Today’s article in the ‘Back to School’ series is the eighth and final article covering the Carolina Hurricanes 2017 NHL Draft class. You can catch up on any you missed from the clickable menu HERE.
Today’s entry returns to the United States and heads out west to check in on Portland Winterhawks defenseman 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 will return to Portland for the 2017-18 season to continue his development.
Interview with Mark Hinrich from DUBNetwork
About the Interviewee
Interview on Brendan De Jong
Canes and Coffee: For Hurricanes fans who are just getting up to speed on Brendan De Jong after his selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, please describe his skill set and style of play. Is there a current of former NHL player whose skill set and style of play is similar to DeJong (projecting forward a few years of course)?
Mark Hinrich: Brendan is primarily a stay-at-home defenseman. However, last season, under the guidance of Head Coach Mike Johnston, De Jong became more confident in his puck moving abilities. Not only was De Jong moving the puck out of the defensive zone, but he was also more active from the blue line in the offensive zone, not only dumping the puck in for his teammates, but also shooting on goal to create rebounds.
De Jong has also filled out his tall frame and is using his size to his advantage more often.
Taking into account for the 30-some year difference in offense styles in the NHL, I’m tempted to compare De Jong to former Hurricanes D-man Glen Wesley. I base this on Wesley’s confidence in his own zone, smart play along the boards and admittedly limited offense. However, both players know and understand their limitations and play within those boundaries.
De Jong will never put up flashy offensive numbers, but he’s going to be reliable on the blue line. Pair him with an offensive D-man, like Glen Wesley was with Ray Bourque, and the pair should be set.
Canes and Coffee: What aspects of Brendan De Jong’s game give him the potential to defy the odds as a sixth-round draft pick and develop into an NHL defenseman? What areas of his game must improve for him to eventually reach the NHL level?
Mark Hinrich: I believe De Jong needs to embrace a shutdown style to succeed. He’s not going to win a lot of foot races, so he needs to rely on playing the angles to force a player wide, away from the net. Blessed with size, he needs to use his wingspan to poke the puck away from the opposition to avoid getting caught in a race.
De Jong has matured a lot over the last year and will continue to do so. If he plays smarter, within his limits, he’s got a chance to succeed.
Canes and Coffee: What were the highlights of De Jong’s 2016-17 season? In what ways did he improve as a player compared to the 2015-16 season?
Mark Hinrich: For me, I thought the biggest highlight was seeing him score multiple goals over the season. Not an offensive wizard, it was nice to see De Jong jumping into the play much more often, carrying the puck out of his own zone as well as over the blue line and shooting on goal.
The previous year, 2015-16, he was more timid with the puck. Opposing teams would focus on this and he would turn over the puck much more often. He’s learned the art of a safe breakout pass, which is an under-appreciated artform. Look for De Jong to continue to play a safe, controlled game at both ends of the ice.
Canes and Coffee: Brendan De Jong will have had a strong 2017-18 season and made significant progress in his development during the 2017-18 season if he _________________________.
Mark Hinrich: …continues to play “his style” as a defenseman. Again, De Jong knows what to do with the puck. He’s capable of doing it much better than before. I look for Brendan to play a mostly stay-at-home style, while moving the puck on occasion as the situation warrants. I believe his greatest development will come on the special teams play. New assistant coaches in Portland will help De Jong focus on footwork, conditioning and defensive play. He will excel in his own zone.
For additional reading on Brendan De Jong, please check out our ‘reading list’ of external articles compiled after the Hurricanes selected De Jong in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Canes and Coffee would like to extend a huge thank you to Mark Hinrich and the DUBNetwork team for sharing their ‘from the rink’ insight on Brendan De Jong and other Hurricanes prospects in the WHL. DUBNetwork has quickly become a go-to resource for all things WHL including the five Hurricanes prospects playing in the league!