Yan Getting First Pro Experience With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Dennis Yan didn't look out of place in his pro debut.

After finishing his junior season with Shawinigan of the QMJHL earlier this month, the winger took the ice in the Syracuse Crunch's 3-2 win over the Albany Devils Saturday night.

Yan is focused on gaining valuable experience as he begins his pro career.

"I think it was a pretty good game for me," Yan said. "I played physical. I played simple, a bit more than juniors because it's a lot different level. It's professional. It's faster and more physical.

"I think I'll get some more games and I'll be more confident and play my game."

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx was happy with his first impression of Yan in game action, and even used him on the power play.

"He shoots the puck well. He's got skills and he's a good skater," Groulx said. "He's a young player that needs to learn how to play at this level. I thought he got better as the game went along, which is normal."

For Yan, the game is the same in junior, just faster and more physical. The 19-year-old knows he has to adapt his style to continue to put up points like he did at other leels.

"Some guys told me to just play my game — what brought me here," Yan said. They try to talk to me and relax me because it was my first game. It was very nice of them."

Born in Portland but raised in Russia, Yan made the decision to come back to North America to play junior hockey. He scored 11 points in 30 games and won a gold medal with the U.S. National Under-17 Team in 2013-14, and followed it up with 131 goals and 105 assists in 218 career games over the past three years with Shawinigan.

"I've been traveling a lot around the world because of hockey," Yan said. "I always wanted to play in the CHL. It's a great league to develop."

Yan had a career season with the Cataractes in 2015-16 with 42 goals and 42 assists in 82 games, and earned an entry level contract with Tampa Bay last July. The Lightning's 2015 third-rounder added 49 goals and 31 assists in 70 games with Shawinigan this season.

"I spent three years in Shawinigan and last year I had a good year," Yan said. "It was my best year. I think I deserved the contract. I played well down in Shawinigan. I'm pretty happy with the year I had there."

Now Yan is adjusting to the pro game in preparation for his first full rookie season with Syracuse next season.

"You've got to be yourself within our system," Groulx said. "I thought Dennis didn't use his speed as much as I'd like him to. I thought he got better in the corners as the game went along. He shoots the puck. We didn't see that much. ... It takes time, but I'm sure it will come. He's a good player."

Pictured: Crunch forward Dennis Yan rushes the puck up the ice against the Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.