Alex Yuill is a smart, highly skilled defenseman is in his second season with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. His excellent skating ability and almost effortless stride has made this Wellington native a player to watch in the coming years. We sat down with Alex after the Colts had been given the Bobby Orr Trophy as the OHL’s Eastern Conference Champions.
Where did you play minor hockey?
I played for Prince Edward County Kings until Major Atom when I made the jump to AAA. My older brother made the AAA Quinte Red Devils in his Minor Peewee year so I decided to try to follow in his footsteps to play AAA at the same point.
Do you have a favorite hockey memory as a kid?
My favorite minor hockey moment came when I was in Major Peewee. Our team didn’t win a lot of tournaments but we came together that year and had a great weekend and won a tournament in Oshawa. That same year we went deep in the OMHA AAA Championships. I think we lost in the bronze medal game but it was still a lot of fun and wrapped up a great year with the team.
Who do you credit with your success?
Obviously my parents have been huge. They’ve spent so much time driving me to practices and games when I was a kid and they still make time to come up to as many games as they can now that I play in Barrie. It is a three hour drive from Wellington so they are still very committed to seeing me succeed. They used to cook all my meals for me and help me with the little things so I could get the best out of my time off the ice to be able to succeed on the ice.
How about on the ice, who helped you master your skills?
My older brother Cam helped me a ton. He taught me a lot of the small things that really helped my game. He has been very supportive and has always watched my games. Cam got drafted by the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League when I was still playing minor hockey. He was a great hockey player but decided to stay close to home and play Junior A with the Wellington Dukes. He wants me to be the best player I can be and is a major reason I am where I am today.
Tell us about your OHL Draft day.
It was a cool experience, I remember my parents were at the RBC Cup out west watching my brother, Cam play for the Dukes so it was just me and my sister and my friend hanging around the house. I woke up and didn’t expect to be chosen in the first round (22nd overall) so I was pretty excited when I was chosen by Barrie. My sister drove me up to Barrie that afternoon to meet with the organization and go through the draft room. They are a great organization to be a part of and it was apparent on that very first day.
How was your transition to the OHL?
It was hard at first to move away from home and in with billets. I didn’t know anyone when I got to Barrie but it turned out to be a great experience here and something I have never once regretted.
You were the Captain of your team growing up, is that something that comes naturally to you?
I don’t like to think of myself as the biggest leader on the team but I feel I get along with everyone and can talk to anyone on the team. Growing up, we had a really group of guys and we were all good friends so there were a lot of leaders. I think I was just the one that got called to be a captain each year.
How about this year? Are you a leader on this team?
This year I don’t think I have a big leadership role being one of the youngest players on the team. I get along with everyone well so it’s almost the same thing without the C. I like to think I am a pretty quiet guy and try to be an example on the ice more than yelling and directing.
At 5’8 and 167 lbs how does your size affect your game?
It’s nothing I can really control so I try to focus on things I can control, like working out to maximize my overall strength and trying to work on quickness as much as possible. I like to think it doesn’t really affect my game. I like to think that I am a pass first type defenseman. I think it’s all about body positioning for me in the defensive zone and when I do get in physical battles I have to work twice as hard.
Do you have any advice for smaller players that are playing minor hockey?
Don’t think that you aren’t as good as everyone else because you aren’t a physical player. Play the way you like to play and what suits you best.
When did you start off-ice conditioning?
I started some light off- ice conditioning l when I was in Minor Bantam and have really ramped up the weight training the past two years playing in the OHL.
I went to a ton of powerskating camps growing up, which helped me refine my stride. I went to the Dukes camp as a kid. It helped being around Junior players and I really looked up to them. I think watching how they acted helped me take the game seriously and taught me how to become a junior player.
What areas of your game do you work on now?
At this point in my career I really work hard and focus on strength training to build overall muscle, but all areas of my game can improve so I work on various aspects to become better. Getting quicker and having the best conditioning are my top priorities right now.
What are your goals moving forward in your hockey career?
This year our team goal is to win a Memorial Cup but if it doesn’t happen this year I would love to win one in my career. Whatever happens from there will happen but I am not worried about the future right now.