals and 15 assists a year ago, go to two goals and 16 assists this year has been his struggle to beat goalies with his shot. He is not able to disguise his release well and is not accurate enough to score more, despite having many chances.
Canes and Coffee: Considering his play in 2016-17 and now in 2017-18, in what areas do you notice the most progress in De Jong’s development from last season to this one?
Brandon Rivers: Two things really stand out as being improved upon the most and those are his defensive awareness and strength. He does not make many mistakes in his positioning and often is able to hide his intentions until a pass is made in order to break it up and send play the other way. He also seems to have spent some time in the gym over the summer, as he is able to win more battles in his own zone and is not pushed off the puck as easily as he was in previous years.
Canes and Coffee: As Brendan De Jong works to develop into an NHL player, what areas of his game still have room for improvement? What are his strengths at this stage of his development?
Brandon Rivers: De Jong’s skating is elite for the WHL level and his stride allows him to activate into the opponent’s zone without dreading that he is giving up an odd-man rush the other way. He has gotten lot better in his own zone overall and is much closer to the NHL, riding that strength more than I thought he would be at the start of the year. He was drafted late so there is still the likelihood that he will return to the WHL next year as an overage player. He wouldl see an increased role next year as a couple veteran d-men will be departing.
Canes and Coffee: Is there anything else about Brendan De Jong and/or his 2017-18 season that is not covered in the previous questions that would be of interest to Carolina Hurricanes fans tracking his development from afar?
Brandon Rivers: De Jong being the defensive stalwart on the Winterhawks was not something I saw in his game last year or the year before, but it bodes well for his development into a professional player. Unless he has an incredible playoff run, I would be surprised if Carolina signs him and has him play professionally as a 20-year-old. He needs to make more out of his raw skills in the o-zone. He reads the play well, skates well and is confident. That should have resulted in far more goals than the two he has so far this year. He needs to shoot more often and work on his release, before I could see him get an NHL entry-level contract from the Hurricanes.
Canes and Coffee would like to extend a huge thank you to Brandon Rivers from DUBNetwork for generously sharing his ‘from the rink’ insight on Hurricanes prospect Brendan De Jong.