License to Yl

Sep 10, 2013

Know Your Bobcat – Eric Ylitalo

Throughout the months of August and September, will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features rookie Bobcat forward Eric Ylitalo.

Name: Eric Ylitalo

Position: Forward

Hometown: Delano, MN

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 190 lbs.

2012-13 Team: Delano High School Tigers

2012-13 Stats: 25 GP, 31 G, 27 A, 58 PTS, +34, 14 PIM, 5 PPG, 2 SHG, 7 GWG

Favorite TV Show: Friday Night Lights

Favorite Movie: Miracle
Highlight of 2012-13: “Our school had never been to the sectional finals before, so getting there and playing in that game was a really great memory. Even though we couldn’t pull off the win, I’ll never forget playing such a big game in front of so many people.”

Grand Opening

Rookie forward Eric Ylitalo has become one of the great success stories of the Bobcats’ open tryout system, which starts in open pre-draft tryouts in May, continues at the team’s main camp in July and culminates in late August with training camp.

Though he was not drafted or tendered by the Bobcats, Ylitalo wound up on the Cats’ radar thanks to a 58-point season with the Delano Tigers and a little luck.

“I ended up first seeing Eric at a game I attended to scout a different player,” revealed Bobcats Midwest regional scout Aaron Venasky. “Eric put up a goal and an assist in a losing effort, but I saw that his playmaking ability far exceeded even what he contributed to the score sheet that night.”

From there, the wheels started turning to get Ylitalo a tryout.

“Aaron approached me after a game and invited me to come to the pre-draft camp in Prior Lake (Minn.),” explained Ylitalo. “I had a pretty good camp, put up some goals and got the invite to main camp.”

At the VFW Sports Center in July, the former Tiger continued to turn heads, leading main camp with five goals, earning him a ticket to training camp.

Battling his way through Hell Week and a week of extended practices, Ylitalo seized his chance to shine in the preseason: tallying a major insurance goal in the Cats’ 5-2 come-from-behind win Saturday over the Minot Minotauros.

Now he has a chance to show what he’s got in the NAHL starting next Wednesday.

“Sometimes you hear people accuse coaches in our league of having their teams picked before main camp ever begins, but players like Eric are proof positive that the process works,” illustrated Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “He grabbed our attention in open camp and worked and fought his way from there onto our roster without ever being on our protected list.”

Keep it Simple

Nowadays, there are any number of terms you hear to describe a forward, whether it’s “power forward” or “skill guy” or “power play technician” or anything else under the sun. Eric Ylitalo has a much more basic view of his game up front.

“I’m a forward who likes to put up points,” offered Ylitalo with a laugh.

Easy enough. So how does he go about putting up those points?

“Well, I like to get to the front of the net and get into the right area to score goals and help set up my teammates,” elaborated the rookie attacker.

Venasky was a bit more effusive in his praise than the modest rookie.

“Whenever Eric steps on the ice, he creates matchup problems for the opposition,” hailed the Bobcat scout, who has been on staff since 2010. “Players that are his size don’t typically have the creative playmaking ability and finishing touch that he showed off.

“Putting up 67 points in 28 games (including playoffs) says a heck of a lot about the kind of scorer Eric is and can be at the junior level.”

Ylitalo agrees that his size ends up working to his advantage.

“I use my frame to protect the puck, disrupt things on defense and to create traffic to keep goalies from seeing any shots,” submitted the Minnesotan.

That puck protection was on full display in Saturday’s home preseason contest, as Ylitalo put his body between the puck and the defender and drove into the high slot before zipping a rising shot through traffic and in.

First Timer

Like many players who enter the NAHL after their senior season in high school hockey, Eric Ylitalo is undertaking the entirely new challenge of moving away from home for the first time to continue his hockey career.

“Packing up and moving six hours away from Delano has been tough,” admitted Ylitalo, “because it’s something so different in such a different place.

“It would be easy to sit there and dwell on being homesick but every day I get to the rink I’m reminded of how much fun it is to be here and play hockey every day and every day it gets easier and easier to adjust to my new hockey home.”

Getting a big assist in easing the transition for the rookie have been the other 24 players in black and gold.

“The boys in our locker room have been incredibly welcoming,” lauded Ylitalo, echoing the sentiments of his fellow rookies during training camp. “They’re a great group of guys and all the older players have gone out of their way to make everyone feel they’re a part of the team.”

Another galvanizing force for the Bobcat newcomer has been from a bit more of an unexpected source.

“We all definitely came together during Hell Week,” intoned Ylitalo. “I wouldn’t say it was fun but I would definitely say that working so hard together in the trenches like that really bonded all of us. And when it was done we could all look back together and be proud of the effort we put in.”

Feeling more settled in Bismarck/Mandan, the rookie has been able to see the big picture for the upcoming 2013-14 season.

“Our leaders have really been stressing how important it is for us to buy into that team concept, and you can already feel that happening, even just three weeks into training camp,” assessed Ylitalo. “With the talent and commitment you can see in our locker room, there’s just one big goal for all of us: winning a Robertson Cup championship.”

Stay tuned to over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week we’ll also sit down with Kolton Aubol and Tommy Malkmus.