Danny Dzhaniyev is Starting to Find His Game Again

By Jacob Cheris on January 20, 2022 at 12:01 pm
Penn State freshman Danny Dzhaniyev toe drags around a Canisius defenseman to score a spectacular goal at the Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State Athletics

There is an old cliche that says "small but mighty". You can say the same thing about Penn State freshman Danny Dzhaniyev, who is just 5'4, 145 pounds. But size means nothing to the Brooklyn native. 

At the start of the 2021-22 season, the Nittany Lion forward got off to a terrific start. He racked up five points in his first four games, including this highlight-reel goal against Canisius.

However, his hot start turned frigid by the start of November. He was pointless in his next five games and then had only three points in his last 13 games. 

It was clear that Dzhaniyev's role on this team was not to score goals and put up points. Instead, it was to be a versatile player who can play a 200-foot game. 

When Connor MacEachern went down with an injury against Notre Dame, Guy Gadowsky turned to the freshman to play center, a position he played in junior hockey with the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

In Game 2 against Michigan, he was 10-of-17 on faceoffs and used his short stature to his advantage. With MacEachern's questionable status for the upcoming series against Wisconsin, it is safe to say that Dzhaniyev may play center again. 

"As a smaller guy, it's a little easier to get low and get more momentum off of your lower body," Dzhaniyev said. 

A huge responsibility of a center is to play solid on both ends of the puck. While Dzhaniyev has the offensive skill set, he has been focusing more on the defensive side. 

"He's focused a lot of his attention on [playing a 200-foot game] and he's come a long way as has all the freshman in that regard in the d-zone," Gadowsky said. "His attention to that has been excellent."

Teammates like fellow forward Tyler Paquette have also seen the work he has put in to be a more well-rounded player. 

"Everyone's seen the development with Dan. He's a super-skilled player, and he has the ability to make big plays," Paquette said. "I think a big piece of his game that's coming together is the two-way game. He's learning how to play away from the puck... whether it's winning battles or taking care of his d-zone [coverage], he's really developed his game and became more well rounded."

As Dzhaniyev says, he is getting better every game. 

"My hockey IQ is one of the top things that I have. I can find my teammates pretty well in certain situations," Dzhaniyev said. "I just think it's up from here. I don't think I'm gonna go backward in the wrong direction. So I just think that if I keep playing more and more, I will develop even more."

Penn State takes on Wisconsin for a Friday-Saturday tilt at Pegula Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions will lean on Dzhaniyev to succeed in the faceoff circle once again and play strong defensively.