2 Phantoms make NHL draft rankings

amateur hockey

Staff report


Youngstown Phantom forwards Maxim Letunov and JJ Piccinich are on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for North American skaters.

Letunov is ranked at 87th overall and Piccinich 135th.

They are eligible for the NHL Draft that will be conducted June 27-28 at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

“I was home for a little bit during my spring break from school but even while I was there, I was lifting and skating,” Piccinich said. “Since being back here, I’ve continued doing that. It’s nice to see the guys again and skate with them three or four times a week.”

Letunov is staying busy with off-ice training.

“I’ve been trying to gain some weight and more muscle strength,” Letunov said. “A couple of teammates and I have been skating four times a week as well. We usually skate first and then work out after.”

Both finished in the top three for most points during the Phantoms’ 2013-14 season. Piccinich was second behind Kyle Connor with 58 points and led the league in power play goals with 13.

“With a good year, you hope that it can propel you into a better result at the draft,” Piccinich said. “But in the end I’m not too focused on that.

“Whatever happens, happens.”

Letunov had 43 points. Fourteen came in the final 18 games of his rookie season.

“I feel much better about myself now than at the beginning of this past season,” Letunov said. “I’m looking forward to next season as well, and the success I’ve had so far makes me more confident for the draft.”

Earlier this month, Piccinich signed his letter of intent to play at Boston University in the Hockey East conference.

“I’m extremely excited to play there,” Piccinich said. “It’s sad that I won’t be back here but again, BU is a great program with a tradition of success.

“I think they’ll really help me develop into the player that I want to be. They give every opportunity to play in the NHL, so hopefully I can go along with that.”

Letunov is also committed to BU, but has another year of high school to finish.

“This season will be very important, maybe more than this past year,” Letunov said. “If I do get drafted, the team will look to see where I’m at and if I’ll be ready in a couple of years, or a year. I’m trying not to think about the pressure though and just focus on playing my game. That’s how it will be next season too.”

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