Staff Predictions: Penn State Hockey’s 2018-19 Season

No. 16 Penn State men’s hockey kicks off its season Thursday at home against No. 17 Clarkson.

The Nittany Lions had something of a down season last year after winning the Big Ten and advancing past the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2016-17. However, our staff is relatively confident that Penn State can reach that level once again this season.

Matthew Fox: 20-10-4

With quality depth up front and a veteran goaltender cleaning things up in the back, this should be a good season for Penn State. Expect Evan Barratt and Liam Folkes to take steps forward and help replace the production lost from Andrew Sturtz’s departure. One problem area with the team is the lack of depth on the blue line. If the defense is able to pull its weight, this could be another fun season in Hockey Valley.

Anthony Fiset: 21-10-3

Peyton Jones is arguably the best goalie in the program’s brief history to not catch a public urination charge at Primanti’s, which reflects just how trustworthy the junior is in net. Jones’ ability to stand on his head on a nightly basis should buttress the team’s one weak point: its defense. As long as the veteran goaltender can keep the Nittany Lions in games, the talented front line should have no issue putting even the toughest of Big Ten foes away.

Elissa Hill: 17-13-4

Shooters gotta shoot…the puck into the net. Unfortunately, sometimes those shooters will be members of opposing teams.

Derek Bannister: 23-7-4

I feel like it’s time for the Nittany Lions to take the next step. Denis Smirnov and Nikita Pavlychev, I hope, will lead the Penn State attack in a big way. Smirnov has already showed that he has the ability to be among the very best wingers in all of college hockey, and Pavlychev is due for a huge season. Defensively, I can imagine Cole Hults having a season in front of yet another successful showing from Peyton Jones. The optimistic part of me thinks Penn State will go into the tournament as a two-seed after a great season.

Mikey Mandarino: 19-10-5

I think Penn State will do just enough to qualify for the NCAA tournament again and make a strong push for the Big Ten title, even in a stacked conference. However, the team’s defensive corps — on paper, at least — is not the strongest right now. I think this will improve once Merrimack transfer Evan Bell joins the team after winter break, and he’ll be a huge part of the Nittany Lions’ success in the second half of the year.

Up front, the team already has plenty of weapons, including Nate Sucese, Brandon Biro, Denis Smirnov, and Liam Folkes on the wings and Chase Berger, Evan Barratt, and graduate transfer Ludvig Larsson down the middle. One player who could elevate Penn State into a true contender for the Big Ten is one of its freshmen: Aarne Talvitie. This is his first season in the United States, so Talvitie may need some time to adjust to the pace of the North American style of play. When he does, however, strap in, because he could be a force for years to come.

Steve Connelly: 19-13-2

The Nittany Lions aren’t quite what they they were in 2016-17. That team was something special and got into a groove they weren’t supposed to be capable of achieving with their talent level. Penn State will still have talent, but this isn’t the NCAA Tournament team we should expect from the last couple seasons. Let them rebuild and appreciate what we’ve had in recent years.

Anthony Colucci: 0-34-0

How can a winter sport team be good if Bo Nickal isn’t on it?

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