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ASU Hockey: Sun Devils Team Success Leading to Production of Pro Talent

ASU becoming a pipeline for pro hockey talent
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When Arizona State played its first full season of Division I hockey as an independent in 2016-2017, no one knew how quickly the program would rise to prominence. Now fast forward to the present. The program was on its way to a second straight NCAA tournament berth before the season was canceled due to COVID-19, and just had another player get signed to a professional contract this past weekend.

Junior defenseman Josh Maniscalco was signed to a three year entry-level deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. The former co-captain for the Devils had 15 goals and 37 assists tallying 52 points in the 71 games he appeared in throughout his first two collegiate seasons. "In just two short years, Josh had a major hand in bringing Sun Devil Hockey to national relevance," ASU head coach Greg Powers said in a statement to Sun Devil Athletics.

Maniscalo is the fourth Sun Devil that has inked a professional contract this offseason as he joins defensemen Brinson Pasichnuk, forward Steenn Pasichnuk and forward Tyler Busch.

The Pasichnuk brothers both agreed to terms within San Jose's organization, with Brinson signing with the Sharks and Steenn with their AHL affiliate, the Barracuda. While Busch put pen to paper with the Buffalo Sabres ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones.

Brinson finished first in school history in points, racking up 107, games played with 136 and assists, dishing out 68 during his four-year career. He was captain of the team during his final two seasons and was a leader for the squad on and off the ice. Steenn was a defensive force on the team's fourth line, and played a key role on the Devils' penalty kill unit, while Busch finished his career third all-time in games played, points, goals and assists.

Former star goaltender Joey Daccord was the first Sun Devil to sign a professional contract after he agreed to a two-year entry-level deal back on April 1, 2019, with the Ottawa Senators. To date, the ASU hockey program has nine players who have signed professional contracts in North America.

The amount of players that have entered the pros speaks volumes to the team's overall success, especially over the past two seasons. In 2018-2019 the Sun Devils had a historic season. They got their first win against a top-10 team in program history after beating #6 Penn State on the road 4-3 in overtime and finished the season with a 21-13-1 record. They reached their first-ever NCAA tournament but lost in their only regional game to Quinnipiac 2-1. Forward Johnny Walker finished first in goals per game and second overall with 23 goals as ASU finished the year ranked 15th in the USA Today and USCHO polls. For context, the year prior, ASU finished 8-21-5.

Powers' team got even better during the 2019-2020 season. The program finished 9th in scoring offense with 3.36 goals per game, 10th in penalty killing percentage at 86.2% and 10th in winning percentage after finishing the season 22-11-3. The Devils were expected to make their second straight tournament before the season was canceled. They finished the year ranked 13th in both of the respective polls.

As past Sun Devils skate their way into professional careers, promising new talent heads down to the desert. Arizona State will have six incoming freshman part of the 2020-2021 class, with four of the recruits being forwards, one goaltender and one defenseman. Two of the athletes are NHL draft picks, as forward Ryan O'Reilly was the 98th overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 2018 while goalie Cole Brady was selected in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils. According to, ASU's recruiting class ranks fifth nationally.

For being the only division I hockey team in the southwest, coach Powers and company have made Arizona State one of the fastest growing and most prominent names in the sport. And with the way things are looking, Tempe is expected to be an exciting 'Cawlidge Hockey' town for the foreseeable future.