Among his college buddies, Brandon Yip
owns bragging rights.
Last season, Yip was one of three Colorado Avalanche
draft picks who helped power the Boston University Terriers to their first NCAA championship since 1995. The trio included two blue-chip defenseman -- Kevin Shattenkirk
, the Avs' first-round pick (No. 14) of 2007, and Colby Cohen
, a Colorado second-rounder also from '07.
But the first one of the triumvirate to crack the big-league lineup? None other than Yip — a faint 239th-overall holler back in 2004, during an eighth round that now no longer even exists at the draft.
"I guess I am the oldest of the bunch, and they've still got a couple of years (of college) left, but I'm assuming that I'm surprising a few people," Yip tells NHL.com. "Every level I've played at, I've been sticking to skating, hitting and shooting. Fortunately enough, they're going in right now."
As for Shattenkirk and Cohen?
"They still represent BU," he said, "but I wouldn't be surprised to see them in a Colorado jersey soon."
Since his Dec. 19 NHL debut, Yip has turned heads in Denver with his skill, speed and energy. He's been aligned with 18-year-old sensations Matt Duchene
and Ryan O'Reilly
, as well as the likes of Matt Hendricks
, Chris Durno
, Paul Stastny
and Darcy Tucker
, and looked comfortable alongside them all.
"In college, he was sometimes more of an energy guy, but he works hard, and he's got a heck of a shot," Stastny tells NHL.com. "He finds the open spaces when he doesn't have the puck. He knows who he's playing with, and finds a way to get open.
"He's got an underrated wrister, and he's going to get respected more because of that. We'll try to get him the puck all day long when he's open."
Prior to Monday's road game at Calgary, Yip had 5 goals, 8 points and a plus-4 rating in 10 games since being summoned from AHL Lake Erie. He'd tallied twice Dec. 31 at Detroit, and entered Monday's game with a goal in each of his past two games.
"He's played very well," Avs coach Joe Sacco tells NHL.com. "At some point this season, we thought he had a chance to come in and contribute, like he has.
"And to be honest with you, it's earlier than I thought. But (in mid-December), the time was right to see what he could do. We needed a guy who could come in with some grit on the right side, with some speed and pace to his game, and he's provided us with some good energy and timely goals. He plays hard."
Yip has done all this despite a crushing start to his first professional season. He snapped a tendon in the ring finger of his right hand during a fight in the pre-season, and needed substantial rehabilitation.
He'd played six games with the Avs' top affiliate, the Monsters, before being recalled.
"It was a tough injury. I had surgery on the finger, and two months of rehab," he says. "I'd gone into training camp to make the team, obviously. Things didn't go exactly the way I wanted them to, and I was a little hesitant with the injury, but going down and playing six games with Lake Erie really helped me out."
As for Yip's development, nothing did the trick like that magical 2008-09 campaign at BU, which ended with a stunning comeback in the NCAA championship game. The top-ranked Terriers, trailing No. 13 seed Miami (Ohio) 3-1 with a minute left, scored twice in the final 59 seconds of regulation and got the OT winner from Cohen to cap an incredible rally.
"Last season helped out tremendously, I think, in my career and my life," says Yip, who had 43 points and 118 penalty minutes in 45 games last season for the Terriers.
"It changed my work ethic around, being around a team with great leadership. Everyone was pulling for the same goal. It was pretty special to be part of that. I definitely learned a lot from it."