As the summer ends, so will one small chapter in defenseman Keith Yandle’s young hockey career — playing high school hockey.
The next chapter was uncertain until recently, but started to take shape when the Phoenix Coyotes selected him in the fourth round in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Yandle could have entered the 2004 draft the year before, but he chose not to opt in. Many scouts and independent ranking services questioned the move at the time, since it was a considered a weak draft for defensemen. But Yandle was confident with the decision.
“Everyone gave me their input, and I appreciated it,” Yandle stated about the all the advice he got. “When it came down to it, my agent, my immediate family and I decided it was better to wait it out a year and return to Cushing [Academy].”
Staying out a year put things in better perspective for the talented offensive-defenseman.
“I decided not to go into the draft, but I watched some of my teammates get selected,” he recalled about the 2004 draft. “That really encouraged me to work even harder this past season. Everything eventually worked out, because I came into this draft, the Coyotes selected me and I couldn’t be happier.
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“I’m happy where I went. To be associated with Phoenix is a big plus. I think this is an ideal situation for me to develop, and one day become a pro player in the NHL. When it comes down to it, I wasn’t worried that I got passed over by a particular team or didn’t go in an earlier round.”
Time and others’ second-guessing hasn’t hindered Yandle. He attended the U.S. Evaluation Camp for the 2006 World Junior team and heading into the 2005-06 season, he was still as coveted as he was a summer ago. Most importantly, the Boston area native still had options.
He could have gone to the University of New Hampshire and play for and great program and with his older brother Brian. The University of Maine wasn’t that far away, and the young Black Bears squad wanted a defenseman with his talent.
His options got even more intriguing. Yandle had his QMJHL rights traded from Olympiques to the Moncton Wildcats and the calls started to come. New General Manager and head coach Ted Nolan started to sell the Cats and the “Q” to Yandle.
He did some soul searching while he was at the U.S. Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid. When the tournament ended, so did the suspense. Yandle passed on the college route and decided to take Nolan up on the offer.
“After I came back from World Junior tryouts with Team USA, I went over all my options again,” Yandle described. “Looking at my hockey career, and the development picture, I decided that Moncton was the best place for me to grow.
“Having coach Nolan along with his staff is just best opportunity for me and my development as a player,” Yandle explained. “The entire coaching staff knows so much about the game. Most of all, it’s going to be a great opportunity to represent Moncton this year because they are also hosting the Memorial Cup.”
There’s a lot of conviction in Yandle’s voice. He’s a confident young man on a path. He’s content with the decisions he has made.
“I’m going to go in there, play my game and listen to the coaches,” Yandle said. “I’m going to keep it simple and stick to the basics.”
Some would say some of the early indecisiveness led to much of the scrutiny over the last two years. Yandle won’t debate it with you. Instead, he’s going to get on the ice with Moncton and do his talking there.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.