Nolan Yonkman was signed to a one-year contract by the Ducks in July, and the veteran is battling with several other defenseman for a coveted roster spot.
The 32-year-old has appeared in 601 American Hockey League games over a 12-year period, including 74 NHL games over the course of his career. No stranger to new teams and new surroundings, Yonkman entered Ducks camp with the same determination and mindset since being drafted by Washington in the second round (37th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
AnaheimDucks.com sat down with the big, bruising defenseman to talk about his experience at Ducks training camp.
How has camp and preseason gone so far?
It’s been going well. I’ve got four games and I’m keeping my game simple. I’m just trying to give them what they’re looking for.
How have you approached training camp this time around?
It’s always a fresh start when you come to a new team, and the different systems and the different ways of looking at things. You approach every training camp and you want to give it your all. You want to make a good first impression. Hopefully, I’ve been doing that here with the Ducks. You’re always working on things in the summer. You work on your weaknesses. And for a big guy, you want to always stay fast with today’s game. So you work on things like that, and hopefully it pays off.
Bruce called you a real “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. Is that how you’ve found success over the years?
I think so. That’s been my whole career. I do things hard and you have to be able to play hard without taking penalties. In today’s game, that’s very key for bigger players. If that’s meat and potatoes, I’ll fill that role no problem.
You have history with all three coaches (Boudreau, Brad Lauer, and Bob Woods). Does it feel like you’ve come full circle?
I had Woody and Bruce for six games in Hershey the one year when I played for the Capitals in ‘05-06. I saw a little stint with them, and that’s kind of where I first met them. After I left Washington, I moved to Nashville’s organization where Brad Lauer coached me in Milwaukee. I got to know all three. You’re right. It’s funny how the hockey world turns around on its stuff.
Have you given any words of wisdom to some of the younger guys here? Shea Theodore (Ducks’ 2013 first-round pick) said you’re a guy he’s looked up to during camp
I know we got to play a few games together. And if I can help him out, that only makes our game a lot easier. Essentially, you want them to do well. Even though you’re competing, you’re still partners out there. You want to play the game the right way. Seeing those guys develop and do well is all part of it. I guess me being in the American league, it’s part of our role, too, for developing the young guys.
You showed off your offensive prowess when you ripped a slap shot into the back of the net during the September 16 game against the Coyotes at Honda Center. Can we expect more shorthanded goals from you in the future?
You never know. In four-on-four, I hit the post the other night. So, I guess I’ve been having a few bounces more than usual, and that’s good. Maybe it’s Reebok’s new sticks.
You’re a veteran guy who’s spent 12 years in the American Hockey League. Are you still having fun here?
I am. Great bunch of guys. I got to know the coaches already, so that’s company to a comfortable environment. You try to come to camp and approach it with every day in mind, and wanting to be here every day. That’s what way I’ve been looking at it. Essentially, taking it one day at a time. It’s kind of cliché, but building off of that and making good impressions and doing the right things.
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