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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Zach Yuen: A Guy You Should Know

Tri-City Americans defenseman Zachary Yuen is a Vancouver native of Chinese descent who is one of the more unheralded prospects in the 2011 draft class.

He's a fluid, mobile skater who is light on his feet and agile. He's also excellent on his edges and can make tight turns and quick changes in direction largely because of a figure skating background- he did that for about five years before getting serious about hockey.

The 22nd selection in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft, Yuen is an intriguing player because of his solid overall game, mobility and background. In addition to his hockey attributes, Yuen is an outstanding student and accomplished pianist as well. Beyond hockey and music, Yuen is also a standout lacrosse player. He counts Nordiques/Avalanche great Joe Sakic as foremost among his childhood hockey idols.

Yuen isn't a flashy, dynamic player, but is very good defensively, possesses strong instincts for the flow of the play and can see the ice well. He's spent a lot of time on the Americans' top pairing defensively, leading the club with a +41 rating. In 72 games, Yuen scored eight goals and 32 points. In 10 playoff games, he added three assists.

He isn't a physical player, but will initiate body contact, has an understanding of leverage and taking the proper angles and will drop the gloves to defend teammates when the going gets tough. In fact, we've seen a couple of his fights, and the kid can actually throw them pretty well.

He's extremely lean, but with physical maturity and a good off-season training plan, he's going to get a bit stronger. He won't be able to go toe-to-toe with the biggest guys on the ice, but with his smarts and effort, he'll continue to be effective as a mobile shutdown defender who is capable of chipping in some points.

Yuen doesn't have a lot of high offensive upside, but he's a well-rounded player who brings intelligence, character and strong family values to the mix. This is the classic player who won't get a lot of 2011 draft day attention, but could end up being a fan favorite for whichever NHL team drafts him when he goes to the development camps, because he does so many of the little things well and by all accounts is an excellent teammate and good guy.

His lack of height and lanky frame is likely what is keeping him from being more of a name player in this class, but with his mobility, spirit and sense, we think Yuen is underrated and could be an excellent value in the third round or lower.

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