By Tom Williams
Nine former Youngstown Phantoms are competing this weekend for a shot at the NCAA’s Frozen Four hockey tournament in Pittsburgh.
And a 10th alum — defenseman Andrej Sustr — could make his NHL debut tonight with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sustr, who hails from Plzen, Czech Republic, played on the Phantoms in 2009-10, Youngstown’s first season in the USHL. The past three seasons, he’s been playing for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Last week, he signed a two-year contract with the Lightning and he’s been practicing with the team in Tampa, Fla. Tonight, the Lightning play the New Jersey Devils.
If Sustr plays, he’d be the first Youngstown Phantom to make the NHL (Chicago’s Brandon Saad was a Mahoning Valley Phantom). It wouldn’t surprise Phantoms assistant coach Brad Patterson.
“He was a pretty big surprise,” said Patterson, a former Youngstown SteelHound who has been a Phantoms assistant all four seasons. “He was a pretty mature kid.
“As the year progressed, a lot of teams started to show interest. By the end of the year, he was pretty sought after, not only by colleges.”
In 50 games with Youngstown, Sustr scored one goal, made 18 assists and had 95 minutes in penalties. In 111 college games, Sustr had 15 goals, 36 assists and a plus 24 rating.
At 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, Sustr is one of the tallest players with a NHL contract. Only the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara is taller (6-9).
Patterson said Sustr could have turned pro last summer, but chose to play a third season in Omaha.
”He made the decision to go back to school and develop more,” Patterson said. “That’s a credit to him — not too many individuals would do that.
“It’s proved to be it worth — he is well on the way to having a good career.”
Another former Phantoms defenseman, Scott Mayfield, could be a pro once his Denver University season ends. Mayfield is one of the former Phantoms whose college teams are still alive.
In the 2011 NHL Draft, Mayfield was selected in the second round by the New York Islanders.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an offer,” Patterson said of Mayfield. “Physically, he was far beyond where ‘Sooss’ was when he went to [college].”
Also with Denver is Ty Loney, a Phantoms’ forward for two seasons. Saturday, their Pioneers will play New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional. Also at that regional is Wisconsin which has forward Jefferson Dahl (2009-10). The Badgers will play Massachusetts-Lowell.
Forward Alex Gacek and defenseman Ben Paulides play for Miami of Ohio which takes on Minnesota State (Mankato) in the Midwest Regional. Three-year Phantom forward Dylan Margonari is on Minnesota State.
The other former Phantoms still playing are Quinnipiac forward Soren Jonzzon (2011-12), Boston College forward Quinn Smith and Minnesota forward Tommy Serratore (2009-10).