Hometown Star DeKeyser Rising Over Detroit

By: 
Nick Salen

The last time the Detroit Red Wings failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, Danny DeKeyser wasn’t even born. And if he has anything to do with it, that streak will remain alive for as long as he’s wearing the red and white.

It’s the least he could do for the team he grew up idolizing as a youth hockey player in Clay Township, Mich.

“I was a big Red Wings fan growing up. I always watched them,” said DeKeyser, who grew up 30 minutes north of the Motor City.

“They had tons of deep playoff runs every year; a lot of summer hockey was played around the area.”

Those Cup runs helped spur the growth of the game in an area already rich in hockey tradition, and planted the seed for thousands of young players like DeKeyser.

As the local hockey scene continued to boom, there was no shortage of elite programs where those seeds could blossom. DeKeyser chose the Compuware AAA Midget team to help cultivate his dreams. After several seasons with the program, he packed his hockey bag and headed north to join the Trail Smoke Eaters in the British Columbia Hockey League. His one season north of the border proved to be fruitful as he was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The following year he returned home to suit up with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. By then, DeKeyser was draft eligible, but reality quickly set in that a ticket to The Show is not a gimmie as every NHL club, including the Red Wings, passed him by.

With choices scarce in the college ranks, DeKeyser eventually accepted an offer with Western Michigan University, an up-and-coming program that provided the added bonus of being close to home.

“I didn’t have a lot of offers to play college. [Western Michigan] was one of the best ones I had, so I took it,” he said.

Like many young players, the college route provided the perfect road map for DeKeyser’s development. In his first year as a Bronco, he was named to the All-CCHA Rookie Team, and by the time his junior season wrapped up, he earned All-CCHA First Team honors.

 

 

 

 

Position: Defense
Shoots: Left
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 191 pounds
Birth Date: Mar. 7, 1990
Hometown:
Clay Township, Mich.
Junior Hockey: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
College Hockey: Western Michigan University
ACQUIRED: Signed as an undrafted free agent on March 30, 2013.
USA Hockey History: Represented the United States at the 2014 IIHF Men’s World Championship. Was invited to the 2013 U.S. Men’s National Team Camp in Washington, D.C.

During that span, he added size, strength and skill to become one of the most sought after college free agents, drawing interest from the Ducks, Sharks, Flames, Oilers, Flyers, Lightning and, of course, the Red Wings.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I had a chance to play and to be in the lineup,” he said. “When it came down to it, I thought Detroit was the best place for me to fit in.”

He debuted in April 2013, appearing in 11 regular season and two postseason games. When Detroit was eliminated from the playoffs, DeKeyser joined the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings’ AHL affiliate, helping them capture their first Calder Cup.

He also caught the attention of USA Hockey as he was named to the U.S. National Team competing at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.

“[The World Championship] was a great time,” said DeKeyser, who was also invited to the pre-Olympic camp in Washington, D.C. “I met some good guys there, a lot of whom I’ve played against over the years.”

As he wraps up his second full season in Detroit, DeKeyser continues to turn heads on the Wings bench, well surpassing the expectations set for the 24-year-old blueliner by the Red Wings’ brain trust.

“He’s outstanding. He’s a very, very high-end player defensively and getting the puck going,” said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “He’s a gifted, gifted player. I just thought he was going to be a defender. He’s a really good skater with a good stick, and I thought he’d be a five or six defender, but he’s way beyond that for sure.”

With a bright future ahead of him, DeKeyser is looking to do his part to keep the tradition alive by making sure that playoff hockey remains a part of springtime in the Motor City.

 


 

 YOUTH STAR

 Blake Wallace
 Age: 17
 Gurnee, Ill.

 What began as a routine shift quickly turned into a monumental feat for 17-year-old Blake Wallace. The senior from Warren Township High School scored a natural hat trick in the span of 13 seconds for the Varsity Blue Devils in their game against St. Patrick High School on Feb. 4.

“Right away I was kind of stunned, I was in denial I guess,” the Gurnee, Ill., native said. “I didn’t realize how quick it was until halfway through the third period and everyone is freaking out and congratulating me. That’s when I realized how impressive it was.”

While USA Hockey does not keep track of such records at the amateur level, by comparison, the fastest hat trick in the NHL was achieved by Bill Mosienko for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 23, 1952, when he scored three goals in 21 seconds versus the New York Rangers.

Issue: 
2015-04

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