Patrick Yetman holds up his thumb and index finger to show how close he was to opening the season in the American Hockey League.
If last weekend was any indication, the second-year Augusta Lynx left winger is closer than he thinks.
In Augusta's first two games against Florida, Yetman picked up where he left off last season, when he was the Lynx's lone all-star and was named to the ECHL's all-rookie team.
The 21-year-old forward scored his first goal in Saturday's 3-2 shootout win, but he also showed the Lynx coaching staff that all his hard work this summer trying to become a more complete player was time well spent.
"He's learning to play the game at this level and learn how to create space for himself," Lynx assistant coach David Wilkie said. "He's definitely a better hockey player than he was last year."
Yetman already was one of the best young offensive players in the league. He finished second on the team in goals last season with 25 and third in scoring with 48 points in 61 games.
Yetman's breakout year earned him a contract with the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack, the top farm club of the NHL's New York Rangers.
After five days in New York for his first NHL training camp - skating with Rangers stars Eric Lindros, Mark Messier and Pavel Bure - Yetman was one of the final players cut at the end of Hartford's camp.
"Going to training camp with the Rangers was unbelievable; I was just in awe on the ice out there with those guys," Yetman said. "I had a good camp in Hartford and almost made the team. Down here, I just have to work on a few things and hopefully can get back there at some point."
Hartford is monitoring his progress in Augusta. Lynx coach Jim Burton recently spoke at length with Wolfpack general manager Al Coates to discuss what Yetman needs to improve.
"They want him to get stronger and work on getting the puck and getting moving," Burton said. "He's certainly much better at that now than he was last year."
Part of Yetman's development includes a shift to left wing, where the Hartford coaching staff thinks he can better utilize his skills, while also removing the defensive burden he shouldered at center last season.
"His foot speed has picked up a little bit, and he's a lot better defensively," Wilkie said. "Center is tough because you have to be pretty responsible in the defensive zone down low supporting the defenseman. He's playing the off wing now and his only responsibility is (marking the opposing defenseman). That really takes the weight off him."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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