Number of players lost: 9 – (7 due to graduation, 1 to the NHL (Casey Bailey, Toronto) and 1 by dismissal due to violation of team rules (Scott Conway))
Number of incoming freshmen: 7
Last year, in just its third season as a division I program, Penn State looked like it was a program on the verge of great things. Had they been able to keep their leading scorer, Casey Bailey, around for another season and had leading freshman scorer, Scott Conway, not violated team rules, the Nittany Lions could have been considered a top two finisher in the Big Ten this season. But those losses, plus the graduation of dishmaster Taylor Holstrom puts a major dent in the offense. The graduation of Partrick Koudys and Nate Jensen from the defensive core are considerable losses as well.
I don't see any of Penn State's freshmen forwards being able to make up for the losses, but I do see them having a potential role regarding the depth of the team as fourth liners. The defensemen have some quality talent, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or more of them play a primary role this season.
Chase Berger, Forward, St. Louis, Mo.
The brother of former Princeton University captain Jack Berger, Chase enters his freshman year in Hockey Valley coming off of a 28 point season with Tri-City (USHL). In 119 games with the Storm, he had 24 goals and 33 assists. The former St. Louis Amateur Blues product isn't necessarily a consistent scorer. I see Berger getting spots in the lineup here and there during his freshman year, with the potential to work his way into the lineup as his career progresses.
Alec Marsh, Forward, Bridgewater, N.J.
After spending his first two seasons in Cedar Rapids with the RoughRiders (USHL), Marsh played for three teams during the 2014-15 season. He began in Cedar Rapids, was moved to Sioux Falls and finished the year in Fargo. He scored 28 goals and had 44 assists in 147 games over his USHL carrer. I'm tagging Marsh as another “depth” player. His adjustment to college hockey in his first and even second year at Penn State will tell what type of contributor he will be.
Matt Mendelson, Forward, Pittsburgh, Pa.
A consistent scorer from his youth days with the Pittsburgh Hornets and Penguins AAA teams to his time at the USHL level with Muskegon and Bloomington, head coach Guy Gadowsky is hoping Mendelson can bring the same offensive prowess to his program. Matt already has familiarity with the school, given that his sister Cara played for the women's team. At the very least, his leadership skills are impressive. He's coming off a season where he won the prestigious Curt Hammer Award. When it comes to finding his niche in the Penn State depth chart, I don't see a major impact from him right away, but I do see a bright career.
Kevin Kerr, Defense, Bensalem, Pa.
A teammate of Chase Berger's with Tri-City (USHL), Kerr will bring a lot of creativity and has a free-flowing style that the Penn State defense needs. He was second on the Storm in terms of defensive scoring with seven goals and 22 assists. Over the course of his 118 game USHL career, he had eight goals and 30 assists and seemed to be a very disciplined player. He has a solid resume to offer and he's a good two-way player. If Kerr is able to handle the defensive challenges that the Big Ten offers, then he'll fit right in to Guy Gadowsky's system.
Vince Pedrie, Defense, Rochester, Minn.
Coming into collegiate hockey at 21 years old, Pedrie is 6'0, 185 lbs and brings a lot of experience to Guy Gadowsky's roster. He spent the beginning of the 2014-15 season with Bloomington (USHL) before being dealt to Tri-City to team up with Kevin Kerr and the Storm. Over the course of 62 games last season, Pedrie had 13 goals and 15 assists. I see him as a player that has a chance to make appearances throughout the season, especially with Penn State's defensive core coming into question.
BONUS VIDEO: Pedrie was named Bloomington's Player of the Month last November. Check out some of his highlights here.
Derian Hamilton, Defense, Port McNeill, British Columbia
Hamilton has some pretty good size to him, standing at 6'1 and 175 lbs. No doubt he'll gain some weight as the years progress at Penn State. If there's any common theme to the defensemen that Gadowsky brought into his program, it's that they all possess offensive capabilities. Hamilton is no exception. He spent almost all of the past three seasons in the VIJHL with the Nanaimo Buccaneers and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. In 142 games in the league, he had 28 goals and a very impressive 116 assists. It goes without saying that the VIJHL isn't the USHL, but you can't help but raise your eyebrows looking at those numbers. Once again, like Pedrie, if Gadowsky spots him in the lineup and he produces accordingly, that's where he'll stay.
Here's an extended look at Hamilton via onwardstate.com
Chris Funkey, Goalie, Orland Park, Ill.
A credible netminder from the New Jersey Hitmen (USPHL), Funkey will be filling the third goalie spot left open by the graduation of PJ Musico. Not much to touch on here in terms of playing time this year, as senior Matthew Skoff and junior Eamonn McAdam will have the goaltending duties this season. If anything, Funkey should just sit back and learn all that he can for next season. It might prove to be beneficial if he's to be Penn State's goalie of the future. If you see him in the net this season, it'll be because of injuries or because the Nittany Lions simply aren't performing well, which I don't think will happen. Then again, Ohio State's third string goalie Logan Davis has played under extreme circumstances. So I guess you can never say never.