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Penn State Hockey Faces Challenge With Wisconsin’s Pair Of Top-15 NHL Draft Picks

It’s safe to say the stars will be out when No. 12 Penn State hockey takes on No. 7 Wisconsin at Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday and Friday nights.

The Nittany Lions have lots of talent up front with the likes of Alex Limoges, Evan Barratt, and Brandon Biro, among others. But Wisconsin has a pair of freshmen who were selected among the top 15 picks of the 2019 NHL Draft.

Center Alex Turcotte was picked No. 5 overall by the Los Angeles Kings, and sharp-shooting wing Cole Caufield was taken 15th by the Montreal Canadiens. Caufield was considered a top-10 talent entering the draft, but he fell to No. 15 because of his size (5’7″, 163 pounds).

Both players have lived up to the hype so far this season. Turcotte has scored three goals and chipped in five assists in just four games. Caufield, meanwhile, leads the nation in goals with seven in six appearances for Wisconsin.

“Caufield’s a shooter and a finisher. Right-hand shot who’s deadly,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said Tuesday. “We have to be aware of him, because if you give him opportunities, he’ll bury them. Turcotte’s a little bit different — a little more of a passer all-around.”

Although Caufield and Turcotte are excellent players in their own right, Gadowsky knows that they aren’t the Badgers’ only stars. Defenseman K’Andre Miller was also a first-round NHL Draft pick by the New York Rangers (No. 22 overall, 2018), and freshman forward Dylan Holloway is considered by some a top-10 prospect in the 2020 draft class.

Wisconsin’s star duo was part of an absolutely stacked U-18 side at the United States National Team Development Program last season. Turcotte and Caufield were two of eight players from that team to be selected in the first round of last summer’s NHL Draft. That total included No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes and Spencer Knight — the first goaltender selected by the Florida Panthers as a first-round pick in team history.

None of Penn State’s seven rostered NHL draftees were selected by the Montreal Canadiens, but defenseman Cole Hults is a member of the Los Angeles Kings’ prospect pool alongside Turcotte, who didn’t play last weekend due to an illness. Because of that, the two players skated together at Los Angeles’ development camp over the summer.

Although the forwards and defensemen were split up for most of the Kings’ development camp, Hults learned that Turcotte isn’t just a high-skill player.

“He’s someone you want on your team. He plays hard, too,” the junior defenseman said. “He doesn’t just have that skill. He has that bite to his game. In camp, you don’t get to see too much, so I’m excited to see what he does at the college level.”

Penn State will open conference play against Wisconsin at 7 p.m. Thursday at Pegula Ice Arena. The two teams will close out their series at 6 p.m. Friday as part of the Nittany Lions’ annual Teddy Bear Toss contest.

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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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