ALBANY Harry Young is back, and not only back in Albany.
The third-year player is back on the blue line after spending much of the season playing as a left wing.
Young began the season switching positions from defenseman to left wing because the Devils, from the top of the organization to the bottom, are deep on defense, and he had trouble finding ice time in the AHL last season.
He has played just one game in Albany this season, but has played 30 games with the Kalamazoo Wings and two with the Trenton Titans, both of the ECHL.
He returned to Albany this week and was skating as a defenseman again in Thursday’s practice.
“Young will be an option at D [this weekend]. Absolutely,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We made the decision, collectively, to move him back on D. We did a bit of a forward experiment, but he feels more confident and comfortable on the back end.”
The Devils will host Binghamton today at 3 and Syracuse on Monday at 2.
It’s a bit ironic, Young switching back to defense and finally, probably, finding some AHL ice time — the reason he and the organiz-ation decided he should switch in the first place.
He had started feeling comfortable at left wing, he said, but both he and the Devils decided before he last returned to Kalamazoo
Jan. 29 that he should switch back to playing as a defenseman.
Now, with captain Jay Leach (lower body) out a week or so after being injured in Sunday’s game, having another body in back just happens to be what the doctor ordered for Albany.
“I was getting used to forward, I was almost 30 games in. But defense, it’s just one of those things — I’ve been playing my whole life,” Young said. “It’s like riding a bike. You’re never going to forget how to do it, it’s always going to be a comfortable experience. I’m happy to be back on the back end, and hopefully, I can help out.”
The forward experiment
Young has one assist and 50 penalty minutes in his 32 ECHL games this season.
He wasn’t moved forward to suddenly turn into Ilya Kovalchuk, though. He was put up there to be a big (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), phys-ical (163 PIM in 64 AHL games) forward.
And he enjoyed it.
“The forward experiment was definitely interesting,” Young said. “I had a lot of fun doing it. I wouldn’t mind doing it again if they need me in that position. Wher-ever the team needs me, I told them I’m ready to play. I’m ready to give them all I’ve got and do whatever I can to help this team win.”
In a phone interview, Kalamazoo coach Nick Bootland said Young was extremely coachable and had the work ethic it was going to take to make the change work.
“He came in with an open mind. Slowly but surely, he was progressing,” Bootland said. “A little tent-ative at times, just because of the decision-making process, but overall, he was keeping it simple, like he does as a defenseman. He was chipping pucks in, being physical when he had an opportunity to.”
He was more free to use his size and physicality, Young said, as a forward. He could get into the corners on the forecheck and, if the referee’s arm went up, it was easier to swallow as a forward than as a defenseman, whether he was taking a minor penalty or five for fighting.
What was difficult for Young was overcoming that tentative tendency and being aggressive to the puck.
“I guess the toughest part was always going at the play rather than the play coming at you,” he said. “On defense, you’re sitting back and waiting, watching, everything’s in front of you. On forward, everything’s go, go, go. I was a little hesitant at times, but I was getting used to it.
“You’ve always got to have a good F3 [third forward into the zone] when you’re playing, supporting the D. I felt like I was that guy a lot, sitting back almost playing as a third defenseman. It was a little tough, but as I got used to it, I got a lot more comfortable.”
Bootland was a tailor-made mentor for Young during his time with Kalamazoo. As a player, Bootland was a physical winger who could rack up the penalty minutes, but he also found a scoring touch later in his career.
“He came to me and kind of told me he was the same players as I was starting out, playing pro and playing junior,” Young said. “It was all the little things [he helped with]. More just to keep it simple, than anything. Knowing my game and the way I play defense, I just kind of brought that to forward, getting pucks out, getting pucks deep, playing people hard and just being hard to play against, basically. Playing as a defensive forward, you can do that either way. I think that’s what he tried to teach me most, just to simplify the game and get my bumps in.”
“He has great timing when he does fight and when he sticks up for teammates, so he doesn’t really need any help with that or in the physicality department from me,” Bootland said. “We worked on that quick shot, behind-the-goal-line passes, putting pucks in his feet to get it off quickly, passing to his backhand and as quickly as he can shooting the puck. We worked on all those things I tried to work on when I played the position.”
Young is still open to stepping forward as a left wing whenever he’s needed there, he said, so he considers the experiment ongoing.
This is a contract year for Young, at the end of which he will be a restricted free agent.
He said even if it means returning to the same situation he faced this season, bouncing back and forth between leagues and between positions, he’d still welcome a new contract with the Devils.
“Yeah, of course. I’ve been a defenseman my whole life, but now that I can comfortably play forward and they’re comfortable with me doing it, that’s a whole other part to my game that I can bring to the table,” Young said. “If we get short up front, I won’t be shy to jump into a spot. We’re short on D right now, so here I am. I think it’s a good thing for me and the organization.”
Phantoms beat Devils
GLENS FALLS — Rob Bordson scored the eventual game-winning goal at 11:13 in the first period as the Adirondack Phantoms beat the Albany Devils, 4-2, on Friday night.
Bordson also collected an assist on Eric Wellwood’s empty-netter to seal the win at 18:45 of the third.
The Devils (20-18-1-8) got goals from Chris McKelvie and Harri
Pesonen, with defenseman Dan Kelly picking up the seconary assist on both. Jeff Frazee made 27 saves on 30 shots.
Adirondack (20-24-2-1), which scored a combined 10 goals in back-to-back wins Thursday and Friday, got 31 saves from Scott Munroe. Andrew Johnston and Brandon Manning scored early, and Erik Gustafsson handed out two helpers.
After being shoved into Munroe and the goal at 7:47 of the third, Albany left wing Mattias Tedenby began bleeding and was taken from the ice. He also was whistled for goaltender interference.
Albany will host Binghamton on Sunday at 3 p.m. Adirondack will host Worcester tonight at 7.
Albany 2 0 0 — 2
Adirondack 3 0 1 — 4
First Period — 1, Adirondack, Johnston 2 (Noebels), 1:50. 2, Albany, McKelvie 2 (D.Zajac, Kelly), 2:19 (sh). 3, Adirondack, Manning 6 (Gustafsson), 3:38 (pp). 4, Albany, Pesonen 10 (Sestito, Kelly), 6:42. 5, Adirondack, Bordson 7 (LaLiberte, Gustafsson), 11:13. Penalties — Sestito, Alb (roughing), 2:13; Lauridsen, Adk (interference), 19:29.
Second Period — No scoring. Penalties — Urbom, Alb (interference), 3:43; Harper, Adk (slashing), 10:50.
Third Period — 6, Adirondack, Wellwood 5 (Harper, Bordson), 18:45 (en). Penalties — Tedenby, Alb (goaltender interference), 7:47; Anderson, Alb (hooking), 10:39; Sestito, Alb, major (fighting), 14:30; D.Zajac, Alb, major-game misconduct (fighting, secondary altercation), 14:30; Manning, Adk, major-game misconduct (fighting, seconardy altercation), 14:30; Slater, Adk, minor-major-game misconduct (instigating, fighting), 14:30; Albany bench (too many men), 20:00.
Shots on goal — Albany 13-10-10 — 33. Adirondack 12-6-13 — 31.
Power-play opportunities — Albany 0 of 3; Adirondack 1 of 5.
Goalies — Albany, Frazee 4-9-4 (30 shots-27 saves). Adirondack, Munroe 11-11-0 (33-31).
A — 3,745. T — 2:30.
Referee — Trent Knorr. Linesmen — Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.