Team Illinois forward Casey Linkenheld topped a group of five players drafted by the Johnstown Tomahawks in the NAHL Draft on Tuesday.
The Tomahawks also drafted goaltender Brett Young (Little Caesars U18), forward Forest Donvan (Belle Tire U18), defenseman Tristan Ramage (Pittsburgh Viper Stars) and blue-liner Brady Bender (Colorado Rampage).
While the Tomahawks drafted only five players, the talent drawn in by the club made for a pleased coach following the draft.
“Our (draft) board that we had, it was right on the money,” Tomahawks coach Jason Spence said. “Hats off to our scouts, especially assistant coach, Mike Letizia, he did a great job.”
Johnstown could return up to 14 players from last season’s team and had 12 players under tender before the draft.
While the Tomahawks said goodbye to key contributors by way of draft, collegiate scholarship or aging out; the outlook for the team’s second season in Johnstown is positive thanks to the work of the club’s front office and scouting department.
“We were really happy because we made some good trades to get some tenders during the year,” Spence said. “With Johnstown being the way it is with community support, it’s a desirable place for players. It’s a place people want to come to.”
Linkenheld, who was also drafted last month by the Lincoln Stars in the USHL Phase II Draft, netted 14 goals and registered 31 points for Team Illinois.
The 5-foot-11, 160-pound left winger – drafted 14th overall by the Tomahawks – was taken 401st by Lincoln.
“We were really excited and really happy,” Spence said. “A lot of teams wanted him and we were able to snag him. We were happy with that.”
Young, taken in the second round, compiled a 20-14-4 record last season for Little Caesars with a 1.98 goals allowed average and six shutouts.
Said Spence of Young: “We saw him in Michigan and heard really good things about him.”
A sixth-round pick, Donovan scored 11 goals and totaled 31 points for Belle Tire and used a performance at a pre-draft camp to raise Spence’s eyebrow.
“We were able to see him in the camp’s all-star game on Sunday,” Spence said. “He was a man amongst boys. He had three goals and an assist and played at such a high level.”
Ramage, from Evans City in Butler County, logged just half of a season with the Viper Stars’ 16U team before taking a step up in competition.
“They realized that he was so big and so good that they brought him in to the under-18 team midway through the season,” Spence noted. “He was one of their really good players. The sky is the limit for him. He’s such a good, young talent and he’s a big, strong kid too.”
Bender scored nine points and racked up 30 PIM in 40 games on the Rampage’s blue line. He was drafted sight unseen by Spence, but not by the entire franchise.
“Our GM (Rick Boyd) was in Colorado scouting (Bender),” Spence noted. “He’s strong and a great skater. He’s coming to our camp this weekend in Minnesota.”