Junior defenseman Gus Young (COL) has blossomed into a tough and effective defensive defenseman for the Yale Bulldogs this season. He has played in all 35 games for that school, posting eight points (two goals, six assists) to date. Young is one of just three Colorado Avalanche prospects playing in the NCAA this season.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Young after practice on Wednesday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA.
Hockey's Future: As an upperclassman, you’ve obviously been in the NCAA Tournament with Yale before. But did you ever think that you guys would be able to reach the Frozen Four, especially after what happened in the ECAC Tournament last month?
Gus Young: Last year came to an end early for us in the ECAC Tournament and then this year we got to Atlantic City (ECAC Tournament semi-finals), but didn’t really play our game and didn’t play too well. But after we got into the NCAA Tournament, we knew that if we got back to our game plan, we’d be successful. That’s what we were able to do in the (West) regional and we were fortunate enough to be successful there.
HF: One of the things that you guys did so well in the West Regional was capitalizing on your opportunities. Was that a part of the game plan and the mindset of the team?
GY: Yes. Minnesota and North Dakota are obviously two great teams. What Coach Allain was saying to us before each game was that there are going to be ups and downs and just stick to the game plan. If you keep doing that, hopefully you’ll be able to wear them down. I think that was obvious in the North Dakota game because we were able to score four goals in the last 15 minutes of the game. After we got one against them, we knew that if we stuck with our game plan that things would go well for us.
HF: Since arriving at Yale nearly three years ago, what have been some of the areas that you feel you have made the greatest strides in?
GY: I think the first area was my defensive play because I sort of first came in trying to be offensive-minded. When they brought in Red Gendron as an associate head coach in my sophomore year, he sat me down and said that, neither at this level nor the next level, I wouldn’t become an offensive defenseman so I should really hone my defensive game. Being able to work with him everyday has been unbelievable. Obviously we have a great caliber of forwards and to be able to go up against them everyday really improves you as a player.
HF: Do you think that having strengthened your defensive game has also allowed you to strike a better balance between that and your offensive game as well?
GY: Definitely, but my first job and what the team looks to me as is a shutdown type of defenseman that goes up against the other team’s top line. I always try to improve my offensive abilities, whether it’s in practice or on my own. After I hone my defensive game some more, I’d like to be able to take more offensive chances and more risk too. I think I’ve already begun to do that.
HF: You’ve been paired with Robby O’Gara for much of the season. You both seem to have great chemistry together. What’s it like playing with him and what makes the chemistry between you guys work?
GY: It’s been awesome playing with him. Sometimes when things aren’t going so well, Coach Allain will switch the defensive pairings around. But I’ve been with Robby since day one, and for him to be a freshman, to be able to come in like that and have the effect that he has had has made him really easy to play with. I think it really speaks to his talent. I think we’ve gotten better as the year has gone along. We work a lot in supporting each other and we just work well together. So it’s been really good for us.
HF: I know that you’re a prospect of the Colorado Avalanche. Have you been in touch with them at all this year and have they been keeping tabs on your progress at Yale throughout the year?
GY: Yeah, I’ve talked to them. I’ve talked to them mostly before the season. Having been drafted in high school and being drafted in the seventh round, I knew that I’d obviously be a three or four year college guy. So I’ve basically stuck to my development here and the Avalanche have been very good about that. They know what I’m doing here and so we’ll see how it goes in the future.
HF: Were you at the Avalanche’s prospect camp this summer?
GY: I wasn’t. They actually don’t skate in their prospect camp. It’s more of an orientation and what they do off the ice.
HF: Is there anyone that you’ve worked with either within the Avalanche organization or at Yale on your off-season training?
GY: The past two summers, I’ve actually stayed here at Yale and worked with our strength coach, Joe Maher, and that’s actually been really beneficial. Also being from Boston, I know one of the Avalanche’s main scouts named Neil Shea. He’s from the Boston area and I’ve actually played with his son in high school, so he does a good job of letting me know what the organization wants me to improve on and he’s really helped me out a lot, too.
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