Hockey Freshman Denis Smirnov Already Capturing National Attention
No. 10 Penn State hockey is off to its best start in program history. The Nittany Lions (9-1-1) success has been in large part due to tremendous depth and an elusive mix of veteran and youthful talent. Of the 27 names on the roster this season, arguably no one has been more impressive so far than freshman forward Denis Smirnov.
“I worked really hard this summer, so when I came here it just made it easier playing with great teammates. It’s hard not to score when you are playing with these guys,” Smirnov said.
The 19 year old Russia native currently leads the team in points with five goals and 12 assists. He’s clearly had a fast start to the season, notching a point in every game this year except for one. His 17 points are tied for sixth-most in the country and most among freshman. Smirnov was awarded the Big Ten Second Star of the Week following his back to back three point games against Niagara.
This week’s #B1GHockey Three Stars:
1) @GopherHockey F Tommy Novak
2) @PennStateMHKY F Denis Smirnov
— Big Ten Hockey (@B1GHockey) November 8, 2016
At 5’10”, 185 lbs, Smirnov relies on his speed, agility, and shiftiness to evade defenders and make exceptional plays. Whenever he steps onto the ice, he always seems to be at the heart of the action. I legitimately get excited whenever I see number 25 jump over the boards for a line change because I know something positive is going to happen.
For me, Smirnov passes the eye test too and feels like the complete package. He has an affinity for both scoring and setting up his teammates. His feather soft hands coupled with a seemingly unparalleled ice vision has led to 12 assists this season, which ranks second in the country. When Smirnov is paired with senior captain David Goodwin, Penn State has one of the most lethal combinations in all of college hockey. They play a similar brand of hockey and always seem to know where the other one is on the ice at all times.
During the third period of the second Niagara game, the duo got together for a nice sauce and snipe social on Penn State’s last goal of the night:
“I use my vision well to find my teammates. I try to battle when I can and get as many pucks on net as possible,” Smirnov said.
Besides the obvious talent, one of things I love most about Denis Smirnov is his name. Smirnov…what a name for a collegiate hockey player. The line in Herb Brooks’ famous speech “You were born to be a hockey player” could not apply more here. So Russian, so electric. It’s only a matter of time before the Roar Zone starts making a drinking game out of it, and we’ve already seen some posters.
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