‘Frenchy’ Can Play: Meet Yohann Auvitu

It’s still too early to tell, but the New Jersey Devils may have found a diamond in the rough in French defenseman Yohann Auvitu. He has impressed many and turned some heads at training camp and in preseason games. Through seven preseason games, Auvitu leads New Jersey in points with five — all assists

“He was (impressive); he skated well, his puck distribution was very good and he did some good things on the power play,” said Devils head coach John Hynes of one of his team’s new additions. “You can see he’s getting more and more comfortable every game that we play.”

“This was my first experience here, in the Prudential Center, so I was a bit nervous before the game, but under control,” said the 27-year-old who signed with the Devils this past May after playing the last two seasons in Finland. Last season he racked up 21 points (6g-15a) in 48 regular season games and another 13 (6g-7a) in the playoffs, winning the league’s best defenseman trophy (Pekka Rautakallio Award) and was a First Team All-Star in the process.

He certainly didn’t look nervous on the ice in his debut at The Rock, as he finished the 5-4 over the New York Rangers with three assists. “I was really happy about that,” he said with a smile of his first home game in red and black, “it was a good game.”

“He has to continue to play to his strengths,” Hynes said of what Auivtu has to do to make the NHL roster this season. “He’s skated really well, he moves the puck well and I think he’s getting more and more comfortable in the hard areas of the ice – like the corners, around the net – when he doesn’t have the puck on his stick. He’s made strides every day and he has to continue to go in that fashion.”

Following the Devils preseason win over their Hudson River rivals, The Hockey Writers spoke to Yohann Auvitu to get some insight into how his transition to the North American has gone and a plethora of other topics as well.

The Hockey Writers: How do you feel you are fitting in with this franchise now, since taking the ice with them for the first time in July at Development Camp? You obviously had a great game tonight.

Yohann Auvitu: Everything went so fast. I signed in May, and now it is early October; I try to adapt as fast as I can. I’m just trying to do what they ask me to do and that’s the best chance for me to make this team. I was really happy to have my first experience (in a game) here; since the time I came here in the Development Camp (which is held at the Devils practice facility) to now I see the real rink and the atmosphere here during the game was really nice.

THW: Has the coaching staff given you any indication how they see you fitting on this team or what roster spot you are competing for?

YA: No, at the moment I’m just fighting to make the team with my qualities, and I try to work on my weaknesses. I was doing exactly the same last year in Finland. So it’s just – you try your skill here and let’s see; I’m just trying to follow the process and make this team.

THW: Is the NHL game a little faster than in the other leagues that you’ve played in?

YA: Yes. A little bit, yes; the players here have more talent, overall. It means that they can play faster so you have to read and react faster when you are under pressure.

THW: Tonight was your second game with the Devils, but your first was earlier in the week on the road at Montreal. What was that experience like for you as a Frenchman?

YA: That was unbelievable (smiles); when you grow up in France you don’t necessarily follow hockey – especially like fifteen years ago, there wasn’t the internet, there weren’t a hundred television channels. But for the last five years, I watched a lot of the Montreal Canadiens and it was really nice to go inside the Bell Centre. It’s a little bit like Santiago Bernabeu – in Spain, if you follow soccer, that’s like a big, big stadium.

Yohann Auvitu
‘Frenchy’ clearing out the front of the net. (Wikimedia Commons/Fabien Perissinotto)

THW: How do you feel the chemistry has been with this group of players?

YA: I feel confident. The players around me have so much skill, it’s pretty easy to play with them (smiling).