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Former Penn State Hockey Star Denis Smirnov Signs With ECHL’s Grizzlies

Former Penn State men’s hockey forward Denis Smirnov has signed with the Colorado Avalanche’s ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies for the 2020-2021 season.

Smirnov is one of the last of his former graduating teammates to ink a professional contract this year. Fellow Nittany Lions Nate Sucese (Arizona Coyotes), Brandon Biro (Buffalo Sabres), Liam Folkes (Bakersfield Condors/Frederikshavn White Hawks), Nikita Pavlychev (Syracuse Crunch/Orlando Solar Bears), Blake Gober (Tulsa Oilers), and fellow Grizzly Kris Myllari have all signed professional deals since graduating from the program.

As a Nittany Lion, Smirnov was invaluable early in his career to the team. During his freshman season, he was first nationally in scoring with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 39 games. In his sophomore season, Smirnov put up 27 points in 30 games (15 goals, 12 assists,) before scoring 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 37 games his junior season and 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 31 games his senior season.

Smirnov leaves a legacy with the program by having the most career game-winning goals in program history (10), being tied for first for power-play tallies (13), and being just one of four players to hit the 50 goal mark.

In the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the forward was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the sixth round (156 overall.) While he is currently part of the Colorado Avalanche organization, Smirnov became an unrestricted free agent on August 15. For three months, he wasn’t a part of the Avalanche organization after being tied to the organization for over three years.

Smirnov will head to West Valley City, Utah, and join former teammate Myllari in a phased return to play planned to start on December 11.

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About the Author

Acacia Aster Broder

Acacia is a junior from Philadelphia majoring in digital and print journalism with a sports certificate. Although she considers herself a Philadelphian at heart, she is a Toronto and Seattle sports fan. Follow her on Twitter @acaciaaster or Instagram @acaciaastr for hockey takes and mediocre analysis.

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