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Penn State Hockey Position Preview

The 2017-18 Nittany Lions feature the deepest talent Guy Gadowsky has had at his disposal since arriving in Hockey Valley.

Photo by Heather Weikel

Penn State has enjoyed a rapid ascension to the upper echelon of college hockey programs. Capping off their most successful season with their first Big Ten Tournament Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, the Nittany Lions will look to take the next step in pursuit of a National Title, and will be aided by an impressive recruiting class that should more than make up for some key departures.

Gadowsky will likely be able to follow the NHL model of having three effective scoring lines with a defensively focused fourth line and, much like last year’s setup, he will have an offensively gifted top four on defense with the third pair serving the shutdown role.

In goal, the Lions should have no concerns, as Peyton Jones returns after a superhuman run in the Big Ten Tournament.


Penn State returns four of its top five scorers from a year ago, when the team was tops in the nation in scoring as a team. Gadowsky’s squad was one of just two teams in college hockey that averaged more than four goals per game. Sophomore Denis Smirnov (47 points) will likely join Nate Sucese (36 pts) and Brandon Biro (20 pts) to form a formidable scoring line with the most combined points returning from last year.

Chase Berger (36 pts) and Andrew Sturtz (37 pts) played alongside top incoming forward prospect Evan Barratt in the exhibition game versus Ottawa. Barratt was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round in 2017. A center during his early playing days, it looks as though Barratt will play left wing at the start of the season alongside two of the most potent scorers on the team. Sturtz (64) and Berger (62) have the most career points of any returning player.

Newcomer Alex Limoges centered the third line versus Ottawa with wings Alec Marsh and Liam Folkes. Marsh has shown an ability to score, as has Folkes, but each brings an element of hustle that should create opportunities for Limoges or any other player that plays alongside the duo this season. Folkes showed flashes of scoring ability with three goals during the regular season, but then poured it on when it counted, netting three in the Big Ten tournament. We won’t forget this game-winner in double-overtime to gain Penn State its first Big Ten Championship anytime soon.

Nikita Pavlychev and James Robinson look to form a solid defensive pairing on the fourth line of forwards. They were joined by Blake Gober for the exhibition game but we could see players such as Sam Sternschein and Brett Murray rotate in with Gober at that spot early in the season.

Murray, a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, will look to improve on his 2017 performance, which was inhibited by his late arrival to the program. He missed the first semester of competition and as a result never got into the flow of the game as was hoped. Matt Mendelson will provide additional depth at the forward spot.


One of the most prominent stories of the Nittany Lions’ offseason (and one we’ve talked about here plenty) was the departure of sophomore rear guard Vince Pedrie, who left two years of eligibility on the table to sign with the New York Rangers.

The move came as a surprise to Gadowsky, and left the Lions with a major hole to fill in their top four. Freshman Cole Hults appears to be the solution to that problem, as the 19-year-old impressed in his first action in a Penn State uniform in the team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the University of Ottawa.

Hults’s addition to the top four, along with the return of Kevin Kerr, who was injured for the final 14 games of last season, has also bumped Kris Myllari, perhaps the biggest surprise of last season, back to the third pairing. Myllari tied Pedrie for the team lead in goals by a defenseman last season with eight.

Through the first half of the season, Myllari was a regular on the third pairing alongside recently-graduated David Thompson. Thompson’s position is likely to be filled either by sophomore James Gobetz or freshman Alex Stevens.

Gobetz registered one point — a goal in the Lions’ final game of the season — in 21 games, while Stevens posted 25 points in 57 games in the USHL last season.


Once the most uncertain position is now perhaps the most stable for the Nittany Lions.

After Matthew Skoff graduated and Eamon McAdam left early following the 2015-16 season, the goaltending reins were handed to a trio with a combined 71 minutes and three seconds of playing time, all which came from Chris Funkey in relief appearances.

The remaining two-thirds were comprised of former club goalie Matt Erlichman and incoming freshman Peyton Jones. While Jones was viewed as McAdam’s eventual replacement, he was thrust into the spotlight not long after arriving at Penn State.

Starting as a freshman for a program on the rise would seem a daunting task, but Jones was more than ready for the pressure.

The Langhorne, PA native set several single-season program records, including games played and started (36), wins (23) and saves (884). He also tied Skoff’s record for shutouts in a season with two.

Now with a season under his belt and an overall improved Lions squad, Jones will likely repeat his performance and should improve on his 2.60 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.