If Penn State is going to challenge for the Big Ten again in 2020, step one is going to reloading on the attack. One of the key figures expected to step up and help to accomplish that goal is forward Aarne Talvitie.
The New Jersey Devils draft pick was named an alternate captain for the season along with defenseman Paul DeNaples. Originally from Espoo, Finland, Talvitie had 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) last season in 30 games. Even with the shortened, conference-only schedule, this has the potential to be a breakout season for the talented junior.
A 15-goal season is very much on the table for Talvitie, and hitting that mark would be huge for both the program and Talvitie himself when it comes to his NHL stock. That number may be asking too much given the uncertainty of the season, but he has the ability to get to that mark even with a shortened schedule. Penn State's forward depth is very uncertain heading into the opening weekend against Minnesota, with the centers looking especially thin. This is a massive concern because teams need center depth in order to win games. Talvitie and Connor MacEachern are the likely top two centers, and Guy Gadowsky's teams have always thrived with strong play down the middle of the ice. Given the unknowns about the third and fourth lines of this offense, Talvitie and MacEachern's roles are even more vital.
Talvitie is a very skilled player with excellent playmaking ability and could be a very good AHL player for the New Jersey minor league team, the Binghamton Devils. He was also the captain of the Finnish National Team in 2019 and won the gold medal. If he has a breakout year, I would not be surprised if he signs an entry-level contract with the Devils. I think in about five years he can become a very skilled and reliable top six forward for New Jersey, a team that is still very much rebuilding.
Should he experience a strong campaign and choose to return as a senior, he will likely be the next captain of the Nittany Lions. The 2020 season is presenting him with a golden opportunity to not only put his leadership skills to the test but to show that he's ready to be the team's primary playmaker. If he can do that, Penn State will be in good shape.