Bettens enjoying huge function for Phantoms | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Youngstown Phantoms forward Kyle Bettens takes to the ice during Youngstown’s SteelHounds night. Bettens has been crucial for the Phantoms this year, scoring 16 goals and dishing out 17 assists.

The Youngstown Phantoms brought in a lot of new faces this season who have left their mark throughout the year.

One name that joined the fray that’s definitely made a positive impact is right winger Kyle Bettens.

The 20-year-old from Winnipeg, Canada was acquired right before the season started and has been one of the team’s top performers on the ice. Bettens is the Phantoms’ fourth-leading scorer with 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 53 games so far.

“We were looking to fill (the role) of a bigger body power forward that had the ability to score and can be a workhorse and he’s given us all of that,” Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said. “(He’s brought) consistency over the course of the year, he’s a big body that can skate extremely well, has good offensive instincts, has played junior hockey in the past and in different places and is a guy that can be leaned on in hard situations and play hard minutes.”

That style of player is the exact type Bettens models his game after and enjoys watching. Players that fit the mold of a modern NHL power forward.

“I really like guys like (Buffalo Sabers forward) Alex Tuch and (Washington Capitals forward) Tom Wilson and some more skilled guys like Roope Hintz on Dallas,” Bettens said. “Just bigger guys using their speed and getting in there, having that physical, big body, and then they can control a play, make plays, and obviously have some scoring ability. So I kind of look up to those guys.”

Bettens garnered comparison by the Phantoms staff to former Blue Jackets, now-Montreal Canadiens winger Josh Anderson for his scrappy, yet skilled playstyle.

Patterson offered a different comparison as well, saying Bettens’ game reminds him of former Phantoms captain Eric Esposito.

Like Esposito, Bettens has been a veteran leader in the locker room as well as one of the team’s top performers on the ice.

“It’s been huge,” Patterson said about Bettens’ acquisition. “I look back early in the year, a lot of places probably didn’t expect us to do so well and he’s a guy that has definitely helped in that. Early in the year, we went through a little bit of a rut and at one point he almost took the team and put us on his back and carried us through some tough games and showed a lot of guys that were maybe new to the league, how hard you had to work in different situations.

“Going through that, not only on the ice, but the off-ice stuff over the course of the year and having somebody that’s gone to war before and has been through the ups and downs has been a big, big bonus for our club. ”

Over the last couple of years, Bettens has made a handful of stops, including the Steinbach Pistons of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, Fargo, Omaha and Cedar Rapids of the USHL, though he never actually played with Cedar Rapids.

Out of all his stops, he says Youngstown is his favorite so far.

“It’s been great,” Bettens said. “Every year you make new friends and new teammates, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have real good coaches, and the core group we have here is really tight, and everyone enjoys each other. It’s my last year (in junior), and I’ve experienced a lot of things throughout my career, but I’ve definitely enjoyed this one. I’d say, I’d say the most.”

After this season is over, Bettens will be continuing his education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth as well as joining the hockey program. He says being a Bulldog is an honor and is excited to join a tradition-rich program like Minnesota-Duluth.

But before that, Bettens still has a playoff run to help take the Phantoms on. He’s hoping to keep the team going as long as possible.

“I think we just need to continue doing what we’ve been doing,” Bettens said. “Obviously, we had a weekend against Chicago that we split and we still had some of our top guys out of the lineup. I think we can beat anyone in this league, but I think just sticking with it, and you know, just playing hard defense and just following our systems.

“As a group, we need to be super tight and in focus, every game. Playoffs are a different animal. I know a lot of the younger guys may have not experienced it, so just as an older guy, you’ve just got to have that presence and let them know that it’s going to be a battle, but I believe in our group and what we have, I believe we can go very far.”

The Phantoms close out the regular season this weekend with a home-and-home against the US National Team Development Program U-17s. On Friday, both teams play in Ann Arbor, Mich. before coming back to Youngstown to cap off the regular season at the Covelli Centre.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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