In their 10 years in the United States Hockey League, the Youngstown Phantoms have had plenty of success with producing players for the NHL Draft.
First-rounder Kyle Connor (Winnipeg, 2015), second-rounder Cam Morrison (Colorado, 2016), fourth-rounders Curtis Hall (Boston, 2018) and Ivan Prosvetov (Arizona, 2018), and sixth-rounder Jack Malone (Vancouver, 2019) are a few to name during Youngstown’s six-year streak of having a player selected for the NHL Draft.
It looks like the Phantoms are going to make it seven consecutive years as forward Trevor Kuntar is expected to receive a call sometime today, day two of the 2020 NHL Draft.
During the draft, Kuntar will be spending the day with his family as they await the phone call from one of the 31 NHL clubs.
“My parents are coming up for the day,” Kuntar said. “They’re going to hang out during the day, and then I’ll probably get dinner with them at night. Hopefully, it goes well, so I’m excited.”
While essentially a lock to be selected this year, this isn’t Kuntar’s first time through the draft process. He was eligible for last season’s draft but wasn’t selected.
“I kind of went through this whole process last year and not getting picked,” he said. “Obviously I’m a little more excited, but I’m kind of anxious to see what happens.”
Since he went through the process last year, Kuntar was able to explain how different the draft process was this time around with no in-person meetings with teams and no postseason scouting after the cancellation of the USHL season.
“This year, obviously, I was on a bunch of zoom calls over quarantine,” Kuntar said. “I’ve been doing zoom calls throughout the summer. So that is definitely a little different, but it’s pretty cool to experience.”
Kuntar, a 6-foot winger from New York, has been projected from as high as the late third round to as late as the fifth, and is ranked as high as the 87th best draft prospect by TSN analyst Craig Button.
Phantoms coach and general manager Brad Patterson, who has coached Kuntar since 2017, described Kuntar as an all-around talent.
“We saw it firsthand over the course of three years, he’s a competitor,” Patterson said. “He makes people around him better just by how hard he competes. His skill-set speaks for itself … He doesn’t just play a skill game. He plays the hard and heavy minutes and in the hard areas of the ice … Trevor does it all.
“He’s a warrior, he competes so hard that people don’t want to go near him and you need that to get to the next level. I think that’s one of the things that is so exciting about him, and why there’s so much interest by a lot of these teams.”
During the shortened 2019-2020 season, the Phantoms scored 146 goals in total. Kuntar had 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists), which means Kuntar had a direct role in 36 percent of the Phantoms goals during the year.
When asked about a mid-late round player who he could see making an impact at the professional level in a Q&A by NHL.com, Greg Rajanen of NHL Central Scouting mentioned Kuntar.
“He’s one of those guys who can play on any one of your four lines. He’s going to Boston College, is hard to play against, and has competitive speed,” Rajanen said. “In other words, he might not be the fastest with the puck, but when there’s a loose puck he gets it because he’s so competitive. He doesn’t take shifts off and he helps his line win every shift. His coach told me that his teammates hate to play against him in practice because he doesn’t take days off and that sounds like a future NHL player for me.”
When asked about what NHL player he’d compare Kuntar to stylistically, Patterson said Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk was a solid comparison.
The comparison to Tkachuk fits the way Kuntar describes himself.
“I’m someone who is going to give it his all every single day, going to be a good teammate, and a good leader in the locker room,” he said. “I’m going to show up every single day and be an everyday player.”
No matter where he gets selected during the draft, Kuntar will be playing this season at Boston College. Up until June, he was committed to Harvard University, but due to the Ivy League putting a halt on sports due to COVID-19, Kuntar opted to attend the nearby Boston College instead.
“Their (Harvard) hockey program isn’t going to have a season until January and I was just looking at it from a hockey standpoint,” Kuntar said. “I’m like, ‘I can’t wait that long for hockey.’ Paying that much money for online school didn’t seem logical and then that’s when I decided to make the transition.”
Eagles coach Jerry York is the winningest college hockey coach of all time and has produced numerous NHL talents over his long coaching career including Rob Blake, Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Kreider and Dan Bylsma, and 18 first-round draft picks since 1996.
York is excited to bring Kuntar into his already solid roster.
“He’s been a great addition to our team,” York said. “He’s going to play a lot for us and he’s going to be a big factor in our season.”
Day two of the 2020 NHL Draft begins today at 11:30 a.m.
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