Penn State Hockey’s Cole Hults Signs Entry-Level Contract With NHL’s Los Angeles Kings
Penn State hockey defenseman Cole Hults has put pen to paper on his first professional contract with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings announced Hults’ signing, which ends his college hockey career after three seasons, on Saturday evening. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract.
Hults, a left-shot blueliner from Stoughton, Wisconsin, blossomed into one of the very best defensemen in college hockey over the last three years. At the start of his freshman year, Hults was widely expected to fill the void left on Penn State’s blue line by Vince Pedrie, who signed a pro contract of his own in the offseason before Hults’ arrival. After three seasons, 111 games played, and 78 points, it’s safe to say Hults exceeded those expectations.
The Kings’ 2017 fifth-round draft choice got off to a hot start in his freshman year, but his point production tapered off a bit as the 2017-18 season went on. Still, his 20-point output in 38 games marked an impressive start to his college hockey career.
After spending most of his freshman year on a pairing with veteran Erik Autio, Hults was paired with then-freshman Paul DeNaples during the 2018-19 season. The two blueliners eventually became Penn State’s steadiest, most consistent duo on the back end, and Hults’ offensive production flourished as a result. He scored six goals and 22 assists in 39 games played as a sophomore, and his defensive game also improved alongside DeNaples.
Last year was Hults’ finest season as a Nittany Lion. He was nominated for the Big Ten’s defensive and overall player of the year awards after scoring 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) in 34 appearances. Although Penn State never got the chance to realize its postseason potential, the Nittany Lions were primed for deep runs in the conference and national tournaments in no small part thanks to Hults’ steady, risk-free style of play.
Hults never missed a game for the Nittany Lions during his time in Hockey Valley, and his game evolved as he got more ice time. The puck-moving defenseman vowed to shoot more prior to his junior year, and that paid instant dividends through a hat trick on opening night. Hults’ trifecta of goals against Sacred Heart marked the first three-goal game for a defenseman in program history.
At the international level, Hults made Penn State hockey history when he became the first Nittany Lion invited to the United States’ preliminary roster for the World Junior Championships in 2017. Though he didn’t make the final team that year, Hults’ inclusion on the preliminary roster was a significant achievement for Guy Gadowsky’s program.
The defenseman’s departure is another tough blow for Penn State, which lost star center Evan Barratt when he signed his ELC with the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this offseason. Seniors Brandon Biro and Nate Sucese joined the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, respectively, as undrafted free agents, and Liam Folkes inked a pro contract with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
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