Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Dennis Yan seems to be in a rut, both career-wise and countdown-wise. Yan peaked at #14 in this countdown in 2017, but tumbled to 19 last season, which is where he stayed this season. Although Yan is still young, and although he still has a lot of hockey to play left in front of him, I don’t think it’s out of line to say that this upcoming AHL season could make-or-break Yan’s future with the Lightning organization.
This summer, the readers and the writers of Raw Charge were overall a bit more in tune with each other on this player. Yan averaged at 20 among the writers, and was marked highest by those who watched the Crunch all season: myself (17) and Justin (18). Understandably, those who weren’t as familiar with Yan all went lower. Our readers were spot on with an average of 19, which is where Yan’s final placement worked out to be.
In 2017-18, Yan was difficult to place on this countdown because of his many injuries. He missed about a third of that season with a nagging back injury, and his production - and spot on this countdown - suffered because of it. Although Yan’s injury issues cleared up in 2018-19 - he only missed a significant chunk of time in February due to injury - Yan got buried for other reasons and wasn’t able to to break through in any consistent way.
The Crunch’s depth was Yan’s main enemy this past season. Pushed down by the likes of Alexander Volkov, Andy Andreoff, and Boris Katchouk, Yan struggled to get off the Crunch’s 4th line and into the spotlight. This clearly hindered his production totals, and also hindered his visibility. He saw little special teams time, and only netted one power play goal all season. His skills were most certainly hard to display in that context, and he has not yet managed to find the scoring touch he had in juniors when he led the Shawinigan Cataractes with 75 points in 64 games.
Finding consistency in his game is something Yan will be looking to do as he enters the final year of his entry-level contract this upcoming season. Yan played in ten more games for the Crunch last season than he did the season before, but ended up totaling one less point. The streaky play that plagued him during his first year in the AHL also marked his second. At his lowest, Yan went ten games without a point November, but then scored two goals on December 1st. This trend continued all season. He’d pick the production up for a bit, but then would go four or five games without a point. Finding a way to perform with less fluctuation this upcoming season will be key.
Yan himself seems very aware that he hasn’t yet managed to reach his potential, but the good news is that he still has one more year in his existing contract to impress. In his exit interview with the Crunch, Yan mentioned that his third year with the team needs to be his “best season.” I think we all can agree on that.