Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Championship Game vs. Notre Dame, Coach Gadowsky

Head Coach Guy Gadowsky looks toward the play during the Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Championship Game against Notre Dame at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind. on Mar. 23, 2019. No. 16 Fighting Irish defeated No. 17 Nittany Lions, 3-2.

Normally highlighted by a slate of returning veterans, Penn State will have an intriguing group of newcomers that will look to make an impact right away this season.

The blue and white’s new faces include six freshman and three upperclassmen, some of which should see playing time during the 2019-20 campaign, in addition to the 20 returning players.

Penn State’s biggest offseason addition was defenseman Clayton Phillips, who transferred from Minnesota to Happy Valley in September after two campaigns with the Golden Gophers.

After being granted an NCAA transfer waiver, Phillips will be eligible to play this season and has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining.

“It’s a huge addition, being able to have him on our back end,” forward Nate Sucese said. “He’s an incredible 200-foot defenseman with a lot of offensive ability.”

The junior played in 45 contests for Minnesota from 2017-2019, scoring one goal and recording nine assists. Prior to playing collegiate hockey, he played three seasons in the United States Hockey League, a top junior hockey league.

“He’s a solid, two-way defenseman,” fellow member of the blue line Paul DeNaples said about his new teammate. “He’s going to contribute pretty well on the power play unit he is on.”

The transfer adds another NHL prospect to the Nittany Lions’ already potent roster.

Phillips was selected by Pittsburgh in the third round (93rd overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, and according to DK Pittsburgh Sports, he is a top 20 prospect in the Penguins’ farm system.

“He’s an awesome kid to be around away from the rink, so it fits right into the culture here,” forward Evan Barratt said about Phillips. “It’s a huge pick up, maybe [he] could’ve been the missing piece.”

Men's Hockey vs. Minnesota, Barratt (17)

Evan Barratt (17) makes a pass while surrounded by Minnesota players during the men's hockey game against Minnesota at Pegula Ice Arena on Feb. 9, 2019.

Penn State also added transfer forward Bobby Hampton this summer. A junior, Hampton played the last two seasons with Northeastern, but will have to sit out the 2019-2020 campaign with the Nittany Lions due to NCAA transfer rules.

The third upperclassmen added to Penn State’s squad was goalkeeper Will Holtforster. The senior is no stranger to playing between the pipes at Pegula Ice Arena, as he manned the net for the Ice Lions, the school’s club hockey team, for the last three seasons. 

Holtforster follows in the footsteps of former goalie Matt Erlichman, who made the same transition from club to collegiate hockey prior to the 2017-18 campaign. Similar to Erlichman, Holtforster will serve as the Nittany Lions’ third goalkeeper.

Six freshmen round out the list of Penn State’s offseason additions. The Nittany Lions welcome four forwards and two defensemen, bringing their roster total up to 29 players.

“As a whole they brought a lot of great team speed which obviously fits well with us,” senior Kris Myllari said about the freshmen. “They fit in beautifully with the culture.”

Men's Hockey v. Michigan, Kris Myllari (4)

Defenseman Kris Myllari (4) plays the puck during a game against Minnesota at Pegula Ice Arena on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Penn State won the game 7-2.

Freshman forward Connor McMenamin has caught the attention of several upperclassman throughout practice. The Pennsylvania native played for the Tri-City Storm of USHL, and will look to find playing time behind a slew of experienced forwards.

“He skates very well and he takes care of the puck,” Barratt said about McMenamin. “He knows what he’s able to do and he stays within his abilities.”

Other forwards Tyler Gratton and Connor MacEachern have also turned some heads on the practice rink. Products of the USHL as well, the pair will look to transition their game from major junior hockey to the NCAA.

“They play with a lot of tenacity,” senior Liam Folkes said about the pair. “They have some scoring abilities.”

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