Penn State landed a huge commitment yesterday when it was announced that Indiana Ice(USHL) forward Denis Smirnov had committed to the Nittany Lions.
Smirnov, a 1997 birthdate, is a native of Russia, but came to the United States as a bantam to play for the somewhat controversial Wilkes-Barre/Scranton "super team" that imported a number of top young players from Russia as well as Canada, and ended up winning a USA Hockey national championship.
Last summer, he signed a tender with the Indiana Ice, and has been exceptional in the league despite his young age. With 24 points through 28 games, he trails only fellow Penn State commit Scott Conway in scoring on the first place Ice. Smirnov is a smaller forward, listed at only 5'7", but is an incredible stick handler and plays stronger on the puck that his size might indicate.
While Penn State may have won the first stage of the recruiting process with Smirnov, their work may not be done. Because Smirnov is a Russian, he hasn't been drafted into the CHL yet. He will be eligible for the CHL Import Draft for the first time next summer, where he will likely be selected and heavily recruited by whichever team selects him.
Regardless of how things eventually turn out, it is good to see Penn State landing commitments from such elite talent, and shows that it may not be long before they're competing with college hockey's best.