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Flourishing Ryan Kirwan Leads Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Freshman Class

Penn State men’s hockey’s freshman class has made a crucial impact since the beginning of the season, but forward Ryan Kirwan has begun to stick out from the pack and quietly become one of the best talents on the team.

There were already high hopes for Kirwan when he committed to Penn State at 15 years old, and it’s safe to say he hasn’t disappointed. Kirwan has 11 goals so far in his rookie season, including two against Minnesota in the team’s most recent series.

“We have a lot of reason to be very optimistic,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said while reflecting on Kirwan’s potential.

While that’s high praise from Penn State’s longtime bench boss, it’s not the only thing he has said regarding Kirwan’s future and talent. Gadowsky thinks Kirwan could have professional ambitions, even just one season into his college career.

“He does have an NHL shot. He shoots the puck as well as anyone that’s ever played for this program,” Gadowsky said back in January.

Kirwan’s 11 goals rank him third among his teammates. He also ranks third in points (23) while landing fourth in assists (12). Kirwan is also the highest-ranked freshman in each of those categories this season among his teammates. 

Kirwan’s stats this season even put him among the best freshmen in the nation. Among first-year players, he ranks 15th nationally in total points and sixth in the Big Ten.

The aforementioned statistics prove that he is a promising player for the future of Penn State’s program. Guy Gadowsky has repeatedly praised his young forward and seems very confident about his future. 

“His release is immaculate. He’s just got it. You can’t teach it, and you can’t coach it,” Gadowsky said. 

Gadowsky, as well as Penn State’s other coaches, are impressed not just with Kirwan’s talent and promising future, but also with his work ethic off the ice. 

“You talk to any of the coaches, they’re very impressed with the attention and detail of what he has to do to make his game better,” Gadowsky said. “And then he does the things that you really can’t teach, such as that great release.”

Those words from Gadowsky are often things that tend to be said by coaches, scouts, and analysts when describing superstar players. They will say that they have that natural talent or “it” factor. While Kirwan may not be a generational player, Gadowsky’s bold and confident sentiments on Kirwan mean something.

Kirwan’s release and playmaking abilities are consistent aspects of his game. Take a look at one of his goals against Minnesota, for example. Kirwan’s timing and location were perfect, and he ripped the shot off just in time and put it in the right place. His skill level is very impressive, especially for a freshman. 

It’s plausible that Kirwan is the type of player that has the potential to be an elite goalscorer for this program and one of the best players in college hockey, having already established himself as one of the best freshmen around. 

If Kirwan’s potential is realized, it could do wonders for the program and attract highly touted prospects such as Logan Cooley, for example, who just committed to Minnesota over Penn State. 

Kirwan is, however, likely to improve even more in future seasons, and his progress as a player will be fascinating to watch. He credited some of the older players with helping his skills improve. 

“You know, the freshman coming in, we didn’t know what to expect, and they just carried us under their wings,” Kirwan said on Senior Night.

Kirwan has been a bright spot this season among the freshmen class, and he has the potential to possibly become one of the most talented forwards at Penn State in the coming years. He’ll get to continue his impressive season when Penn State heads to Michigan State this weekend to wrap up the regular season.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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