Hey everyone! Welcome back to a new season of By The Numbers. We have some catching up to do! To all of you who are returning from last season, I’ve missed you! And to anyone reading this blog for the first time, don’t worry, I’ll get you up to speed. There won’t be a lot of analysis this week. This will more serve as a guide as to how this blog works.

By The Numbers is my pet project. It’s where I keep track of a series of stats that are not kept in the USHL, what I call the “Game Time Percentages”. This is quite simply a running tally of how much time a team leads in a game, how much time they are tied, and how much time they trail. These numbers are added up throughout the season and given in the form of the actual minutes and seconds, as well as what percentage of overall time played those numbers work out to.

As I am a Youngstown fan, this blog is geared towards the Phantoms. But I do keep track of the entire Eastern Conference. When the time comes that the USHL schedule features inter-conference play, the Western Conference will be tracked as well. But we’re not there yet. Each blog will start with a chart featuring the Phantoms' last 10 or so games. It will then feature the chart for whoever the Phantoms opponent is that weekend, as well as a chart that shows the season series. The blog will end with the rankings of the entire conference.

Early season off-weeks suck. I'm just throwing that out there. It breaks my groove just when I've gotten into it. That said, maybe the Phantoms (2-4-0-0) needed a week off to regroup after a pair of losses on the road in Madison. It's not just that they were losses, but that they looked completely out of sorts on the ice, especially Saturday, and only scored 1 goal on the weekend. This week, the Phantoms will jump back into action on the road, a trip to Cedar Rapids (1-4-0-0) to play the RoughRiders, a team with struggles of their own and a few familiar faces.

The 'Riders top scorer will be a name you probably recognize, Cole Burtch. Until the off week, he wore a Phantoms jersey and was our leading returning scorer from last season. After notching a goal and an assist for the Phantoms in 6 games, he put up a pair of goals and an assist in his debut for the 'Riders. The only other scorer on their roster with multiple goals is Adam Flammang, with 2. Their forwards sport a few more Youngstown ties. Yusaku Ando, traded in the off season, has an assist in 4 games and Nate Hanley, who we traded to Green Bay last season after 14 games, is back with the 'Riders who drafted him.

I don't have a lot on their defense, what I've seen of it so far has not left a big impression other than it needed some help. In the trade with Youngstown last week, we also sent them Cole Teleki. I liked the play of Eric Pohlkamp, a heavy framed '04 defenseman who can play physical. He's someone I think will develop into a top 4 guy by next season, if not before this season is over.

The Phantoms (2-2-0-0) had one of their biggest weekends in team history. Putting 106 shots on goal in 2 games, 57 of those in our home opener, the Phantoms set a few team record in earning a pair of wins in a home-and-home against the NTDP U17s. This week the Phantoms hit the road to Madison (1-1-1-0), a trip they did not make last season with the Capitols forced to opt into a year dominancy due to the pandemic. 

The Capitols will be anchored by forward Reid Pabich (2g,1a). Pabich is entering his third full season in the USHL and returns to the Caps after playing a season in Sioux Falls. He plays a full 200ft game and usually earns his goals by hard work, scoring in the dirty areas. Quinn Finley joins the Caps after being taken first overall by Madison in the 2020 Phase 1 draft but spending his rookie season in Chicago, scoring 1g, 5a in 39 games with the Steel. In 3 games with Madison, he has 2g, 1a with one of those goals an head turning OT winner against the Steel. Another potential threat comes from Kyle Kukkonen, a 6th round draft pick of the NHL Anaheim Ducks. Kukkonen is an excellent skater and puck handler and looks to use these skill to create time and space to make plays.

On defense, they are a lot less experienced. One top prospect with some USHL experience is Luke Mittlestadt, brother of former Green Bay standout and current Buffalo Saber Casey Mittlestadt. Luke is a different player than his brother, a defenseman and a more traditional blueliner at that. He's an excellent puck mover, a good relay man or the guy starting the play up ice who can occasionally lose pursuers with his footwork. The former Caps #2 overall USHL Phase 1 pick (2019) spent last season in Minnesota, picking up some affiliate time in Lincoln. Another dman with some experience is Cade Penney, who played some last season with Green Bay and Omaha.

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