The Yantsis family is all about numbers. Both parents are chartered professional accountants and undoubtedly appreciate seeing a nice, round number at the bottom of a ledger.
What looked even better was the total amount of goals listed beside Jonathan’s name after the 2018/19 season: 50.
After having a whole summer to finally absorb the magnitude of his accomplishment, Yantsis vividly recalls his pre-game thoughts before the Rangers took on Owen Sound in the regular season home finale.
“I was in the shower at home before the game and thinking that I really wanted to hit that mark in front of our fans and not draw it out until the last game of the season,” said the Markham native.
“When I got on the ice, the puck just kept going in for me. It was pretty crazy to see the fans’ reactions and actually live that moment,” he said.
After the game, Yantsis admitted that the achievement felt “pretty surreal”.
“I didn’t really think about it when it happened. I was just happier to hit that mark,” he said, adding, “Looking back on it a week and month later, it’s actually something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
“Just to be a part of the franchise’s 50-goal group is pretty special,”
Much was made about the scoring boost – having only eight OHL goals to his name in the previous two seasons combined. But notching four goals in a game? It was a little bit of “been there, done that” for the fourth-year forward.
“I did it a couple of times, but not in junior. It was when I was 17 and just before I signed with the Rangers,” said Yantsis.
And since joining the team as a free agent after his draft year, his career trajectory has been one of the most intriguing to follow.
“Coming into this league, I didn’t want to become just someone that’s forgotten about. As a free agent, people aren’t going to think that you can score that many goals or do anything that special,” he said.
To change that perception, Yantsis heeded the words of his father and started to focus on increasing goals total in the toughest spot in the offensive zone: the front of the net. Last year, it finally paid off.
“Since I was a little kid, my dad would always say, “That’s where you score goals. If you go there, good things will happen.”” That advice has obviously worked out,” said this year’s alternate captain.
“It’s been pretty tough, to be honest. The net-front battles, they can hurt sometimes.”
He also found a lot of value in seeing the performance of some graduated teammates, like Kole Sherwood and Adam Mascherin. Even Givani Smith was recognized for “how he went to the net”.
“I was just learning from them. Just taking those characteristics and inputting it into my own game,” he explained.
Aside from helping him reach a new milestone, those lessons also recently earned him some attention from NHL scouts. Yantsis traveled to California twice this past summer: once for the LA Kings development camp and, the second time, in September for the team’s rookie camp. An invite to the main camp came immediately after.
“I was pretty excited. LA’s not a bad city at all,” Yantsis said with a smile about the call he got from the Kings.
“I wanted to make the most of my opportunity there and just seeing what players like (Anze) Kopitar, (Dustin) Brown do, really showed me what it’s going to take to get to the next level,” said Yantsis.
“Sure, you’re not playing against 17 year-olds anymore, you’re playing against full-grown men and they’re all really strong and most of them are my size, but it’s still about trying to use your body to your advantage … and puck protection is something you have to work on every day.”
“That’s what I’m going to strive for throughout the year.”