Crunch's Yan Focuses on Consistency in Rookie Season

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Consistency is a key for Dennis Yan’s development.

The Syracuse Crunch winger has four multi-point games during his rookie season, including a goal and an assist against Laval Saturday. Of his 20 points in 40 games this season, nine have come during a multi-point performance.

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx believes Yan has the tools, but needs to use them each and every game.

“I like the skills. I like the size. He’s got to bring it together every day,” Groulx said. “He’s not consistent at doing that. When he does that, he’s a very good player. When he does not, he’s a different player.”

Yan scored his first two pro goals in a 4-2 win over Belleville on Oct. 13. After missing nearly a month due to injury, the 20-year-old had his first three-point performance in a 5-4 victory over Toronto on Dec. 27, and recorded two assists in a 5-0 rout of Binghamton two games later.

Groulx believes Yan isn’t any different than a lot of young players when it comes to getting on the scoresheet.

“When I look at the new generation of players and young guys, it seems like they feed off that,” Groulx said. “They start the game, they get one point and they get all excited. … It seems like it gives them confidence and gives them energy. Many, many young guys are like that.”

For Yan, the two points in the standings are far more important than his personal totals.

“If I score a goal or if I get two points or three points it doesn’t matter,” Yan said. “It’s more about the whole game that happens and whatever the score is between the teams. If we’re winning or losing, it’s more about that.”

Yan had a much more winding path to Syracuse than most players.

Originally born in Portland, Oregon, Yan’s family moved back to Russia when he was 5 years-old. He played youth hockey there until he came back to North America — Canada, the US and then back to Canada — as a 14-year-old.

Although he has dual American and Russian citizenship, the transition wasn’t easy. Yan, who didn’t know English, said his billet family was helpful to get him acclimated.

“It was a tough time, but I got used to it and in a couple months I was speaking already,” Yan said. “Everything just started to be easier when you understand and know what’s going on.”

Yan was drafted eighth overall by Shawinigan of the QMJHL in the CHL Import Draft in 2014, and spent three years playing for the Cataractes. He racked up 111 goals and 97 assists in 185 regular season contests, and added 28 points in 33 postseason games.

Selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and now with the Crunch, Yan is following through with what he hoped to achieve when he came back to North America.

“It was my goal to play professional hockey and for it to be my job,” Yan said. “(I’m) just enjoying every day that I’m playing what I love. It’s special for me.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Dennis Yan looks to make a pass against the Phantoms at the Onondaga County War Memorial on Feb. 23.