17 August 2022
Brandon Yip – aka Captain China, aka Ye Jinguang – is back in the Dragons’ Lair.
Our all-time leader for points, goals, assists and pretty much anything else you can think of is returning to the team. And it’s not just for this season. Brandon Yip has a four-year contract with the Dragons, cementing his status as a foundation of our franchise.
Yip, who joined us in 2017, is now 37 years old. His latest deal will take him up to the age of 41. It’s the kind of long-term commitment that promises continuity on the ice, where Yip has been an undisputed leader and team captain for three seasons. But it also points to an important role as a veteran voice in the locker room.
KRS is still committed to the long-term development of Chinese hockey, and there are few players better placed to lead by example than Yip. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he has embodied the Dragons over the years and his experience of playing the game at the highest level – from the NHL to the Olympics – commands instant respect. Securing him in a long-term role is an important plank of phase two of our club’s story, the post-Olympic journey towards establishing hockey as a major sport in China.
While Yipper is now poised to be the unofficial ‘grandfather’ of the team for the next few seasons, one of our new seasons may find him a relatively youthful figure in the locker room. Canadian defenseman Kyle Wood spent last season in Czechia with Ritiri Kladno, where his team-mates included Jaromir Jagr, still suiting up at the age of 50.
Wood, 26, brings a huge presence to the blue line. He stands two meters tall and weighs in at 107 kg. Drafted by Colorado in 2014, he played the bulk of his pro career in the AHL. During that time he showed up as a powerful two-way option with Tucson (43 (14+29) points from 68 games in 2016/17) and San Jose (35 points from 68 games in 2018/19). He moved to Europe in 2020/21, and due to the restrictions on hockey during the pandemic found himself in Germany’s second division before taking on the Czech top flight last term. In a Kladno team that found itself struggling on its return to the top flight, Wood had a creditable 22 (8+14) points. Much of that scoring stems from his ability to pick out a stretch pass: Kyle might be a big man, but he possesses hockey smarts as well as brute force.
Zac Leslie, 28, is another new defensive recruit. He joins direct from the AHL, where he has 131 points from 359 games across seven seasons with Ontario Reign, Chicago Wolves, Stockton Heat and, most recently, Belleville Senators. Prior to all that, he helped Guelph Storm win the OHL in 2014. This season will be his first outside of North America.
Leslie is part of a hockey family: his sister, Rebecca, was close to a call-up for Canada’s Women’s World Championship roster last season. The two grew up playing yard hockey together in Ottawa and Rebecca went on to play against the KRS Vanke Rays during the girls’ time in the CWHL. And that family connection also gives Zac a range of soft skills that can surely help make him a leader in any locker room. Much of his support of Rebecca’s career involves reinforcing her obvious ability – as Zac told the Calgary Sun last summer: “Something that, honestly, I’ve learned is you’re always going to be a better hockey player if you’re confident.”
As the Dragons move into a new era, confidence is a commodity widely available around the team – and we look forward to seeing that translate into results when the season gets underway.