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Los Angeles Kings’ Cole Hults Reflects On Time With Penn State Hockey, Eager To Get Pro Career Started

As the newest member of the Los Angeles Kings, Penn State hockey’s Cole Hults got some of his first chances to introduce himself to his new organization on Thursday.

Hults and a handful of other prospects within the organization met with general manager Rob Blake via FaceTime in the morning. Later in the day, the defenseman from Madison, Wisconsin was one of three Kings to meet with the media via Zoom.

In Hults’ words, it was “the right time” to make the move from Hockey Valley to the west coast. However, that doesn’t change the bittersweet feeling of how his final season of college hockey came to a close.

“I couldn’t be happier to be part of the LA Kings now,” he said. “[How the 2019-20 season ended] definitely stings. It was nice to get the regular season win, but ultimately, you want to win those tournament championships. We weren’t the only ones who were let down, so that kind of helps a little bit — and we got to end as regular season champions.”

As he mentioned, Hults will leave the college game as a champion after the Nittany Lions captured their first-ever regular season conference title. The road to the Big Ten tournament championship was set to run through Pegula Ice Arena since Penn State ended the year as the conference’s No. 1 seed. The team was all but assured of a return to the NCAA tournament as well, but both postseason competitions were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles’ media availability featuring Hults is a telling sign of how the organization views its newest defenseman. College-level standouts Alex Turcotte and Tyler Madden — perhaps the two best forward prospects in the organization — accompanied Hults on the call. Both players are expected to, at the very least, push for an NHL roster spot once the league’s 2020-21 season gets underway.

Hults may not be too familiar with Madden, who spent his college career at Northeastern and was traded to the Kings on February 17. He’ll have plenty more familiarity with Turcotte, who spent his only collegiate season with Wisconsin.

“Obviously, we played each other a lot — and they whooped us more times than we did. Those were tough games,” Turcotte, the No. 5 overall pick in last summer’s NHL Draft, said of Penn State. “They’re the best team in the Big Ten. They were an offensive team, running and gunning, and we were kind of the same way. I wouldn’t say there was much defense being played.”

“It was great. Wisconsin and Penn State have always kind of had that rivalry,” Hults added. “I’m from Madison, too, so it’s always cool coming back and playing those guys — and getting the best of them. [Chirping] is definitely going to happen.”

Madden and Turcotte may have a bit more of a reputation as top NHL prospects, but it’s hard to argue against Hults’ credentials. He never missed a game over three seasons with Penn State, and he departs as the Nittany Lions’ all-time scoring leader among defensemen with 78 points (17 goals, 61 assists) in 111 appearances.

Hults became notorious for producing and consistently playing well despite the lack of flash in his style of play. Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky referred to Hults as one of the lowest-maintenance, lowest-risk blueliners he’s ever coached numerous times. That style of play is why Hults became the first All-American defenseman in program history this offseason.

It’s only fitting that Hults looks up to Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter as a mentor. The All-American has actually had access to the Suter family’s workout facilities while the world has seemingly been paused throughout this pandemic, so he’s been able to stay in shape somewhat.

Suter has forged a 15-season NHL career with the same style of play that’s helped Hults become one of the top prospects in Los Angeles’ system.

“I like to compare my game to Ryan Suter — a low-maintenance guy. Obviously super effective at what he does, but he’s not super flashy,” he said. “Being from Madison, I grew up around the Suters, so I watched a lot of his game. I look at him as a mentor to me, so I watch and learn from him more than anybody else.”

When the NHL’s 2020-21 season gets going, Hults is set to enter a locker room with true championship pedigree. Much of the Kings’ core from their Stanley Cup title runs in 2012 and 2014 — including Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown — are still around. Los Angeles beat the New Jersey Devils in six games to capture its first-ever Stanley Cup in 2012 before beating the Rangers in five games two seasons later.

Although the Kings fell from grace and weren’t close to the playoff equation in either of the last two NHL seasons, walking into a team as experienced as Los Angeles is sure to be surreal for a young defenseman like Hults.

“It’s definitely cool. I remember watching those cup games way back when,” he said. “It’s humbling. I didn’t think I’d be here a couple years back, so it’s kind of crazy looking back at how everything worked out. It’s a surreal feeling.”

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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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