Letunov, Piccinich among top prospects

Staff report


Youngstown Phantoms forwards Maxim Letunov and JJ Piccinich were named to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of 2014 NHL Entry Draft eligible prospects.

Letunov, a center, was ranked as the 87th overall North American-based skater. Piccinich, a right wing, checked in at 135th overall.

Affiliate player James Winkler came in at 193rd.

“There’s no doubt that Max and JJ had a goal when they came in here of being drafted,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said. “We were able to help them get on this list, and hopefully, their hard work and commitment will help them realize their dreams of getting drafted this summer.”

The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will take place on June 27 and June 28 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Letunov, who turned 18 in February, ranked third on the Phantoms with 43 points in 60 games (19 goals, 24 assists).

“He has a big frame; he just needs to work this summer and over the next few years to fill it out, and I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to hold him back,” Noreen said.

Piccinich, 17, was the second-highest scorer on the Phantoms, with 58 points in 60 games, breaking out after a 15-point rookie campaign in 2012-13.

The Paramus, N.J., native was the 13th leading scorer in the USHL and led the league in power play goals with 13.

“It’s very hard to score goals in the USHL, and typically, guys who score goals in the USHL move on to score goals in college hockey, and can be guys who score goals in professional hockey,” Noreen said. “JJ has a knack for scoring at every level he’s ever been at.

“He’s become a well-rounded, two-way player. He has the physical build for it, he has the work ethic and attitude that you want on your team.”

Letunov and Piccinich are committed to attend Boston University.

Winkler, 17, played for the Portland Jr. Pirates of the USPHL Premier during 2013-14, where he was named to the league’s All-Star Game. He scored 17 points in 44 contests.

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