By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While summer generally isn't considered a prime season for hockey, the National Hockey League calendar allots a few weeks during the off season for teams to develop young players and teach them their systems. Five current Penn State men's hockey players took part in NHL development camps this summer including freshman forward Nikita Pavlychev.
Pavlychev was drafted in the seventh round, No. 197 overall, of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and participated in the team's 2015 and 2016 development camps.
"I could never have imagined getting drafted by my favorite team," Pavlychev said. "It's a special feeling."
Pavlychev acknowledged how rare it is for a young player to de drafted, let alone by the team he has been watching since before he could tie his own skates.
While Pavlychev has been given the opportunity to attend two development camps since being drafted, he explained how he went into both camps with different mindsets.
"The first [development camp] I felt like I had a lot more pressure on me," Pavlychev said. "I was scared and didn't know really what to expect."
At his second camp with the Penguins this past summer, Pavlychev said it was nice coming back to a familiar setting and that he was eager to show the coaching staff how much he had improved during the 2015-16 season with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL.
"I felt a lot more confident and I knew exactly what to expect," Pavlychev said about his second development camp. "It went a lot smoother because it just felt better out there and I didn't have to be too worried about [my performance]."
During development camps, players work with the coaching staff, trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches to get a sense of what it's like to be part of an NHL team. The experience that Pavlychev had during both summers has encouraged the young player to push the limits of his abilities during his time at Penn State.
"It makes you look up to something and set a goal for yourself to make the team and work a lot harder," Pavlychev said.
While Pavlychev's goals are to contribute to the Nittany Lions in whatever capacity is asked of him this season by head coach Guy Gadowsky, he does eye a national championship in the program's future. Hoping one day to make the Penguins' NHL roster, he knows that the efforts he puts into the Penn State program now, could manifest into skating onto the ice in a Pittsburgh sweater one day.
Pavlychev's most obvious asset to his game is his size. Standing 6-feet-7-inches tall, Pavlychev has used the last few seasons to develop his abilities in the offensive zone and the physical aspects of his game.
"With time I was getting good and getting better [at using my size]," Pavlychev said. "I try to be physical and make plays at the same time. I want to be the guy on the ice who can do things other than hit."
For now, Pavlychev is eager to start the regular season with his fellow student-athletes and is prepared to don the Blue and White for the upcoming season.