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Phantoms’ fans pick all-decade team

With the final third of the USHL season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Youngstown Phantoms put together an online event to keep the team’s fans involved.

With the club having played 10 seasons, team officials came up with a fan vote to choose the Youngstown Phantoms All-Decade team. Over a three-week period, fans were given a chance to vote at YoungstownPhantoms.com for three forwards, two defensemen, a goalie and a coach.

Following is the Youngstown Phantoms’ first All-Decade team, with the percentage listed being that of the number of ballots on which a player’s name appeared:

Forwards

Kyle Connor (50.3 percent) – Connor played in Youngstown from 2012-15 and is still one of the most offensively-gifted forwards to wear a Phantoms jersey. He still holds several Phantoms’ offensive records, including number of points in a season and number of points in a career.

The Phantoms used their first-round tender ahead of the 2012 USHL Phase I draft to bring Connor into the organization, and he was a part of the Phantoms’ Anderson Cup team in 2014-15 that also set a USHL Tier-1 record for consecutive wins (17). Young won the USHL scoring title that season and was named the USHL Forward of the Year and Player of the Year.

Connor was drafted in the first round, 17th overall, by the Winnipeg Jets in 2015. He spent one season at the University of Michigan, helping the Wolverines to a Big Ten title and a berth in the Frozen Four.

Through the first 249 games of his NHL career, Connor has scored 105 goals has 201 points for Winnipeg, also helping them reach the Western Conference Final in 2018.

Josh Melnick (17.9 percent) – Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 USHL draft by Youngstown, Melnick played for the Phantoms from 2013-15 and was one of the key components of the most successful season in Phantoms history, 2014-15, when he was third on the team in scoring behind Kyle Connor and Max Letunov.

Melnick led the USHL in assists with 48 and wore an A for the Phantoms that year. The assist total is still the most during a single season in Phantoms’ history.

Melnick played collegiate hockey at Miami University, wearing an A during his sophomore and junior years before being named team captain for his senior season in 2018-19.

He then was signed by the Dallas Stars organization and has scored 19 points in 66 career AHL games.

Sam Anas (17.2 percent) – As Youngstown’s second round pick in the 2011 USHL Entry Draft, Anas wore a Phantoms sweater from 2011-13, helping lead Youngstown to the first two Clark Cup playoff berths in club history.

Anas was a key component in the 2012-13 team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals against Dubuque, where the Phantoms fell in five games to the eventual Clark Cup champions. Anas finished second on the team in scoring that season, just one point behind Austin Cangelosi, but did lead the team in goals with 37. The 37 goals were the most by a Phantom in a single season until Brett Murray scored 41 in 2018-19.

Anas led Quinnipiac University in scoring all three years of his collegiate career, helping the Bobcats to a berth in the Frozen Four and national title game during his junior year.

After his third year of college, he was signed by the Minnesota Wild organization and has spent the last four seasons with the Iowa Wild of the AHL. Sam has accrued 72 goals and 197 points in 259 AHL games. He led the AHL with 50 assists during the 2019-20 season and won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL’s leading scorer with 70 points total.

Defensemen

Alec Mahalak (24.5 percent) – Youngstown’s third round pick in the USHL Futures Draft in 2014, Mahalak made it to the USHL for the 2016-17 season, his final year of hockey before moving on to Miami University.

Mahalak was a key component of a defense that combined with netminder Ivan Kulbakov to finish second in the USHL in goals allowed (135). He also helped lead the Phantoms back to the playoffs after they missed the postseason the year before, falling to the eventual Clark Cup champion Chicago Steel in five games. Mahalak led all Phantoms defensemen in scoring that year with 23 and was a top-20 scoring defenseman in the USHL that season as well.

So far in his collegiate career for the Redhawks, he has 2 goals and 23 points through 95 NCAA games and has one year left of NCAA eligibility.

Matt Miller (14.6 percent) – Originally drafted by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the second round of the 2011 USHL Futures Draft, Miller played just 5 games for Des Moines before playing in 167 for Youngstown from 2012-16, the most by a defenseman in Phantoms history. Miller was a part of the 2014-15 Anderson Cup team and wore an A for Youngstown during the 2015-16 season.

Miller finished his USHL career with 11 goals and 33 points before heading to Ohio State. Matt scored 19 goals and 64 points in four seasons for the Buckeyes, helping them to the Big Ten regular season title in 2019.

Aiden Gallacher (14.6 percent) – Drafted in the 14th round of the 2018 USHL Phase II draft, Gallacher was a mainstay on the Phantoms’ blueline for two seasons. He became the first defenseman in team history to be named team captain when he was awarded the C during the 2019-20 season.

Gallacher led all Phantoms’ defensemen in scoring during his final USHL campaign and totaled 11 goals and 35 points during his 83-game USHL career.

He will begin his collegiate career next season for the Michigan State Spartans.

Goalie

Ivan Kulbakov (18.5 percent) – Selected in the 12th round of the 2016 USHL Phase II draft, Kulbakov spent only one season in Youngstown, but what a season it was. During the 2016-17 season, he put up the best seasonal numbers by a goaltender in Phantoms history, tallying the highest save percentage in Youngstown history (.919) and becoming the only Phantoms’ netminder to put up a sub-2.00 goals against average in a season (1.93).

Kulbakov also posted five shutouts that season, tying the club mark set by Sean Romeo in 2012-13. Youngstown did make the Clark Cup playoffs during Kulbakov’s only season with the Phantoms, but they were eliminated in five games by the eventual Clark Cup champion Chicago Steel.

Coach

Brad Patterson (47.7 percent) – After serving as an assistant for the Phantoms from the team’s inaugural season in 2009-10 until 2015-16, Patterson was handed the keys to the car and named the head coach prior to the 2016-17 campaign. He has done nothing but win during his four-year tenure as Youngstown’s bench boss, leading the Phantoms to the Clark Cup playoffs every season, including a berth in the Clark Cup Finals in 2018.

Patterson currently ranks first in standings points (272), second in wins (123), and second in winning percentage (.586) in Phantoms history. In addition to being the head coach, Patterson was also named the Phantoms’ general manager prior to the 2019-20 season.

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