After last season’s disappointing conclusion -- missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years -- it looked like there would be roster turnover going into this season.
Evan Barratt looked destined to join the Blackhawks. Players like Alex Limoges, Liam Folkes and Peyton Jones looked like they may entertain NHL offers.
But none of that happened.
Instead of 2019-20 being a transition season, it is now a season with championship aspirations.
There wasn’t any substantial rumor that any of these players would leave, but them jumping ship to the NHL is consistent with what’s happening in the rest of the NCAA.
Forty-nine players across the NCAA left early to sign professional contracts, according to USCHO.com. Schools like Boston University have almost become NHL pipelines, bringing in high-end recruits for them to only play for a year or two before jumping to the pros.
The Big Ten was no stranger to this in the summer, as big-time players like Taro Hirose, Josh Norris, Mat Robson and most notably Quinn Hughes leaving early for the NHL.
Players like Hughes, top-10 picks before they even step onto campus, leaving early is no surprise, but more and more players are doing the same.
Even Penn State has had to deal with this in the past. In back-to-back years, Vince Pedrie and Andrew Sturtz left early.
But this summer, when it seemed like that trend would continue, it didn’t.
There could be many reasons for this. Maybe NHL teams just weren’t pursuing these guys. The Blackhawks, who have missed the playoffs, may just want to keep his development going before using him.
But for everyone not named Barratt, they have the freedom to pursue the opportunities they want. If they wanted to leave, they could’ve hired agents and went job hunting.
Guys like Folkes, Biro and Limoges would have definitely gotten looks if they tried.
And maybe they did try, but in the end, it led to nothing. They committed to staying at least for the year.
Maybe it was more of Guy Gadowsky and the coaching staff persuading them. Maybe it was more of just the player’s commitment.
Regardless, this past summer shows the mindset of this program. It doesn’t want to be a step on the road to the NHL. It wants to be a place for players who want to play college hockey.
Wisconsin will be one of the better teams in the country with the likes of freshmen Cole Caulfield, Alex Turcotte and returning K’Andre Miller on the roster.
But odds are none of those three play more than two years. There’s a chance they all leave after this season.
And who knows what will happen with Barratt and Limoges after this season? How will incoming freshman and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Kevin Wall approach his time at Penn State?
No matter what happens, the program has created a culture that stresses sticking around and focusing on the team's success.
Can that hurt the program in the future? It definitely could keep elite talents