Dennis Yan is an interesting prospect for this upcoming draft. Born in Portland, Oregon, Dennis moved to Russia with his parents, who are native Russian. It was there that he learned how to play hockey, and it is there where he gained much of the skillset that he has today. To develop his skills further, however, and since he has dual citizenship between Russia and the United States, his parents suggested that Dennis return to the States. Since then, Dennis has spent time in the US National Team Development Program, and spent this past season playing in the QMJHL for the Shawinigan Cataractes.
Last year, Dennis was actually drafted by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL in the second round, #66 overall. However, he chose to remain in North America and develop further in the Q. This may likely turn out to be a solid choice, as he currently has a second round grade entering the draft, and not going to the KHL will prevent the Russian factor from really being placed onto him. Should the Devils be looking to use one of their second round picks on him? Let's take a look at him and see.
Who is Dennis Yan?
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Yan is a left winger who stands at 6'1" and weighs 185 pounds. That is a good height for a NHL player, although he may consider gaining a little more weight at some point in his career to better deal with the harsher punishment he will receive in the big league. As of the final rankings, Dennis is ranked as the 30th best North American skater entering the draft.
Unlike other potential second round picks this upcoming draft, who may have played an extra year in a Canadian junior hockey league, Yan does not have extraordinary numbers. His numbers specifically with the USNTDP are nothing great. In the 2013-14 season, he only put up 11 points in 30 games for the USNTDP juniors. He did somewhat better for the U.S. U17 Team, producing 12 goals and 28 points in 48 games. Still, however, that is only 0.58 points per game, which is nothing spectacular.
It was only last season with the Cataractes that Yan once again broke the point per game barrier, scoring 33 goals and adding another 31 assists in 64 games played. He also shined brightest in the playoffs, scoring 7 goals and adding an assist in 7 games. The fact that he has been peaking at the right time—during a playoff run and right before the draft—will certainly help boost his value.
The final stat of note here is that in this past season, he compiled 71 penalty minutes in 59 games. That is rather high. Dennis is willing to get dirty, and often takes penalties, some of them for fighting. Surely he will be asked to tone that down if he does come to New Jersey.
What Others Have Said About Yan
Experts and scouts generally say similar things about Dennis, which is both good and bad for him, although I would say more so good than bad. Over at the Hockey Writers, Shawn Reznik wrote that:
"He's a natural goal scorer with a lightning quick release and pinpoint accuracy. The finesse he shows is consistent from shift to shift. Yan's hands are silky smooth which gives him time and space to use his shot. His skating is crisp and agile making him a speedy winger. I've liked what I've seen in his forechecking and he likes to create pressure, but oftentimes I've seen him coast when backchecking and in his own zone. His overall defensive game is what he needs to work on most. Another area of improvement is learning not to shy away from physical play."
Let's start with the positives. Yan is clearly a goal scorer, and will make his money in the NHL by finding the back of the net. I really like where Reznik says how he is consistent from shift to shift. That is important. Inconsistency from skaters can be a real problem for an offensively-challenged team like the Devils, and if they can find forwards like Yan who produce a similar level of play each and every shift, that can really be beneficial. Of course, the main knock on Yan here is something the Devils do not tolerate: poor backchecking. Forwards that do not play defense at least somewhat well, or at least do not put a high level of effort into backchecking, find that they never really fit into New Jersey's system. If the Devils do decide that Yan is their guy, they will really need to work on improving his defensive skills and mindset if he has any chance of succeeding here.
Interestingly enough, over at Draft Site, Dennis is projected to be taken by our Devils at #36 overall, which is the team's first pick in the second round. They clearly see the offensive potential in Yan, and know that the Devils surely need someone who can score. Bill Placzek had this to say about Yan:
"Highly skilled winger with excellent speed, first step and offensive instincts. A natural goal scorer finds the open space and buries his chances. Displays a lightning fast release, and hard shot. Flies around the net and finds the soft spots in coverage, always involving himself in high traffic areas. He is a scorer but also an offensive generator, with soft hands and great balance at high speed. Surprisingly physical in pursuit of the puck, and a good forechecker. Needs to balance his offensive prowess with lots more work in his defensive zone."
Placzek certainly likes what he sees from Yan. He paints him to be a very, very good offensive skater. Offensive instincts, a hard shot, an offensive generator, soft hands, high speed...those are all things that the Devils absolutely need. Of course, Placzek also notes that he needs considerable work on his defensive game, and the Devils covet two-way forwards, so that can be an issue. However, if he is willing to work on that part of his game, the Devils have to be at least considering him.
The Scouting Report raved about Yan's offensive prowess as well, having this to say about the winger:
"From a strictly offensive standpoint, Yan has to be considered one of the most dynamic players in the age group as a result of his exceptional skating, vision, and sheer sniper's mentality. Currently playing up with the U18 group, Yan is a Top 5 scorer in the Midget Major loop with Belle Tire after a tremendous season with the Lambton Jr. Sting as an underage player."
The simple fact that the website believes Yan to be one of the most dynamic players in his age group is noteworthy enough. Of course, that is because of his ability to score, or as the site notes, his "sheer sniper's mentality." Considering that this is something the Devils severely lack, it would not be so bad to have someone like this on the team.
A Little Video
This first video here is his overtime game winner against Halifax in the playoffs a couple months ago. It does not show much of him, but it is a nice goal nonetheless.
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Here is a sweet assist from Dennis. A backhanded pass across the ice to a streaking teammate for a goal.
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Here is an interview with Dennis, to get to know him a little bit.
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And finally, here is a fight too if you want to see it, although it is not pretty (but the leg sweep he uses to take down the opponent is not half bad).
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At first when I started researching Dennis, I was not overly excited. Despite being graded as a potential second round pick, he had not produced all that significant numbers in junior hockey. I researched a possible third round pick last week in Blake Speers who had produced similar numbers this past season. So why was Dennis rated higher despite not having scored more?
The answer is in the potential. Having gone through the USNTDP, Dennis was not exposed to similar opportunities to produce points like others would have been. Had he gone to the Q earlier, he certainly would have gotten more points. Nonetheless, experts and scouts rave about his offensive prowess and his abilities in the offensive zone. Plus, he is really coming into his own just now, having a quality season with the Cataractes this year, plus a real strong playoff run. Scouts see that he is really progressing, and that his abilities give him a high ceiling.
In the end, for me I would be good with the Devils taking Yan in the second round. I would prefer to see him taken with the 41st pick instead of the 36th, as I would like to see someone taken first who has proven more in juniors, but if I hear his name called with either selection I would not be upset. Shawn Reznik at the Hockey Writers believes he has the potential to be a high 2nd round pick, but will more than likely fall to the late 2nd or early 3rd. If by chance the Devils do not take him in the 2nd and he falls into the 3rd round, they absolutely should grab him then. That would be a great value pick.
Now that you have heard my opinion, what do you think? Is Yan someone that the Devils should target in the second round? Or is there something about him that scares you away? If so, what scares you? What sort of players are you looking for the Devils to take with their 2 second round picks? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.