MIDDLETOWN – He’s a skilled two-way defenseman with a hunger to play every day, and Leo Ukmylov is now getting that chance with the New Jersey 87’s.
After spending the summer and a good portion of the fall skating, training and earning inconsistent playing time with the New Jersey Titans of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the Novosibirsk, Russia-born pivot has found a home on the 87’s blue line, and is playing at a level coach Adam Houli describes as “dominant.”
“He got through camp with the Titans and from there he was in and out of the lineup, but he’s a guy who needs regular playing time if he’s going to flourish, and he’s gotten that with us,” Houli said of the 18-year old Ukmylov. “And not only has he gotten the time, but he’s dominated, and that’s been great for his confidence.”
Ukmylov has given the 87’s a boost at both ends of the ice, utilizing lanky frame, long stick and superb skating ability to disrupt opposing offenses, while creating and finishing opportunities of his own, to the tune of five goals in five games at the Eastern Hockey League Premier Division level.
“He’s playing at the EHLP level, and that obviously affords him more time and space than the NAHL would, but now you’re able to see the type of advanced player that he is,” Houli added.
Watching the 6’4 Ukmylov standout amongst an 87’s club that has played to a mark of 12-5-1 through its first 18 games -and sits just a point shy of second place in the EHLP Southern Conference (behind the Philadelphia Revolution) – speaks volumes about his impressive skill set, not only opening the eyes of the organization’s fanbase, but also of his teammates.
— NJ 87’s (@NJ87sEHL) November 16, 2017
“Leo has been a great example to the other players we have here of what it takes to advance up the developmental ladder,” Houli said of Ukmylov, who was named the EHLP Defensive Player of Week 10 on Nov. 15. “He’s an example of the work and skill it takes to make it at the next level. This is how you have to have to work. This is how you have to dominate.”
Ukmylov’s transition from the Titans to the 87’s is also a glimpse at the organizations’ affiliation at work, a point of pride for Houli.
“This is why our affiliation works. Guys who need to play, we can keep them going and progressing, and when the [Titans] need to recall someone like Leo, that guys is ready to rock because he’s been playing, improving and developing confidence.”
The 87’s will return to their home rink at Middletown Ice World on