TORONTO- With so much uncertainty for minor-league hockey players, it’s always good to have a back-up plan.
That’s why after four seasons of one-year contracts, call-ups to the AHL and demotions to the ECHL, and even the thought of going overseas to play, last summer Dylan Yeo decided to instill some security in his future.
“I took a fire fighting course,” he said. “I was thinking about going to Europe but Europe wanted me earlier and I couldn’t get out of school, so it didn’t work out. It was a quick three-month course, everything from building construction to using a hose properly. There’s another step I want to take, the Emergency Medical Technician part of it. That’s nine months, so I can’t get into it now, but whenever I’m ready I will.”
Yeo, who suited up in an career high 48 games in the AHL last season, signed a one-year AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies this past July. It will be his seventh team since turning pro in 2007-08.
The 26-year-old isn’t too familiar with his new home yet, but because of his experience playing against the Marlies in last season’s Western Conference Final, as a member of the Oklahoma City Barons, he knew it was a place he wanted to play if given the opportunity.
“The experience playing against them in the playoffs last year, they were a good team and showed they were a great organization,” said Yeo. “Obviously the city and fans are great, too, so that played into my decision.”
The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native was signed prior to the NHL lockout and at the time of the deal would have fit into the Marlies’ top-six defenceman. However, with Jake Gardiner and Korbinian Holzer returning to the AHL, no playing time is guaranteed.
At 5’11, 200-pounds,Yeo loses four-to-five inches of height on Toronto’s shut-down pairing of Holzer and Mark Fraser so he has had to use training camp to show head coach Dallas Eakins what else his game has to offer.
“For my size, I’m a pretty sturdy D-man in the back end,” said Yeo. “I like to keep it simple in our zone and if I can contribute offensively I’ll do that as well.”
Yeo spent his junior career in the Western Hockey League, splitting time between the Prince George Cougars and Calgary Hitmen, who he played his final season with in 2007.
He turned pro the following year and has spent time in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, Hershey Bears and Barons, and time in the ECHL with the Victoria Salmon Kings, South Carolina Sting Rays and Ontario Reign.
With Victoria, he had his most productive season in 2009 when he won the ECHL’s defenceman of the year award and was named a first-team ECHL all-star.
“I was never drafted. I signed with the Manitoba Moose right out of junior,” said Yeo. “My first two seasons with Manitoba were spent going up and down with Victoria. My third year I signed with Hershey and spent time with South Carolina. I then signed with Ontario to start last season before signing a PTO (pro-tryout) contract with Oklahoma in November. Then in January they signed me for the rest of the season.”
Now in Toronto, Yeo doesn’t have to stress anymore about when his hockey career comes to end because he has prepared for that day. That doesn’t mean, though, that he has any intention of quitting anytime soon. One-year contracts and developing in the AHL still give him hope of reaching his ultimate goal.
“It’s always a lifelong dream to make it to that next level. It’s always in the back of my head.”