Nicklas Lidstrom will never be replaced. His point totals speak for themselves, but the intangible qualities to his game are what set him apart from other defensemen and put him on a whole other level with players like Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin and many other greats. He ranks 6th on the all-time scoring list for defensemen and his leadership and natural playmaking abilities are what will one day see him in the hall of fame. That being said, the Detroit Red Wings need to make an attempt to compensate for what Lidstrom brought to the team after he retired in 2012. A player who has the potential to do this is rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser. After graduating from Western Michigan University in 2013, DeKeyser went undrafted and eventually signed with his hometown team the Red Wings. DeKeyser has since earned himself a roster spot, and is tied for eight in rookie scoring with six points, as well as being second in rookie defensemen scoring, trailing only Torey Krug.
So why haven’t we heard more about this kid? Part of it has to do with the fact that he is not a flashy player, similar to Lidstrom. We’ve all heard about Tomas Hertl scoring goals between his legs and Seth Jones dangling the jockstraps right off of players. That’s because those things are exciting. You see them on Youtube and need to rewatch the video a dozen times before you can believe it. DeKeyser still makes terrific plays every night, but they’re the kind of sound defensive plays that can change a game without making the fans jump to their feet. These plays don’t show up in the point column, but head coach Mike Babcock notices, as do his teammates who he has earned the respect of.
At times, DeKeyser has shown that he is a rookie and will slip up, but this is to be expected by a rookie of any sort, particularly a defenseman. Despite his occasional miscues, the Macomb, Michigan native has shown confidence, having put 27 pucks towards the net through his first 20 outings, and is being rewarded for it, logging 21:35 of ice time per game, while posting a +4 rating. His 8 points are tied for 7th on the team in scoring, as well as second for defensemen. He also leads all Red Wings blue liners with 2 goals.
Danny DeKeyser has flown under the radar this year, and I think he will continue to do so as that is the style of game he plays. At the quarter-way mark of the season, DeKeyser could easily be considered a dark horse candidate for the Calder memorial trophy awarded to the rookie of the year. Daniel Alfredsson missed Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals, and Babcock decided to go with his rookie defender to replace Alfredsson’s position on the point during the power play. The move worked out for the Wings as DeKeyser put home a one-timer on the man advantage and looked good throughout the whole game. Keep an eye on this young D-man over the next couple of seasons as he has the potential to one day fill the shoes (or skates) of Nicklas Lidstrom