Player Spotlight: Paul DeNaples
Being one of the youngest players on the Penn State men’s ice hockey team at 20 years old, Paul DeNaples has made the type of immediate impact that is seldom expected of a freshman. Not only is he getting significant playing time, but he is also leading the country in plus-minus, with a whopping rating of +19.
DeNaples will point to his forward teammates as deserving of credit for his gaudy rating, but it is no secret that he and fellow defenseman Cole Hults are playing phenomenal defense within their pairing.
“I take pride in my defensive game, and if I take care of the back end, that’s going to cause a lot of offense. That’s my job out there, me and Hults: play good defense, and then the forwards [will] take care of the offense, and that gets us the plus” DeNaples said.
While relatively new to the program, DeNaples has immersed himself much quicker than any could have expected. With the quick turnover reality of line shifts in hockey, DeNaples has begun to understand how important it has been to have a bad short-term memory: learn from the last shift and move on from it.
“A good shift, you build off that. A bad shift, you’ve got to come back to the bench, and you’ve got to put it past you real fast, because in two more minutes, you’re back out there, and you have to make a difference and an impact. You always have to be strong and always have that mentality of going hard and doing your job out there.” DeNaples said, noting how important the mental game is, as important if not more than the physical.
Consistency has been a theme for the Nittany Lions as they approach the halfway point in the season, and DeNaples has been no exception.
While Penn State can explode for scoring outputs of 11 as it did against Robert Morris, DeNaples has provided the type of even-keeled mindset that can steady a defensive unit that requires help at times. This task, however, has not been easy at times.
“It’s hard and easy in the same sense [to stay focused]. It’s hard to be dialed in and mentally ready, but once you get in a rhythm and start to get your groove going, then I think it starts to become easy.” DeNaples said.
In what has been an easy transition in most facets, the switch from junior hockey to Big Ten action can be somewhat intimidating at times for the freshman. After a road trip to Columbus that saw Penn State and Ohio State split one game apiece, DeNaples remained optimistic and quick to thank others around him.
“It was different compared to my junior's road trips, flying and everything. I’m not used to it. But it was awesome, they treat us world class. I couldn’t complain about anything. It was a good weekend, going 1-1. We could’ve pulled out a second win, but you can’t complain about our record.” DeNaples said.
DeNaples and the rest of the Nittany Lions will look to continue their winning ways with another road trip looming large, this time against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.