The term passionate Florida Panthers fan may make some giggle, but don't laugh around Andrew Yogan.
The Erie Otters forward grew up in Boca Raton, Fla., with Pavel Bure posters in his bedroom. Some might find it odd, but all Yogan can do is like what he likes.
"I still have a poster of (Bure) in my room, and I don't think I'll ever take that down," Yogan told NHL.com. "He was really good at scoring and I love to score so I learned a lot of things from him. Just watching him growing up, that's why I went to Panthers games. Him, and everyone loved Peter Worrell fighting."
Yogan's game has become a blend of the two -- in 63 games, he had 25 goals, 55 points and 97 penalty minutes, second-most on the team this season. He also earned a spot at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, where he played for the winning Team Cherry.
A broken foot suffered blocking a shot March 3, however, ended Yogan's season, and he missed the Otters' first-round playoff loss to the Windsor Spitfires. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound power forward is No. 61 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft. He also earned a coveted invitation to the NHL Scouting Combine, to be held May 24-29 in Toronto.
"He is aggressive and involved in battles and shows a willingness to go to the net and compete for rebounds and loose pucks," Chris Edwards, Central Scouting's chief OHL scout, told NHL.com. "While he does need to continue to work on all areas of his skating, I don't see it as a big obstacle. He moves well and is solid on his skates."
While Yogan loved Bure for his goal-scoring prowess, as he grew he began watching other players to style his game after.
"When I first started watching the game, the first people I watched were Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux," said Yogan. "It was just beautiful watching them skate with the puck and watch them use their size to protect it and the way they put the puck in the net. That really attracted me. That's when I first started really caring about the game."
While some of Yogan's skills come from his TV time, other elements come from his off-ice training in karate.
"I was a national champion when I was 9 years old," said Yogan. "I was really flexible. They teach you really good discipline, too. The fighting a little bit, too. You have to be really flexible to be in karate and that moved over to my hockey. I'm a little bit tighter now, but the balance and the flexibility, even the strength, we did a lot of training."
Now, though, he's strictly focused on hockey. And his climb up the competitive ladder from South Florida has been an interesting one.
"I don't remember any other prospect who has come out of Florida," said Edwards. "It is very impressive and shows a big commitment on his part to become a hockey player. I am sure his travel schedule growing up was hectic and involved a big financial commitment from his parents."
"I started playing travel hockey in Florida for the Florida Junior Panthers," said Yogan. "I played there for a couple years. My dad met a few good people from Toronto, so I was affiliated with some of the Marlies guys, and the Toronto Bulldogs (novice team). From there I started to get scouted. We took a southern team to the OHL Cup, and then I got drafted by Windsor and I got traded to Erie (last season)."
His path got derailed in a big way last season. In a game against London on Feb. 13, he was driven face-first into the boards from behind by a hit by the Knights' Zac Rinaldo. He suffered a broken nose and a season-ending concussion, and one of the lasting images from the video is an unconscious Yogan landing on the ice with his arms extended.
Yogan said it took until the middle of the summer for him to feel like himself again.
"It took a while," he said. "It was a long recovery, but I did it. My family helped me through it, my friends were great for me. I'm back now and I'm loving playing hockey again."
"He came back this year, started off pretty well, and he's been playing well all year," Erie coach Robbie Ftorek told NHL.com. "To get back from that took quite a while."
Yogan said he's playing the same way he did before the hit, but he also said he used it as a learning experience.
"I think it took me a little while to get comfortable with my game because I took a lot of chances," he said. "Going into corners, I had to look behind my back a couple times. I'm starting to get comfortable again. I learned a lot from it. When I got hit, I watched the video, I saw myself not looking around. Now when I go into a corner I look around, I keep my head up, and I'm prepared now. I learned a lot."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org