Future Watch: Dylan Yeo
Minor-league journeyman Dylan Yeo enjoys strong start in Oklahoma City
|Dylan Yeo has scored 4 goals 7 points in 20 games this season with the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons (Photo by Steven Christy).
But now the 25-year-old appears to have settled; so much so, even, that workplace and homestead share the same zip code once again. He spent the AHL's All-Star break moving to his new home in Oklahoma City.
Stops in South Carolina, Manitoba, Hershey and Ontario all led to an early-season path to Oklahoma City with the league-leading Barons. Yeo began the 2011-12 campaign as a member of the ECHL's Reign in Ontario, CA – he played in eight games, notched a goal and nine points and impressed the watching OKC contingent.
"I was playing pretty good all year," Yeo said, looking back at his quick and prosperous stint in So-Cal. "[Oklahoma City] gave our coach a call in Ontario and asked me to go sign a PTO with them. Once that expired, the Barons told me they wanted to sign me to a contract. It all happened pretty quick."
Just like that, Yeo put pen to paper on a standard player contract on Jan. 25. He was now even more vital cog in the Barons' wheel. The team's second AHL season has been a good one, with the copper and blue sitting with the league's best record. It's been the proper mixture of player development and establishing a winning atmosphere.
"Oh yeah," Yeo said with a cheeky laugh. "The team's great. Being No. 1 is a tough thing to maintain throughout the season, but we've been able to keep it up pretty much all year. It's a really good thing we've got going on here. (Head Coach) Todd Nelson really knows what he's doing, and the guys here absolutely love playing under him."
While the Barons have accomplished an impressive mid-season mark, their commitment to development has been most valuable. Yeo agrees that it's an honour to don a pro sweater, especially that of a talented roster that's ascended to the West Division's peak, but the NHL is still on the rearguard's racing mind.
"I think every player wants to improve in all areas, but I'm really looking to better my foot-speed and backwards skating a little bit," he explained. "I guess you could say they're my low points, but it's always a work in progress. I do want to get to the next level, and I'm working every day to improve in those areas so I can get there one day.
"I'm getting all the opportunity I could ever want in OKC to make that happen," Yeo added. "I love playing on the power-play; that's something I've always done since I got into the game, and I'm getting that chance here. I'm always ready to get into a position to shoot the puck, which has helped me score a couple already. In addition to all that, even being a smaller guy (5'11" and 210 pounds), bringing a strong, physical game is important. Getting involved like that is huge, because I love laying the body."
Yeo has acquitted himself well, setting a 4-3-7 scoring line through 20 games with the Barons this season. It doesn't come as too much of a surprise to the Prince Albert native, as he set a career-high 43 points in 52 games in his sophomore season with the Salmon Kings.
At every level, he's always been a scoring threat. And it all started when he patrolled the blueline with the high-octane Calgary Hitmen (WHL) from 2004 to 2007. Getting the opportunity to play alongside now-household NHL names didn't hurt his evolving pedigree, either.
"It was amazing to go [to Calgary] and play in such a great city," Yeo said. "The coaches (Kelly Kisio and Dave Lowry) were amazing, too. They helped the team move up in the standings, year-in and year-out, and we were really the class of the WHL. It's a little easier to develop your game when you're winning like that, but I made the most of it and feel as though I did what I could.
"I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to play with a bunch of great guys and great players," he added. "Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg) and Jeff Schultz (Washington) were all there, so it was a good experiencing growing up watching and playing alongside them."
Although Yeo racked up 17 goals and 53 points in 140 career games with the Hitmen, his Jr. career wrapped up without an NHL selection. Still to this day, he's been unable to make his mark in the bigs; but, with an opportunity develop with the AHL's best team and under the Oilers' keen and ever-present developmental eye, anything is possible.
"I'm not to worried about anything. My plan is to keep doing what I've always done: work hard, listen to my coaches and see where it all adds up. No matter what, I'm fortunate to have gotten the opportunity here in OKC and I'm going to make the most of it.
"Helping the team win is priority No. 1."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick