Well, it seems like it's been forever since I posted anything other than the podcasts. Since the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and the subsequent shutdown of the USHL season, as well as the disruption of pretty much everything everywhere, we haven't had a lot of information other than obligatory press releases. With half a month to go until players are supposed to report, here is what I have.

Let's start off with some departures in the bench and hockey ops staff. The first was assistant coach and scouting director Nick Peruzzi, who has taken his services to the Lincoln Stars. Nick left in April, not long after the season was cancelled. More recently, equipment manager Michael Bingham relocated to the Tri-City Storm. Neither departure was announced by the Phantoms and there has been no word on replacements.

Another recent development that doesn't directly affect the Phantoms, but I believe will factor heavily into any plans to start the season is the devastating derecho that swept through Iowa. In addition to unfathomable destruction to homes, businesses, and farmland, the storm heavily damaged two USHL arenas. The Des Moines Buccaneers barn's roof was lost in the winds, as well as probably significant water damage from the rain. Things are worse in Cedar Rapids where the RoughRiders home ice, ImOn Ice Arena, had part of the building collapse. They are waiting on engineers to even start assessing the damage. All of that is still secondary to the still ongoing disaster, and I would like the people of Iowa to know that they are in our thoughts as they begin the slow recovery process.

The Youngstown Phantoms have activated defenseman Ryan Shea from the injured reserved list. Shea had been on the IR since the beginning of the season with an upper body injury. He's know as an excellent skating defenseman with superb puck moving skills. Shea has played youth hockey for Boston College High School and the Cape Cod Whalers. He played 2 games as an affiliate for the Phantoms last season and looked comfortable making the jump. He was selected in the 4th round, 121 overall, of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He may have gone higher but he hasn't proven himself on the defensive end of things, one trustworthy analysis citing gap control and consistency as areas he may need to work on. It may take him a few games to adapt to the Phantoms system and get into game shape after missing so much of the season but hopefully he'll be able to quickly add to the transition game and powerplay.

With the return of Ryan Shea and the recent addition of Jason Cotton, the Phantoms had to drop a player from the roster to get back down to 23. Unfortunately, it looks like that player was Ty Farmer. He has been removed from the USA Hockey's USHL protected list and from the Phantoms roster on the USHL website. The young defenseman, tendered back in April of 2014, played 39 games in 2014-2015 registering 5 assists with a plus/minus of +2 and played 16 games this season registering 1 assist and a +5. He had been injured most of last month, playing only 1 game in December on the 27th, and was an injured scratch all this month. I'll definitely post more information on his status when I get it.

We'll, it's certainly that time of year. USHL training camps and preseason action are ramping up and final descions are being made on roster cuts.It's not unusual to see players cut early from one team and then show up at another teams camp for a tryout. This seems to be the case for the Phantoms, adding two forwards cut early from the Muskegon Lumberjacks as USA Hockey and the USHL's team rosters are showing some new additions. 

First up is Tyler Drevitch, a '95 birth year forward, a Merrimack College commit, who split last season between the Des Moines Buccaneers and the Muskegon Lumberjacks, playing 59 games during the regular season and 11 playoff games.With only 1 goal and 4 assists in his first USHL season, Drevitch is more of a utility forward with a rounded set of skills and is not afraid to drop the gloves. Coming into camp with a full season experience in the league as well as a good playoff run, he may have an advantage over a few guys.

The other is Alex Esposito. Alex is not a stranger to the Phantoms, making it to the All-Star game in last season spring tryout camp. Alex's younger brother, Eric Esposito, is also in the Phantoms camp this year and shown good offensive skills and looks to be a top contender for a final roster spot. Alex, a '96 birth year forward had played promisingly during through prep school at the Loomis Chaffee School and is looking to make the jump up to tier 1 junior hockey.

Both have good potential and in the case of Drevitch, we have an open spot of another '95 on the roster. There are also a few more chances to grab a slot on the 23-man final roster for forwards. Even so, this years camp looks as competitive as ever and both players are coming into camp with little time left to prove themselves. Even veteran status doesn't guarantee a spot for regular season. Look for both of these players to give 110% in the Pittsburgh Showcase games this weekend to try to make up for lost time. I'd also recommend for returning players and rookies thinking they're doing good in camp so far to step it up a notch, sometimes the added pressure to not get cut from a second team can push a guy to the next level.

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