CLARKS SUMMIT – Mike Minello was a hockey fan offering a little help when he agreed to serve as one of the host families for the expanding Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Junior Knights youth program in 2011.
Years later, a special bond remains between Minello’s family and one of the players he brought into his home.
Mike and Tracee Minello and their 24-year-old son Kevin have remained close with Nikita Pavlychev, a teenager who left Russia to come to northeastern Pennsylvania and further his hockey career. They made the trip to Sunrise, Fla. last weekend to be there with Pavylchev and his mother at the National Hockey League Draft where Pavlychev was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the seventh round.
Pavlychev flew back to Pennsylvania with the Minellos and will again spend time in Clarks Summit before the next phase his hockey career.
“He’ll be with us the next few weeks,” Minello said. “He keeps coming in.
“He stayed with us before he headed to Des Moines and he’ll be with us until he reports to Penguins camp.”
A likely scenario for the 6-foot-7 center is time with the Penguins on an amateur tryout and then off to Penn State University where he had already committed prior to being drafted. Hockey rules allow players to try out with their professional teams, then return to college play if they do not sign a contract.
Pavlychev scored 17 points in 46 games last season for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League, the highest-level of junior play in the United States.
The Knights won the 2012 USA Hockey Tier I 14-and-under national title with the help of major contributions from a group of international players who lived with local host families.
Pavlychev scored the game-winning goal in the national championship game, a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Junior Blues.
Three players from the national champions were selected in the NHL Draft Friday and Saturday.
Russian-born defenseman Ivan Provorov went to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round on the seventh overall pick.
Forward Daniel Sprong, who was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Quebec, was picked by the Penguins in the second round.
Pavlychev could play locally again in the future. Pittsburgh’s top minor-league team is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, a team Pavlychev followed while playing here for national-qualifying teams two years in a row.