When Zach Saar committed to play in Hockey Valley, it was known that he is the son of former PSU linebacker Brad Saar, a member of the 1982 Penn State national championship team. Until today the program has never had two players from the same family commit to joining the hockey team. Oskar Autio, the younger brother of junior defenseman Erik Autio, announced his intentions of playing for the blue and white.
The younger Autio will turn 18 later this year, so it is uncertain when he plans to join the team. His age would normally suggest that he is two years away from arriving, meaning the fall of 2019, but that may not be a completely safe assumption. While hockey players tend to join the college hockey ranks after playing amateur hockey for a season or two past high school, Autio may join the team sooner.
His position may also be a factor for when he will join, as he is a goalie and the PSU net-minder situation is thin at the moment.
Autio played in two levels of international competition as a 17-year-old: the Finland Under-18 junior league and also the Finland Under-20 junior league. The fact that he was moved up to the higher league prior to his date of birth forcing the move indicates that he is an above-average prospect. His numbers are solid for a player his age, his save percentage has consistently been around .920 for his career.
His brother Erik joined the team at the age of 19, so it would not be a shock to see Autio in Hockey Valley for the 2018-19 season. It is very unlikely that he will join the team as an 18-year-old in 2017 but as the Lions continue to stack the team with high-end recruits, the overall age of the freshmen has been dropping in recent seasons. The Lions had two 18-year-old players on the team last season, Brandon Biro and Brett Murray.
There has been no announcement from the team in terms of Oskar’s arrival date and even if there were, other than ruling out this coming season, the future a year out is always unclear, even for the coaching staff. At the moment Autio joins Bo Didur, another PSU goalie recruit, in the pipeline of players heading to PSU. It was thought that Didur was set to come to Penn State in 2017-18, but no announcement was made when the team presented its incoming recruits two weeks ago. That could always change.
With Peyton Jones assumed to be the starter in net for the next two seasons, three should he stay for his final season, which is unlikely at this point, the impending arrival of Autio may effect Didur’s plans. Didur may join in 2017 now that Autio has signed on to play down the road, and projects to being a starter-level prospect. That would give Didur a chance to compete for the backup spot behind Jones for next season at least, maybe two, prior to Autio joining the team. That is speculation but coach Guy Gadowsky has spoken about the constantly-shifting world of hockey recruits. There are instances when one players’ decision will change the timeline of another player.