Meet Penn State Hockey’s Newest Additions
The Penn State men’s hockey team, entering its second year as a Big Ten sport, picked up three recruits for the 2014-15 season. Looking to improve from an 8-26-2 Big Ten debut, head coach Guy Gadowsky added freshmen Scott Conway, James Robinson, and Erik Autio.
Gadowsky has proved he wants to go far beyond #DominatingTheState, as none of the new players are from any of the States, and only one from North America. Here’s what we have to look forward to this year:
Scott Conway, Forward, #10
As far as youth hockey goes, Conway’s path to the NCAA is one of the more unconventional ones. He was raised in England, a country not traditionally known for its hockey expertise. In fact, only 22 players born in England have made appearances in the NHL, dating back to 1917, but none have been active since 2008. Conway quickly proved himself in England’s youth leagues and flew across the pond to play American hockey.
Last season, Conway played in the USHL with the Indiana Ice. He led the team in scoring during the regular season, putting up 68 points (33 G, 35 A) in 57 games, eclipsing the point-per-game mark. The Ice went on to win the Clark Cup, and Conway led the team in playoff scoring as well, with 11 points in 12 games. At Media Day last Tuesday, Gadowsky spoke highly of Conway’s résumé, saying, “he was, in our estimation, the best player [on the Ice]. He was the leading scorer, a top three scorer in the league, and led the league in plus/minus.”
“To be on the top team in the USHL is tremendous for us,” Gadowsky said. “We hope that being around that kind of environment is addictive. To get guys who are addicted to winning is a very good thing.”
Having someone with a history of putting up points and winning championships brings a confident mindset to the locker room that Penn State may need more of. He has a very high hockey IQ, and should be able to find the scoring sheet consistently.
James Robinson, Forward, #18
The Alberta, Canada native is looking to make a smooth jump from the Langley Rivermen to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Robinson put up 42 points (15 G, 27 A) in 44 games for the Rivermen last season, then added on nine points (one G, eight A) in 12 playoff games.
A huge part of Robinson’s game is his physicality, as evidenced by his 54 PIMs. On a Penn State team looking to solidify its gritty identity, Robinson should fit right in. His willingness to get down low and battle for the puck should simplify the transition from the British Columbia Hockey League to an NCAA Division-1 program. Additionally, he served as an alternate captain for the Rivermen twice.
Robinon’s production in two seasons in the BCHL is an encouraging stat. He finished his junior career with back-to-back 42 point seasons, the second of which came in 11 less games. Robinson has a history of being injury-prone, but it will be nice to have a self-described playmaker on a team with a decent group of scorers.
Gadowsky was clearly excited about the addition of Robinson, saying, “He’s along the mold of a David Glen or Dylan Richard… he does score, but his value is more than that. He’s a gritty guy, he’s got a good size, and like Glen, he’s tough to play against.”
Erik Autio, Defenseman, #20
The Nittany Lions’ newest D-man hails from Espoo, Finland. Although the trilingual blue-liner certainly isn’t the biggest player on the team (5-foot-10, 176 pounds), Autio is a solid two-way player with international experience.
So far Autio has only played for Finnish teams, and he and Conway will be the only Europeans playing for Penn State this season. Autio has been a solid player for the junior affiliate of the Espoo Blues. He posted 22 points in 38 games while serving as an alternate captain, helping lead the Blues to the SM-liiga Junior championship. In addition to playing for the Blues, Autio spent time on the Finnish Under-18 and Under-20 national teams, where he won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships, gathered a plus-six rating at the 2013 tournament, and also wore the ‘A’ on his chest.
A smart, mobile defenseman, Autio looks to have been built from a similar mold to 2014 Frozen Four MVP Shayne Gostisbehere or fellow Finn Kimmo Timonen — a reliable, puck-moving, two-way player. With Patrick Koudys and Nate Jensen likely to eat up lots of time on the blue line, Autio has a chance to find a home on the second or third pairing, and maybe pick up some power play time. The future looks very bright for the young defenseman.
Described as an “unknown commodity” by Gadowsky and an “extremely cool guy” by his teammates, his European style of play should bring a new perspective to the Nittany Lions’ defense. Gadowsky hopes the newcomer can both teach and learn from captain Patrick Koudys and the rest of the group. “Everyone will take positives from him,” said Gadowsky. “It’s good, the diversity, I think you can grow from it.”
All things considered, Penn State hockey is on the right path to soon becoming a very successful team. Three new players who have seen success in three different countries should prove to be huge assets for a young Big Ten team looking to take a huge step forward.