Forward Austin Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U18 program led the Johnstown Tomahawks 2015 NAHL draft class as one of seven players selected by the Tomahawks Tuesday afternoon.
Lemieux, 19, was selected by the Tomahawks ninth overall, marking the second consecutive year the Tomahawks have selected a member of the Penguins Elite program with their first round selection. The son of Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner and NHL legend Mario Lemieux, Austin led the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program with 37 points in 31 games played during the 2014-15 season.
“Austin was a highly skilled offensive player this year for the Pens Elite. He got better each time we same him play, and he really caught our eye when we saw him play at the War Memorial last Thanksgiving,” Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia said. “Towards the end of the season, we invited him to practice with us, and he showed he has the ability to compete at this level.”
Lemieux was also taken by the Omaha Lancers in the ninth round of last month’s USHL Entry draft. While Lemieux’s USHL rights belong to Omaha, his NAHL rights belong to the Tomahawks.
The selection of Lemieux continues the pipeline between the Tomahawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program. Last year's first round pick, Dalton Hunter, also came from the same program, as did forward Luke Lynch and defenseman Jake Houston.
In the second round, the Tomahawks used their 31st overall selection to pick left winger Justin Cmunt (prounounced "Smunt") from the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the OJHL. In 51 games with the Jr. Sabres last season, Cmunt scored 5 goals and 21 assists.
Cmunt, who was also an 8th round pick by the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft, is committed to play NCAA D-I hockey at Union College following his junior career.
In the third round, the Tomahawks selected Russian goaltender Andrei Tikhomirov 53rd overall, followed by Slovakian forward Peter Cicmanec 60th overall.
Tikhomirov, 19, played with Chaika Nizhny Novgorod of Russia’s top junior league last season, posting a .912 save percentage and a 2.47 GAA in 40 regular season games. The 6-1, 198-pound netminder also played 20 postseason games, with a 1.67 GAA and .944 save percentage en route to a league championship.
“He has proven himself to be a very capable goaltender while playing for his hometown team, and he wants to get the kind of exposure that playing in the NAHL can bring for goalies,” Letizia said of Tikhomirov.
Johnstown netminder Ryan Bednard finished the year as one of three NAHL goaltenders on the NHL Central Scouting Draft List.
Cicmanec, 19, scored 71 points (29 G, 42 A) and 90 PIM in 45 games with the Wichita Jr. Thunder of the WSHL last season. Cicmanec came to North America in the 2013-14 season to play with the Atlanta Fire 18U team of the NAPHL, where he scored 21 points in 23 games.
The Tomahawks used back-to-back selections in the fourth round to pick Jack McDonough of the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers and Austin Alger from Cranbrook-Kingswood High School in Michigan at the 75th and 76th overall spots, respectively.
McDonough, 16, attended the Tomahawks recent pre-draft camp in Warrendale, Pa. “Jack was someone who caught our eye immediately at camp and kept our attention throughout the entire weekend. He is a tireless worker who can make plays at high speed and plays all 200 feet of the ice,” Letizia said. “From everything we’ve learned about him, he’s committed to being the best he can possibly be, and we’re excited to see how he develops in our organization.
Alger, 17, is the younger brother of Tomahawks sniper Alex Alger, who was traded to the Johnstown last February. Like his brother, the younger Alger is also committed to play NCAA D-I hockey at Miami University (Ohio) following his junior career.
Alger was the winner of the 2014-15 Michigan Mr. Hockey Award, given to the top high school player in Michigan. He was also selected in the second round of the 2013 USHL Futures draft. His USHL rights currently belong to the Omaha Lancers.
The Tomahawks closed out their picks in the fifth round by selecting Sidman native and defenseman Ty Rickabaugh of the Esmark Stars U18 program. Like Lemieux, Rickabaugh also practiced with the Tomahawks at times last season.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed, gritty defenseman,” Letizia said of Rickabaugh. “He has shown that he has the ability to compete at this level.”
The Tomahawks will hold their final of three try-out camps this weekend in West Dundee, Ill. The team’s Main Camp commences at Planet Ice in Richland Township July 22, concluding on July 26 with the annual Red & Blue Exhibition game.
Tomahawks season ticket packages are currently available for the 2015-16 season, starting at less than $99. Call 814-536-4625 for ticket information.