Penn State will fully enter the NCAA Division I hockey waters this season, its first as a member of the all-new Big Ten Conference after spending last year as an independent. It will also begin its tenure in its new on-campus home of Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions also will feature a pair of players who were chosen in June’s NHL Entry Draft in incoming freshmen Eamon McAdam and Mike Williamson, the first Penn State selections since the program was elevated to varsity status.
“It’s nice for the program, and it’s exciting for them,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “They’re the first two [incoming] Penn Staters to get drafted.”
The New York Islanders took McAdam in the third round, 70th overall, while Williamson was tabbed by in the sixth round, 175th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks.
They join junior defenseman Patrick Koudys (Washington Capitals, 2011) and junior forward Max Gardiner (St. Louis Blues, 2010) as NHL draftees on the current Penn State roster, although Koudys and Gardiner were drafted well before they transferred in from Rensselaer and Minnesota, respectively.
“We’ve liked them all along, and it’s always nice to get drafted,” said Gadowsky, who previously coached future pros at both Alaska and Princeton, of McAdam and Williamson. “It’s what the NHL thinks of their potential. Now it’s up to them to work hard and achieve that potential, and our staff looks forward to helping them do that.”
McAdam, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound goaltender from Perkasie, Pa., spent the last three seasons with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. Last winter, he put together a 17-9-3 record with two shutouts in 31 games, to go along with a 3.45 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. In his career with the Black Hawks, he fashioned a 30-18-3 mark in 58 career appearances.
“It was pretty surprising when the Islanders picked me,” said McAdam, a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan as a boy, in a transcript from Penn State. “I hadn’t talked to them too much. To hear my name called was a pretty shocking and exciting experience at the same time.”
Williamson, a 6-3, 195-pound defenseman from Leduc, Alberta, prepped the past three seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints, with whom he recorded a goal and 10 assists in 23 outings last year. Including the 2009-10 campaign with the Drayton Valley Thunder, he registered 10-19–29 points and 110 penalty minutes in 69 career AJHL contests.
“Yeah, it was a pretty crazy feeling for sure [being drafted],” Williamson said in a transcript. “I was just sitting at home, obviously watching all day, and then my name popped up. My family and I were very excited, and it was good news.”
Williamson, who grew up an Edmonton Oilers fan, related that he had no firm idea where he might go during the draft. NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings put him at No. 183 among North American skaters, but he was just hoping he would hear his name called sometime during the seven rounds.
“It couldn’t have worked out much better,” Williamson said of being chosen by the Canucks. “I mean, it’s a childhood dream to get drafted, and it’s just a bonus that it’s close to home.”
Now he’ll be joining a nascent program that got its feet wet at the NCAA Division I level last season after dominating the American college club hockey scene for four decades, winning seven national club championships.
The Nittany Lions notched their first-ever NCAA win in overtime against American International last October, and by season’s end had also recorded victories over such established Division I hockey schools as Air Force, Ohio State, Vermont, Michigan State and Wisconsin, while sweeping Alabama-Huntsville.
Both newcomers agreed that being chosen by an NHL club did nothing to change their immediate career plans, as they believed they still needed some time to mature in the incubator of college hockey.
“I’m still going to be at Penn State for as long as it takes,” said McAdam, who attended the draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on June 30. “I’m not a pro-ready goalie by any means. It’s almost not even a thought for somebody in my situation. I’m just looking forward to my time here.”
“I’m looking to come into Penn State next year full force, hopefully to be an impact player,” said Williamson, “then play it out year-by-year there and hopefully everything goes well.”
Williamson said he had heard good things about Penn State, which is situated roughly 2,200 miles from his home in western Canada.
“I played juniors with [Penn State rising sophomore] David Glen, who played there last year, and from what he has told me it’s been great and he’s really enjoyed it,” he said. “I am looking forward to being a part of it.”
Gadowsky was excited about Penn State’s seven-member Class of 2017 as a whole, and added that everyone associated with the Nittany Lions has been looking forward to the new conference and the new arena this fall.
“Night in and night out, the Big Ten will be extremely difficult,” he said. “But it’s fun, and that’s why you come to Penn State. The building will be ready in September and our first game is Oct. 11 [against Army], and then it’s on to the Big Ten schedule.
“There’s a lot of very exciting new things going on.”
McAdam, who was scheduled to attend an Islanders development camp before returning home to the Keystone State, is also looking forward to helping the Nittany Lions continue to put their mark on the NCAA hockey map after so many successful seasons at the club level.
“It was one of the main reasons why I committed to Penn State,” he said. “I’m really excited about being one of the original guys here and hopefully having a big role in really progressing the program at a rapid pace.”