Alex Yakovenko is Breaking Records on His Way to the AHLFebruary 20, 2019
Alex Yakovenko has had an incredibly successful career in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Acquired by Muskegon in the 2017-18 season, Yakovenko tallied 17 points in 31 games. A native of Kazakstan, he has a distinctly Russian-style to his game. That smooth style has carried him into the 2018-19 season where he has broken old records and set new ones.
This season has become a benchmark in his career and is demanding the attention of scouts throughout the leagues. An overager, no longer eligible for the draft and no college commitment, Yakovenko’s next step will be a defining one.
No Draft – No Problem
Yakovenko would have been eligible for the 2015-16 Draft but extenuating circumstances resulted in the draft becoming a no-go for Russian players. “His first year of eligibility was 2016 and he was on the now-defunct Russian U-18 program. The program dissolved after the IIHF discovered the team was using a banned substance called Meldonium or something like that. They were not allowed to play at the under-18 world championships, so Yakovenko lost out on some exposure,” Draft Analyst Steve Kourianos told Access Hockey MI. “Prospects in Russian leagues aren’t as popular among NHL teams as other European juniors because they can make good money in the KHL in Russia. Plus defensemen take a bit longer to develop.”
Given the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Yakovenko’s league at the time, joining the USHL was the best option. If nothing else, it would ensure Yakovenko would get exposure to get a college offer and further extend his stay in the United States.
No Longer in the Shadows
Following Yakovenko’s arrival to the Muskegon Lumberjacks in 2017, high-end defensemen like Marc Del Gaizo, Bray Crowder, and Colby Bukes were gracing the Lumberjacks roster. Making a mark on such a team is no easy task but Yakovenko did remarkably well. He earned 17 points in 31 games, 4th among Lumberjack defensemen.
This season, Yakovenko is the veteran defenseman along with Colby Bukes, and producing as expected. No longer living in the shadow of Marc Del Gaizo, who was among the best in the USHL, Yakovenko has blazed a trail of his own. He is a three-time defenseman of the week for the USHL. defenseman of the week. He’s broken the regular season scoring record and is setting new scoring records. Clearly, more ice time has proven to be of value for the 20-year-old.
AHL May Be in Yakovenko’s Future
As an overager, it is more crucial than ever for Yakovenko to continue to improve and impress. The USHL only allows two 20 and 21-year-old skaters per team – after that they’re ineligible and overage.
He hasn’t received a college commitment offer as of yet and with not being eligible for the upcoming draft, it leaves Yakovenko with a couple of options. According to Head Coach Mike Hamilton, the likelihood of Yakovenko moving on to the AHL following this season is great. With his level of talent, vision, overall control and obvious production, Alex is a good age and experience level for the American League. If not the American League, there is a large pool of teams in the East Coast (ECHL) that would benefit from a two-way guy like Yakovenko. His elite skill level presents a good argument for a pro-contract.
A Season to Remember
Yakovenko has exceeded the 45 point mark in 42 games and is well on his way to 50 points. Alex is rewriting franchise and league records. He’s solidified his place on the top line and special team units. He owns not only the trust of the coaching staff but of his teammates.
The Muskegon Lumberjacks remain on the top of the USHL thanks to their dynamic scorers like Yakovenko. The push for the playoffs continues across the leagues. The pressure is mounting for players like Alex, who are expected to produce. Muskegon was knocked out of the playoffs in the first series against the Chicago Steel in 2017-18. Now they are looking to redeem themselves.
With the powerhouse scorers they have, Yakovenko leading the way among defensemen, Muskegon will have a season to remember and a playoff push for the books.