YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With the second round of the Clark Cup Playoffs set to resume Tuesday at the Covelli Centre, the Youngstown Phantoms announced today a pair of moves to bolster their future. The Phantoms have signed Under-16 AAA forwards Kyle Connor and JJ Piccinich to United States Hockey League tenders, taking advantage of a new league rule to ensure both will be on the roster next season.
“It’s a testament to how far this organization has come, in a very short period of time, to be able to attract two highly sought after players like JJ and Kyle to our program,” Head Coach and General Manager Anthony Noreen said. “There’s going to be an adjustment period… but I wouldn’t be surprised if we got some hefty production out of both of them next year.
“We’re going to see how they come along and give them every opportunity to become better and have everyday spots in our lineup.”
Director of Player Personnel Jason Koehler
Connor, a left-handed center/winger from Shelby Township, Mich., played this past year with the Detroit Belle Tire U16 team in the Tier I AAA league. In 40 games, the 6-foot, 170-pound forward recorded 14 goals, 39 assists and 59 points to go along with 14 penalty minutes. The 15-year-old was the league’s fifth-leading scorer and led Belle Tire in assists (39), points (53), and power-play goals (3).
Connor, currently a high school freshman, will join the Phantoms next August and enroll at Ursuline High School, becoming the first sophomore player in franchise history. He already is committed to attend the University of Michigan, where former Phantom Andrew Sinelli currently plays, in the fall of 2015.
“Kyle Connor is one of the United States’ elite level forwards in the 1996 birth class,” Director of Player Personnel Jason Koehler said. “Kyle had some considerable options available to him for the upcoming season and future, and we are excited he chose to join our program and family next season. The fact that he’s only a sophomore next season, and we have him here for the next three seasons, is a huge testament of where this program is and where we are headed in the future. Kyle is a top-end scoring-line forward that plays a complete game and plays our way – blue-collar and in all three zones.”
Piccinich, a right-handed winger from Paramus, N.J., spent this past season playing for the New Jersey Avalanche U16 team of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League. In 22 games with the Avalanche, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound forward netted 23 goals and added 19 assists for 42 points to go along with 16 penalty minutes. The 15-year-old Piccinich’s 23 goals and 42 points were tops on his team and in the entire AYHL.
Piccinich (pronounced pik-nik) is currently a high school sophomore and will spend the next two seasons with the Phantoms. He will also enroll at Ursuline in the fall.
“JJ Piccinich is one of the United States’ elite level power forwards and goal scorers in the 1996 birth class”, Koehler said. “JJ had some tough choices to make for where he would play next season and continue his development and we are excited he chose to join our program and family next season. He’s going to be a great addition to the team and bring a tough two-way power forward with strong goal-scoring ability that also finishes all of his checks. Our fans will enjoy watching him as we see him as someone that will be a comparable player to our leading goal scorer this year – JT Stenglein”
The recently added USHL tender process gives teams the option to sign up to two 1996 birth year players, who are eligible for the upcoming Futures Draft on May 1, to the roster prior to the draft. By tendering Connor and Piccinich, the Phantoms have forfeited their second-round pick (19th overall) and third-round pick (42nd overall) in the Futures Draft respectively.
Players who have been tendered are required to play in 55 percent of the team’s 64 games in the upcoming 2012-2013 season. The Phantoms have the 12th overall pick in first round of the upcoming Futures Draft and retain their fourth, fifth and sixth-round selections.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)