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Paul DeNaples Quickly Becoming Steady Presence On Penn State Hockey’s Defense

If you don’t notice a particular defenseman while watching a hockey game, that probably means he’s doing a great job. Penn State freshman Paul DeNaples is the perfect embodiment of this cliché.

Whether it’s his offensive production or style of play, DeNaples doesn’t have a single standout attribute of his game. He hasn’t scored a goal yet this year, but he’s chipped in five assists to rank fourth among Penn State’s defensemen. As far as his style of play is concerned, he’s not flashy — but that’s why he’s been so effective for the Nittany Lions.

DeNaples’ tendency to make simpler, higher-percentage plays has helped him take a strong hold at the top of Division I hockey in terms of his plus/minus rating. The Moscow, PA native leads the nation with an impressive +19 rating through 13 games, a mark that’s five higher than second-placed Nate Sucese.

“[DeNaples] is locked in,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He’s not out there trying to get points, he’s not out there trying to get plus/minus, he’s not out there trying to make fancy plays. His mentality is 100 percent for the team. That sounds obvious, but to stay that focused every shift is a difficult thing to do.”

DeNaples has never been much of a goal scorer — he finished his USHL career with nine goals in 110 games played — but he doesn’t need to be.

The ex-Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) defenseman takes pride in his defensive game, which is a big reason for his excellent start to his collegiate career. He admittedly doesn’t want to stick out when he gets his ice time, and this formula’s clearly worked out for him so far this season.

“I take pride in playing a very, very simple game,” DeNaples said. “I don’t try to stand out or do anything crazy.”

Defensemen like DeNaples are usually a goaltender’s best friends, and Nittany Lion netminder Peyton Jones appreciates the work that he puts in, even if he won’t always capture the headlines for it.

“He’s not going to turn the puck over, and that’s huge for a goalie,” Jones said. “I have a lot of trust and faith in him, and it’s awesome to see that his hard work is paying off.”

DeNaples’ 0.38 points-per-game clip through 13 games with Penn State is twice as high as his USHL scoring output in 110 appearances.

DeNaples mostly attributes his standout plus/minus rating to the rest of his teammates converting their chances while he’s on the ice. He wasn’t the first defenseman on the team to boil his success down to giving the puck to the Nittany Lions’ talented group of forwards, but he perhaps isn’t giving himself enough credit for his steady and sound game.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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