GLENDALE -- It's not often a player gets a phone call telling them they've been traded to another NHL organization while they're at school, but that's exactly what happened to Coyotes prospect Maxim Letunov last March.
Letunov, the 52nd overall pick by St. Louis in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, was sitting in class in Youngstown, Ohio, when he received a phone call letting him know that the Blues had shipped him to Arizona for defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
|Maxim Letunov. Photo by Norm Hall. |
"But I didn’t answer the phone," Letunov said with a laugh as he told the story. "Then when I went to lunch, I went on social media and I found out."
Letunov, 19, is a native of Moscow who has played the past two seasons for Youngstown of the United States Hockey League. The 6-foot-3, 168-pound center notched 107 points (44 goals and 63 assists) over 118 regular-season games during that time, which is no surprise to the Coyotes; they wanted to draft him in 2014 but they couldn't because the Blues beat them to it by seven picks.
"Max is a tall, lean player at this time with excellent pro potential," General Manager Don Maloney said. "He is smart, can make plays with the puck, sees the ice well and has a high compete level."
Four months after the trade, the initial surprise of the deal has worn off. Reality set in for good for Letunov at the team’s annual Prospect Development Camp earlier this month.
"It's been great, it's been exciting," Letunov said at the camp. "It's been months since I got traded and I was just waiting for this moment to come to Arizona and meet the great fans here and just experience it… I think when you get traded it's always a surprise. It was a shock but I’m glad to be here."
Letunov is no stranger to the North American style of play. His family moved to Dallas four years ago and he played for the Dallas Stars Midget team, where he scored 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 40 games. His two seasons in Youngstown allowed him to hone his game a little more on the smaller ice surface, but he’s looking to improve even more.
"It's been hard to transition from the European style of hockey, but they've helped me a lot (the past four years)," Letunov said. "I got to adapt to this kind of ice and this style of play, so it really helped."
The trade already has worked out well for Arizona; Michalek returned to the Coyotes on July 1 by signing as an unrestricted free agent.
As for Letunov, he's off to Boston University in the fall.
"When you make a step to a different level, whether you come here for camp or you go on to college, it’s always an exciting thing," Letunov said."I just want to really experience the college life, school and hockey."
The Coyotes are pleased by the path he has chosen for the next chapter of his career.
"Attending Boston University, Max will be in a good development environment to help him get thicker and stronger," Maloney said.