The Youngstown Phantoms defeat Team USA NTDP 2-0 at the Covelli Centre on December 1, 2017.
By Brian Yauger
Typically, Ohio hasn’t been known as a hockey market. According to QuantHockey.com, only 27 Ohio-born players have ever seen the NHL level. As of the 2017-18 season, 48 players from Ohio have been selected in the NHL draft by a team. In June, that number is expected to rise again.
According to Future Considerations, Curtis Hall, the 52nd ranked player in this year’s NHL draft, was not born in Ohio, but is a native of Chagrin Falls. He was born in Princeton, New Jersey, but moved to Ohio at a young age. Hall has played hockey for Ohio based teams nearly his entire life. Hall played for the Cleveland Barons, a development organization composed of three separate teams, based on age.
Hall says he came from Cleveland, which isn’t a huge hockey area. He says it is important to work hard and whenever you’re on the ice, do your best.
“People are watching every game, so wherever you go you’ll have eyes on you,” Hall said. “If you prepare correctly and perform well, you can go anywhere.”
Hall has spent the last two seasons as a player for the Youngstown Phantoms. He has also been a member of the United States Hockey League and the Top Junior League in the United States.
Youngstown is about 50 miles from Hall’s hometown of Chagrin Falls. Hall is in a unique situations; many players in junior hockey don’t have the luxury of playing close to home.
“I can go home and see my family when a lot of guys on the team can’t,” Hall says. “They can come and support me at all the games, and be there for me if I need it, so it’s really nice. You can’t really get homesick being this close to home.”
The Phantoms have produced a sizable amount of talent over the years. Twenty-two players are playing in professional leagues, with a couple in the NHL.
Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets spent three seasons with the Phantoms before moving on to the University of Michigan and later the Jets. Hall aims to join the Phantoms’ impressive pedigree and take his talents to the professional level.
“Hall’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but that’s not a detriment to his talent,” Jake Baskin, a writer from Mile High Hockey says. “He’s a very good goal-scorer and has handled the transition to the USHL, which is notoriously unfriendly to teenagers.”
Baskin says Hall should be able to start his college career at the center position and stick with it into the professional ranks. He says he has played well wearing a Team USA uniform.
Baskin expects Hall to be selected in the second or third round, and he could eventually be the captain at Yale.
“Curtis is a very versatile power and scoring forward hybrid,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson says. “He is good in all situations: the power-play, penalty kill and regular five-on-five. He’s a very powerful skater that is hard to take off the puck, tremendous at the faceoff circle and shines in the playoffs.”
Since education is one of his higher priorities, Hall is committed to Yale University, one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. He says a lot of players are moving on to big schools and he is excited to do the same.
“We all have a great time here, but we’re all looking to get better and to get to the next level,” Hall says. “I wanted to find a good school that has good academics in addition to good athletics.”
Hall says Yale is a great fit. He got along with the coaches and they have a great staff. He says everything just kind of fell in line for him at Yale, and he’s really excited to go there.
The 2018 NHL draft will be held in Dallas on June 22 and 23. For interested NHL teams, his coach has the sales pitch ready.
“He is a can’t miss player,” Patterson says. “When the going gets tough and space is limited on the ice, Curtis [Hall] excels. He is as driven as any player we have had.”
Patterson says not only was Hall their best player last year in the playoffs as a 16-year-old, two days after losing out against Chicago, the eventual champions, Hall called him to get their off-season strength program. He says Hall wants to get better every day and he does.
“My favorite team is the Chicago Blackhawks,” Hall says. “There’s a couple places I’d like to go, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I would be honored to go any place that picks me.”
Hall says Boston would be a good fit for him. He feels like they just work really hard and they’re a good team who sacrifice themselves for each other.
Sticking with the theme of Boston, Hall models his game after Boston Bruins center and two-time Olympian for the United States, David Backes.
“He’s just a big guy,” Hall says. “He works really hard, he has size and is a reliable guy.”
While this is his last season with the Phantoms, Hall says he has plenty to look back on throughout his time here. He says he has a lot of memories to look back on, and all of the great people he’s met there.
“It’s going to be sad to move on and I’m going to miss them a lot,” he says. “[I’ve had] a lot of great memories being in school with them and a lot of great memories at the rink. I’m excited to move forward, but I’m definitely going to treasure what I’ve had here.”