Recruiting is always a big deal in college sports. Even though the spotlight is shined on college football and basketball, colligate hockey recruiting still has its own importance.
For the Penn State Nittany Lions to get back where they were two years ago - raising a Big Ten regular-season championship - they have to go back to the drawing board and look for some young talent. That's what head coach Guy Gadowsky did and this incoming class features lots of size and skill.
Here are the newest Nittany Lions for next season.
Alex servagno, lw, 5-9, 170
Servagno spent the last three seasons of his junior career with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. Ryan Kirwan and Tyler Paquette are the two current Nittany Lions that have gone through the Gamblers' system.
This past season, Servagno had a career-season racking up 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games which ranked fifth among the team.
It might be tough for Gibsonia, Pennsylvania native to crack the lineup immediately because Penn State did not lose any forwards in the offseason. He is the only freshmen forward coming into the lineup. However, it would not be surprising if he out-plays some of the bottom-six forwards.
Servagno originally committed to Ohio State back in October 2017 in his first season with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 16U squad, but ultimately decommitted and signed with Penn State this past January.
Servagno has a decent shot, but he is known for going to the front of the net. He scores his goals on second and third-chance opportunities.
Dylan Gratton, ld, 6-0, 180
Gratton will be joining his brother Tyler this season. The Pottstown, Pennsylvania native is a defenseman who likes to jump up into the play and is not afraid to shoot the puck.
Gratton is a player where if you arent focusing on him you may not notice him, but not in a negative way. He plays a defensively-minded game, making simple and efficient plays, but is still able to generate some offense— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) May 21, 2021
More on Dylan Gratton below!#2021NHLDraft #USHL https://t.co/URjscj84X6
Lots of scouts were surprised when he wasn't selected in the 2021 NHL draft. This past season with the Sioux City Musketeers, he racked up 18 points (3 goals, 15 assists), which was third among Musketeer defensemen. He also had a +/- +19 rating.
All season, @NHLChiasson was telling me about how underrated Dylan Gratton was— Gabe Foley (@NHLFoley) August 1, 2021
I could never get as high as Gav was on him... but as I rewatch video from last season I finally see it. This kid should not have gone undrafted
He's headed to Penn St this year. Watch out for him
Gratton seems to be more skilled than his older brother. Tyler is more of a grinder that plays with a physical edge, while Dylan seems to be a more well-rounded player.
Nice move and finish here by North Jersey Avs 16U LD Dylan Gratton. Penn State commit is likely a NTDP Evaluation Camp Invite. pic.twitter.com/JrHuVKUJbZ— Jeff Cox (@jeffcox425) September 24, 2018
One thing that sticks out immediately about Gratton is that he is not afraid to go to the open ice. When there is open ice in the offensive zone for a prime scoring opportunity, he will make himself open to score. That fits into the offensive identity that Penn State is known for.
Ashton Calder, RW, 6-2, 200
Arguably the biggest addition to this Penn State squad. Calder was the second acquisition from the transfer portal in late April. The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan native spent last season with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks leading the team with 11 goals.
Calder brings experience to the Nittany Lions' dressing room along with much-needed depth scoring. His biggest strength is his stick-handling ability. If he is on a breakaway, there is a good chance he's gonna fake the goalie into last week.
Similar to Gratton, Calder is excellent at going to the open ice and splitting the defense. The graduate student will slot right into the second line right wing and will help with offensive zone entries on the power play.
Jarod crespo, rd, 6-0, 190
Crespo played with Servagno on the same Gamblers team, where he served as captain. Crespo is a very physical defenseman that is not afraid to mix it up with the other team.
While the Eastampton, New Jersey product had a career-season with 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists) for Green Bay, but had a plus/minus -20 rating.
Number 23 ranked fight this season - 5 votes or more:#hf2021top50 < Click here to see 24-50— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) June 13, 2021
February 13, 2021
Green Bay Gamblers
Full fight and where to rate: https://t.co/4a3qTgvRMV pic.twitter.com/Wowjh5y0Im
Crespo had 82 penalty minutes and was suspended two games for that open-ice hit. However, he had 131 shots with the Gamblers. Gadowsky said in his postseason media availability that he wanted to be a tougher and more durable team to play against, so Crespo will help that cause.
Carter schade, ld, 5-11, 185
Schade is the second left-shot defenseman in this class. Schade was the 2019 first overall pick in the USHL draft going to the Lincoln Stars. The Mars, Pennsylvania native had 31 points in 59 games with the Stars, which was a career-high. Schade was also third on the team with a plus/minus +21 rating.
Carter Schade scores on a delayed penalty! pic.twitter.com/HjK5icSQKM— x - Lincoln Stars (@LincolnStars) March 27, 2022
Even though he is listed at 5-foot-11, Schade is not afraid to throw his weight around.
Getting a 200-foot defenseman like Schade is another huge addition to a Nittany Lions defense that gave up the third-most goals in the Big Ten last season.
Schade plays on a team that struggles offensively, making his main focus defense-first so his point totals are not a true representation of his offensive abilities. He is a two-way defenseman who is strong defensively, but...— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) May 22, 2021
More on Carter Schade below!#2021NHLDraft #USHL https://t.co/vuugKJQBtm
Between Gratton, Crespo, and Schade, all three are going to get ice time at some point this season. The back-end was the biggest need that Gadowsky wanted to address and all three make their case to be a regular in his lineup.
Schade and Gratton are the two freshmen blue-liners that are likely going to see the most ice time.
Noah Grannan, g, 6-2, 190
It is unclear whether Grannan is coming into Hockey Valley as the backup behind Liam Souliere, or the third-string behind Doug Dorr. That is a question that will be answered in August. This season with the Sioux Falls Stampede, he struggled going 10-13-3 with a 3.25 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage.
Sioux Falls failed to make the USHL playoffs so he may have struggled because the team in front of him was not good.
The Germantown, Wisconsin net-minder also spent two seasons with the US National Team Development Program on both the U17 and U18 squads.
Over the next weeks we're going to be highlighting all of our U18 players with their own .— USA Hockeys NTDP (@USAHockeyNTDP) March 30, 2020
First up: Wisconsin native Noah Grannan pic.twitter.com/B4ZbFdPN48
Grannan is good at reading odd-man rushes and is good at moving from one goal post to the next. Goaltending is once again the number one question for Penn State heading into next season.
ture linden, c, 6-0, 200
Another graduate transfer that Gadowsky was able to snag is RPI's leading point scorer. Linden will be the sixth center on the Nittany Lions roster. He won 49.3% of his draws with the Engineers.
Linden has a very quick release and is strong at shooting on his off-wing.
The Great Falls, Virginia native was also a finalist for the ECAC Best Defensive Forward Award, blocking 26 shots.
Adding a defensive forward that can score gives Linden an easy case to be Penn State's top center. Linden will join the current center core of Ben Copeland, Ben Schoen, Connor MacEachern, Chase McLane, and Carson Dyck.
Linden is going to play regular minutes for Penn State, it's just a question of who he replaces.
This incoming class makes Penn State a more physical and skilled team that will take the current core to a new identity of Penn State hockey.