Phantoms bolster roster with draft
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a two-part series recapping the Youngstown Phantoms’ draft. The first part was in Tuesday’s edition of the Tribune Chronicle and Vindicator newspapers and can be read on tribtoday.com or vindy.com.
Before the Phantoms wrapped up their season the way everyone dreams of ending it, the team took some time to set the club up for longstanding success in the draft.
After setting up for the future in the Phase I portion, Phase II, also known as the “USHL Entry Draft,” is where the Phantoms look to find players to fill holes in the more immediate need.
The Phantoms opened the phase with the top selection of the draft, selecting Charlie Cerrato, a forward from the US National Team Development Program.
Committed to the University of Michigan, the 5-foot-11 forward from Maryland brings an element of skill and edge to the Phantoms. An all-around talent, Cerrato is a possible NHL Draft selection in June.
“I think in Phase II, we were able to help some immediate needs for next year,” Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “We got a little grit, we got some toughness, we got some skill, and we were able to kind of bolster our future as well. For us, we didn’t need a whole lot going into next year, but getting Charlie Cerrato with the No. 1 overall pick, shores up our center ice position. He’s an extremely intelligent, skilled forward that plays with an edge and for us, he was the best available player in that draft. We feel super excited to get him. He’s going to fit in perfectly in Youngstown and he’ll be an unbelievable Phantom. I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder and I think he’s got some things to prove, which is awesome. That was a huge pick.
“Then we added as we saw fit throughout the rest of the day and our management and scouting staff did a great job finding players that fit our needs. For not having a ton of high picks, I thought we did a great job. We got the guys that we targeted from the onset, so regardless of not having higher picks, we were able to get the guys that we wanted anyway, and I think that’s a huge credit to our scouting staff and our management group that went out and got the right guys.”
Without a second-round pick, the Phantoms’ next selection came in round three, where they added Hunter Ramos.
Ramos spent the last two seasons with the Maryland Black Bears scoring 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 55 games.
In the same round, the Phantoms also added forward Adam Pietila. Pietila is in his last year of junior eligibility before heading off to Northern Michigan University.
The 6-foot forward racked up 50 points (25 goals, 25 assists) in 51 games with the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL this season.
Pietila is also a cousin of defenseman Chase Pietila, who was named Defenseman of the Clark Cup Finals by the USHL.
Next up off the board for the Phantoms was defenseman Charlie Lieberman from the Janesville Jets of the NAHL. Lieberman is a hulking blueliner measuring at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. He’s set to attend the University of Massachusetts for the 2024-25 season following a stint in Youngstown.
Round five saw the first goalie come off the board for Youngstown, as the Phantoms selected American netminder Owen Lepak. Lepak boasted a .925 save percentage and a 1.62 goals allowed average (GAA) in 39 games played with Little Caesars 16U AAA.
There’s an element of familiarity there as well, because Lepak worked with Ward on Team Elite Prospects in the EP Invitational during the 2021-22 season.
Winger Ryan Shaw, the team’s other fifth-round selection, offers a ton in the realm of scoring. Playing for his high school, Westminster Prep, the 5-foot-9 forward racked up 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) in 42 games. Set to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute after this season, Shaw can further refine his game in a Phantoms jersey this season.
Another high-caliber scorer was selected in the sixth round by Youngstown, as the Phantoms added forward Noah Urness. Urness racked up an astounding 86 points (45 goals, 41 assists) in 28 games while wearing a letter for Roseau High in Minnesota.
Two rounds later, Canadian blueliner Zhenya Miles came off the board. Miles is a high-scoring defender from Winnipeg, Manitoba racking up 38 points (9 goals, 29 assists) in 44 games with the RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U18 squad. Measuring out at 6-foot-2, Miles looks to be another iteration of that two-way threat type of player the Phantoms have fallen in love with.
In Round 9, the Phantoms added an additional player from their sister team in the NAHL, the Maryland Black Bears. Dimitry Kebreau is a 5-foot-10 forward that saw an impressive jump last season, rising to a nearly point-per-game pace. He’s currently committed to the University of Alaska-Anchorage, but things could change for the 19-year old.
Youngstown took its first European of the draft in Round 10, selecting Swedish netminder Joseph Zieba. Zieba spent last season with the Frolunda youth program, boasting a .912 save percentage in national competition and a .945 in regional competition.
The Phantoms added another former USNTDP talent in Round 11, adding forward Will Vote to the pool.
Vote, a 5-foot-7 forward from the Boston area, is committed to Boston College for the upcoming season, but could opt to stay in the USHL with the Phantoms.
In Round 12, Youngstown added Artyom Shchipanov, a forward from southwestern Siberia. The 5-foot-8 forward racked up an astounding 166 points (66 goals, 50 assists) in 40 games during the 2021-22 season with Metallurg Novokuznetsk U16.
In Round 13, the Phantoms added Wyatt Stefan.
Stefan is the son of former NHLer Patrik Stefan, who was the first-ever draft selection by the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999.
The 18-year old forward recorded 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 54 games with the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks.
Riley Fast heard his name called in the 14th round out of Biggby Coffee AAA Hockey 18U. Son of 1999 third round selection Brad Fast, Riley averaged nearly a point-per-game pace with the 16U team this past season.
Fifteenth round selection Sam Allaby from New Brunswick is a 5-foot-7 forward out of the Rothesay Netherwood School. The 2007-born forward recorded 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 45 games.
Forward Dan Harkimo is a 2004-born Finnish prospect that is a potential late-round selection in the NHL Draft this year as well.
Son of the longtime owner of Jokerit, a notable Finnish hockey club, Harkimo plays stateside, racking up nearly a point-per-game pace with South Kent School 18U AAA.
Getting players from the Minnesota High School scene is a great way to scoop talent, and the Phantoms tapped that well once again in the 17th round with forward Brayden Olsen. The 16-year old forward scored 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 30 games with Northfield High.
In Round 18, the Phantoms took forward Lachlan Bommer from the North Jersey Avalanche 15U AAA. Another 16-year old, Bommer has solid size at 5-foot-11, and scored at just over half a point-per-game this past season.
Closing out the draft in the 19th round, the Phantoms added another blueliner to the stable with Coleson Hanrahan from the P.A.L. Junior Islanders. The left-shot defenseman had 21 assists with the Islanders this past season and helped guide the team to an NCDC Championship.
In this modern Phantoms era, the team has drafted and acquired players in their mold. They’ve been targeting a specific kind of player and it paid off last season. When asked what that entails, Ward listed the qualities they look for in a potential Phantom.
“I think number one is that we have players that want to show up to the rink and work every day,” Ward said. “We talked to our players about being coachable, being great teammates, having juice every single day and wanting to get better and be the most competitive people at the rink. I think every one of our picks has that kind of moxie to them. For me, we want to possess the puck, we want to play a skilled, competitive, smart game and have guys with a motor that doesn’t shut off and I think we were able to accomplish that. Certainly as we move on from year one here and looking at the future, I feel like our future is extremely bright. Hopefully we can take care of this season and continue to grow our branch of hockey.”
Training camp for the Phantoms is set to start June 12 at the Printscape Arena in Canonsburg, Pa.