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SPOTLIGHT: Jonathan Yantsis

Dan Hamilton

Free agent to leading goal scorer. It’s not too often you hear that story.

Jonathan Yantsis is once again trying to break the norm. Take a moment to compare the stat differentials in his 2017-18 campaign vs. this season. Last year he tallied five goals, seven assists, for a total of 12 points. This year? Forty-two goals, 19 assists totalling 61 points and still counting. What changed for the Markham, ON native?

“Nothing really,” smiled Yantsis. “I knew the opportunity would be increased, so I just prepared myself accordingly. I was in the gym six times a week and on the ice four to five times, just doing everything I could to get better. I knew this year was going to be a huge impact season for me. I recognized that if I had only five goals, I wouldn’t be able to continue on the path I wanted necessarily. I was really driven.”

And driven he was. There were specific aspects of his game he worked on during this past offseason, which have seemed to be helpful—specifically, his skating.

“A lot of the guys tell me I have bad boots,” laughed Jonathan. “So, I took the opportunity this off-season to get a power skating coach. She is trying to change all my stride mechanics. From the way I bend down, to my body and head position. I am slowly integrating it into my game, but it’s sometimes hard to remember all the cues. When you’re out there you don’t really think about your stride; you just do it.”

With improvements come confidence. Jonathan seems to have a bit more of a swagger in his step since the beginning of the season, but he is smart enough not to let it go to his head.

“I knew I was capable of doing something like this and being able to show everyone that I could score feels really good,” smiled Jonathan. “I am more confident on the ice. I know I can win battles in the corners or in front of the net, and my confidence helps me in those situations. But I am the same guy off the ice.”

With the end of the regular season only seven games away, the question on everyone’s mind is, will Johnny hit 50? No member of the Rangers has hit 50 since Jeff Skinner. For Jonathan, it’s the last thing on his mind.

“If I get it, I get it. I’m just here trying to win, make it to playoffs and keep winning. Goals are fun, but it’s a team game, and they don’t matter when your team loses. I remember I got a hat trick in North Bay, but the excitement wore off because we lost.”

Jonathan is the type of guy to take things as they come. It is how he has walked through his entire life, and he doesn’t plan to change that now.

“I take things as they come, I always like to live in the moment. This whole experience goes by pretty fast, and I only have one more year of junior left,” said Jonathan. “I am just trying to take everything in stride and be happy.”

Sure, it would be great for Jonathan to hit 50 and I’m sure he would be proud of himself, but if he leaves any legacy, it would be one of inspiration and motivation.

“If I could give one piece of advice for struggling players it would be that you have to have the confidence in yourself that you can succeed. Mike McKenzie brought me in and showed that he had confidence in me that I could be this type of player,” smiled Jonathan. “It is great to accomplish your goals, but there is a lot more to it all than just being satisfied. You have to keep pushing yourself to continue to get better day after day. Have the confidence that you are a good player and good things will come.”

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