YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN)– The Youngstown Phantoms were well represented at the NHL Draft on Saturday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as Maxim Letunov (Second round, #52 overall to the St. Louis Blues), and JJ Piccinich (Fourth round, #103 overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs), each heard their names called on the second day of the draft. Letunov was the first Phantom taken off the board, as the St. Louis Blues selected him in the second round with the 52nd overall selection.
“I’m at a loss for words”, said Letunov of being drafted. “I’m so happy right now, and to be honest, I didn’t expect to go in the second round. It was a shock for me.”
The Boston University commit is coming off of his first USHL season, where he ranked third on the team in scoring with 43 points (19g, 24a) in 60 games played. He is the second highest NHL draft pick in Youngstown Phantoms history behind Scott Mayfield, who was selected 34th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2011 NHL Draft.
A couple hours later, it was Piccinich’s turn to try on his draft cap, as the Toronto Maple Leafs used their fourth round selection (#103 overall) on the Paramaus, New Jersey native. “The nerves were definitely there”, remarked Piccinich. “A couple of rounds go by and you start to wonder what’s happening, and then you hear your name called and the emotions start flooding in. I had about 18 family members and friends there, and we were all excited.”
Headed to Boston University in the fall, Piccinich just wrapped up a stellar two-year USHL career in which he totaled 30 goals and 43 assists in 123 games played. He ranked second on the team in scoring last season with 58 points (27g, 31a), and was also named the USHL’s CCM Forward of the Week for the week of September 30-October 6, after tallying three goals and an assist in a pair of road losses.
“As an organization, we are extremely excited for JJ and Max”, said Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen. “They have earned the success that lies ahead of them through commitment and character. I have no doubt both will represent Youngstown and their families tremendously for years to come.”
Another player with Youngstown ties taken in the NHL Draft was former Phantom Nathan Walker, who was selected in the third round (89th overall) by the Washington Capitals. Walker suited up for the Phantoms during the 2012-2013 season, appearing in 27 games and totaling seven goals and 20 assists. Last September, the 20 year-old signed a professional contract with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL), making him the first Phantoms player to make the jump from the USHL to the AHL. In his first season with the Bears, Walker skated in 43 games, scoring five goals and dishing out six assists.
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Walker is the first-ever Australian-born player to be selected in the NHL Draft.
COURTESY: YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS