Yip returns as Olympic dreams take shape

27 July 2021

The Dragons keep on making signings – and there’s a greater-than-ever focus on Chinese heritage players as we enter the most significant year in our club’s history. With the Beijing Olympics barely six months away, the emphasis is firmly on securing game time for potential stars of China’s national team as they prepare to take on the best of the world early next year.

That’s why the return of Brandon Yip is so important. Yipper has been an inspirational figure for the club since he first came to Red Star back in 2017. Team captain for much of that time, he leads the way for the franchise in goals, assists, points and PIMs. And it’s not just on the ice that the 36-year-old from British Columbia makes an impact – he’s an inspirational leader, ready to share his years of NHL experience with Colorado, Phoenix and Nashville with the next generation of Chinese talent.

Brandon played in Finland last season, keeping himself in shape with a spell at Jukurit in the Liiga. But KRS is a project close to his heart and its great to have this gritty, hardworking winger back for a fourth season in the Dragons’ Lair.

Yip isn’t the only big player from our franchise history to make a return to the team. Cory Kane has been with the Dragons since 2017, and would have made far more than his 162 appearances had it not been for injury problems in the 2018/19 campaign and a COVID-delayed arrival last term. The 30-year-old Californian, who also boasts Chinese heritage, is back for a fifth campaign and adds substantial know-how to our offensive line.

And then there’s Vic Bartley, an absolute warrior of a defenseman, is also back with the club. Like Yipper, Bartley brings a wealth of NHL experience – five seasons in the show, mostly with the Predators – and joined the Dragons during our recruitment drive among players of Chinese heritage. He played 104 games in two seasons between 2018 and 2020, contributing 23 (9+14) points from the blue line. Last season he went to Poland, playing a handful of games for Unia Oswiecim before returning to Red Star.

In addition to those three seasoned KHL campaigners, three more players with Chinese roots are back for the upcoming season.

Chris Seto, 24, has a rare distinction: he’s scored for the Dragons at junior, VHL and KHL level. His sole tally for the first team came in Jan. 2019 when he found the net in a 4-7 loss at Salavat Yulaev. In the VHL, he tallied 54 points in 84 games in his last two seasons, before the pandemic prompted an enforced rest last season. Now this promising left winger is poised to cement his place in the KHL – and give himself the best possible chance of going to the Games.

During his time in the VHL, Seto often found himself on the ice with defenseman Mikael Tam. The 30-year-old from Quebec only has 16 KHL appearances in three seasons, but he has been a solid part of the D-core for our VHL teams. Last season he played ECHL hockey, keeping himself in peak condition with a season for Rapid City Rush. And, every bit as important for team China, he took his first steps in coaching, serving as a skills coach for the juniors of Quebec Remparts. Tam’s colleague on the blue line, Colin Joe, is also stepping up from the VHL to the KHL after signing a one-year deal.

Young Alex Riche joined us in the summer of 2019 and there was lots of excitement about this Princeton graduate. Prolific in college hockey, Riche, now 24, arrived with an ECAC championship on his resume. Sadly, injuries kept him off the ice for the 2019/20 season and he was limited to just four KHL games last term. But, with the chance of an Olympic call-up in front of him, what better time to step up and show what this promising center can do in adult hockey?

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