Well, we're back for another weekend at the Covelli for one more weekend before another road stand. The good news for the Phantoms (8-6-2-0) is that they get to play host to one of the leagues weakest opponents, the Sioux Falls Stampede (2-10-2-0). We've been down this road before, and lost, so it's not something we can overlook and count as an easy week.

I'm really hard pressed to find any real stars on this team. The scoring leaders are Brian Carrebes (6g, 7a) and Tyler Coffee (6g, 5a). Both are solid prospects but not guys I would expect to lead the team. The only NHL scouting report is Garrett Pinoniemi, who raised his draft stock in the last update from 116 to 106 overall, good for a projected 4th round pick. However, Pinoniemi only has 1 assist in 12 games played. I'm not sure what these CSS scouts are seeing here.

On defense, Evan Nause is a very promising '03 born blueliner, 1g and 3a and one of the few players on the squad whose +/- rating is on the positive side at 1. Evan Bushy is another young defenseman, an '02, and leads the team in +/- at 2. Yeah, spectacular numbers on defense. If Nause and Bushy are around next season, I can see the Stampede's defense being one of the better in the league but it's still 2019.

In net, Grant Addams has carried most of the load, 10 games played with a 1-6-2-0 record. His 3.81 GAA and .888 SV% aren't exactly bad considering how poor the Stampede have looked this season. Backing him up was Nate Reid, who played 4 games for a 1-2-0-0 record with a 4.57 GAA and a .876 SV%. He was scratched last weekend and newcomer Arseni Sergeev got both starts, losing both and putting up a 7.27 GAA and a .811 SV%.

The Phantoms (7-5-2-0) are back! It seems like it's been forever since we've had hockey in Youngstown. In reality it's been about a month since the last games at the Covelli, and we've seen some ups and downs on the road. Fortunately, I think it's been more of the ups. Since the last games at home were a weekend pair against the Steel that ended pretty badly, it would be great to see the Phantoms get some home wins, but that will be a tall order against a couple tough opponents. First up is the NTDP U18s (4-0-0-0) on Saturday, then the Des Moines Buccaneers (7-5-0-1) on Sunday. Yeah, Saturday and Sunday but at least it's not Sunday and Monday.

I don't think I need to say too much about the NTDP, especially the U18s. They've won all 4 USHL games they played and just recently swept international competition at the Five Nations Tournament 4-0, taking home the gold medal. I'm not going to go into the scouting report stuff.

Thomas Bordeleau (5g, 2a) is good two-way forward, he moves the puck very well and has the ability to find space to make a play. Luke Tuch, whose brother Alex played for the NTDP as well, is a large power forward and is a lot like his brother. He can use his frame to make the space to make a play, a real beast to try to defend. To me the real raw gem on the U18s is Ty Smilanic (2g, 2a). His name hasn't been mentioned the same as some of the previous scoring forwards for the NTDP but he has the IQ, vision, hands, skating ability, etc to be a big scorer someday.

On defense they are about as stacked in talent as on offense - like, no duh right? Their blueliners sometimes don't get the credit the forwards do. Eamon Powell, Owen Gallatin, and Jake Sanderson are a few names that don't get thrown around much but will probably get a lot more notice as their careers continue. None are the biggest guys on the ice but they are all defensively responsible and really move the puck well. These guys didn't make a lot of mistakes as U17 players and as their physical size and abilities catch up to the older players, I think we'll see a lot of them at higher levels.

The Phantoms (6-4-2-0) are still on the road this week and heading to Iowa to face the Sioux City Musketeers (5-5-0-0). I'll be honest, I don't have a lot on the Musketeers, and there isn't a lot of Phantoms news to talk about so this preview is going to be the equivalent of posting a review of Wonder Bread. I'm okay with that, we don't need too much drama this week.

One of the issues with the Musketeers is they don't have a lot of USHL experience up front. They only have 1 forward with enough games played in previous seasons to not be considered an affiliate. That player would be Ian Malcomson, who played the entire 18-19 season for them and is currently tied for third in scoring for the Musketeers with 2g, 4a. Leading the team in goal scoring is rookie Joel Maata with 5g, 1a. The Finnish born player is a C-ranked player on the NHL's early scouting reports. Another highly touted rookie player is Blake Biondi, a B-ranked skater on the scouting reports. Biondi only has 1g, 2a this season and is rumored to be leaving to return to Minnesota to finish high school there.

On defense, the Musketeers are a lot more experienced, more along the lines of Chicago, but they are having some issues there. The teams leading scorer is defenseman and assistant captain Dominic Vidoli with 2g, 6a. Vidoli started the season hot, showing good offensive capabilities and solid defense. However, he has been absent the last couple weeks and I have not heard of any injury or other issue, though I suspect it's probably an injury.

Another big part of their defense is Adam Samulesson, who is the son of notorious NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson. By big, I mean 6'6", 236 lbs. Word is that he is also leaving, his desitination being the OHL. The ex-NTDP player joined the Musketeers last season after only playing 7 games in the NCAA so jumping ship early in the season isn't a big surprise. That leaves a lot of holes in their defense and leadership. I'm looking at guys like Anthony Kehrer, another C-ranked skater, or Christian Jimenez to step up.