As a Midwesterner, everybody seems to have the attitude of “USHL or bust,” and after getting cut by his initial would-be destination, he signed a tender agreement with the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings. He would stay in South Dakota for two seasons and he even led his team in scoring in the 2015-16 season, but college offers were few and far between.
“I loved playing for the Wings,” he recalled. “I still talk to a lot of my old teammates, but I wasn’t getting any exposure out there. Not many college coaches travel out to South Dakota.”
Entering his final year of eligibility, DeYoung decided a change of scenery was what he needed to advance to the next level. After some research, he found himself on the phone with Jersey Hitmen head coach Toby Harris and he was all set to play in the USPHL Spring Showcase last May.
“When I was looking for a new team, I noticed the Hitmen, and the USPHL as a whole, had a great track record of moving players on to college hockey,” he said. “I knew where I’d be playing after the Spring Showcase when a couple of [NCAA] D1 scouts talked to me after the tournament.”
DeYoung hit the ground running and sat tied for the Premier Division lead in goals with 27. Much of his success this year was credited to the Hitmen coaching staff.
“I can’t say enough great things about the Hitmen,” he stated. “The team has a great strength and conditioning coach, yoga instructor, power skating coach…I’m sure I’m leaving a few people out. There’s also a full-time trainer and an academic advisor who helped everyone prepare for the academic side of college hockey. It’s a great staff; one that I had never seen before I joined the Hitmen.”
DeYoung’s goal was NCAA Division One hockey from the start, and right away he saw he had made the right choice when he received offers in the first month of the season. He continued his work on and off the ice and soon, he went from being an unknown to an in-demand prospect.
He realized his goal when, after mulling his options, he committed to the US Military Academy in West Point, NY. Incidentally, Army head coach Brian Riley has had two sons use USPHL member organizations as a path to college hockey, including older son Jack, who previously played for the Hitmen.
While DeYoung had initially written off the service academy route, he changed his mind thanks to his time in junior hockey.
“After graduating from Culver, a lot of my friends had gone to one of the service academies, but I didn’t think it was for me,” he noted. “But after playing three years of junior hockey, I realized just how great an opportunity it would be to attend West Point.
“The campus is absolutely beautiful, and a degree from West Point will set me up for life,” he continued. “But the best part was that the staff didn’t sugarcoat anything. Also, the Academy recently changed their rules to allow cadets to play professionally after graduation if the opportunity arises, so that door is still open.”
Due to its location, USPHL teams generally play in front of a smattering of family, friends, and scouts, as opposed to the large crowds that other leagues have to offer. According to DeYoung, he was aware of this fact but never considered it a drawback.
“The whole purpose of junior hockey is to move on to college hockey,” he stated. “Playing in front of large crowds is fun, but it really does nothing for you. Entering this season, it was my last chance to get noticed, and I wanted to go somewhere I knew that would happen.”