Green Bay native helped Youngstown make USHL playoffs
By Tom Williams
Michael’s Karow’s latest visit to Chicago had a much happier ending than the last one his Youngstown Phantoms made.
“That trip was not much fun,” Karow said Saturday, referring to the Phantoms’ Game 5 playoff loss to the Chicago Steel in the USHL’s Clark Cup Playoffs.
Leaving the Windy City on Saturday was a lot more satisfying after Karow was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the fifth round of the NHL Draft at the United Center.
The Coyotes selected Karow with the 126th pick that originally belonged to the Vancouver Canucks, then the Edmonton Oilers.
Karow spent one season with the Phantoms and attended Ursuline High School when he wasn’t on the ice.
It’s been quite a year for the 18-year-old defenseman from Green Bay, Wis.
Karow was paired with Brandon Estes as the Phantoms’ top defensive pairing as the Phantoms finished in fourth place to return to the USHL Playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“For Michael, the easy part is over,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said. “Preparing for the next levels is the hard part. But it’s an honor.”
After losing the first two games of the best-of-five first-round series against the top-seeded Steel, the Phantoms rebounded for two wins at the Covelli Centre to force Game 5.
“It was definitely special that we made it a series after being down 2-0,” Karow said. “Being able to fight back was a good statement to make.”
The Steel won the Eastern Conference by defeating the Dubuque Fighting Saints, three games to one, then won the Cup with a Game 5 win in the USHL Finals against the Sioux City Musketeers.
For his regular-season play, Karow (four goals, 17 assists) was named to the second team for the league’s Rookie team.
His grade-point average of 3.9 had him ranked in Ursuline’s Top 10 before he transferred when he returned to Green Bay at the end of April. For his academic success, he and Chicago’s Graham Lillibridge received the USHL’s Scholar-Athlete Award.
Patterson said Karow’s character is one of his strongest attributes.
“In that department, he’s already a pro,” said Patterson, who added that Karow displayed the tools for a promising future when he was at the team’s tryout camp in June 2016.
“He showed his skills with all the playing time” he received,” Patterson said. “He met the challenges of the season head-on.”
Karow said he once saw the Coyotes play the Sabres in Buffalo. His only visit to Arizona was as a child when his family vacationed at the Grand Canyon.
Karow and his family made the three-and-a-half hour trip from Green Bay to Chicago on Friday.
“It was really cool, watching dreams come true,” he said of the United Center atmosphere for Friday’s first-round.
He had no forewarning that his name was about to be announced.
“We were following [the draft] on the Internet and then they just announced [his selection],” Karow said. “It was pretty surreal ... awesome.”
Karow is the 12th Youngstown Phantom to be drafted by an NHL team. The others are: Cam Morrison, Colorado Avalanche, 2016, 40th, second round, 2016; Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets, 2015, 17th, first round; Ryan Shea, Chicago Blackhawks, 2015, 121st, third round; Chase Pearson, Florida Panthers, 2015, 140th, fifth round; Steven Ruggiero, Anaheim Ducks, 2015, 178th, sixth round; Ryan Bednard, Panthers, 2015, 206th, seventh round; Max Letunov, St. Louis Blues, 2014, 52nd, second round; JJ Piccinich, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2014, 103rd, fourth round; Nathan Walker, Washington Capitals, 2014, 89th, third round; Scott Mayfield, New York Islanders, 2011, 34th, second round; and Matt Mahalak, Carolina Hurricanes, 2011, 163rd, sixth round.
Connor and Mayfield have played NHL games as have these undrafted former Phantoms: Matt O’Connor (Ottawa Senators), Andrej Sustr (Tampa Bay Lightning), Dan Renouf (Detroit Red Wings) and Jiri Sekac (Montreal Canadiens/Ducks).
In the fall, Karow will play for Boston College where he plans to major in business.
His memories of Youngstown will include “how tight-knit the team was and how great the fan-base is.”
The Phantoms’ Most Valuable Player this past season was goaltender Ivan Kulbakov, 20. Although he wasn’t drafted, Patterson expects the goalie from Belarus will attend NHL development camps this summer and could turn pro this fall.