After seemingly turning the program around in one season, Head Coach Adam Nightingale will be welcoming three incoming recruits for Michigan State Hockey next season that took part in the 2023 USA Hockey World Junior Summer Showcase.
The talent from Minnesota-Duluth transfer sophomore forward Isaac Howard, freshman goalie Trey Augustine and freshman forward Tommi Männistö, who all took part in the showcase, is enough to set standards for the program that Munn Ice Arena has not seen since 2008. Howard is the first NHL first round pick since Daultan Leveillë, who got drafted 15 years ago to play on an MSU hockey team.
Howard played for both the USA White and Blue teams in the camp, recording a goal and four assists in his outings.
“It's definitely nice to get a couple real games to get back into game shape in the summer,” Howard said. “It's almost like a little preseason action to the season. I'm feeling good. Excited to get back out to East Lansing this week and get back to work with the boys.”
Männistö and Augustine also had strong performances throughout the week as the forward notched two goals in Finland’s first win over USA White and the goaltender had a winning effort in the back of the net for White against Sweden in a 10-1 final score.
“Tommy was fun to watch, it’s the speed right away,” Nightingale said. “He’s a hard worker, he’s competitive, so he's been playing really well. Trey looks solid too, obviously he has talent in the doorway and he has made some big saves in this tournament.”
Although the potential from these three players alone is enough to get a whole program excited for its future, Nightingale emphasized that there is more to them than skill.
“Just because you're talented doesn't necessarily make a better hockey team, but I think what we liked about the guys is that they are hard workers and team guys, and I think that's really important,” Nightingale said. “We're excited about having access to the players and now it’s our job to help them be the best version of themselves.”
Both Howard and Augustine have seen Nightingale in action earlier in their careers, as they both played in the USA National Team Development Program where Nightingale coached.
“He's definitely a great, great coach,” Howard said. “He's a competitive coach. He only wants to win first. I think that's important. His practices from week to week and the way he runs things from a development aspect is really good. It's always working hard to get better every day.”
While the talent for these recruits are there, one thing that Nightingale stressed the importance for their development is the weight room.
“Isaac just got a year of college under his belt in the first year but it's a big jump,” Nightingale said. “Just overall making sure they’re working in a weight room and getting stronger, all three of them are really good players and just staying ready to raise their game.”
On top of these recruits, MSU hockey will be welcoming 12 more fresh faces to the team this winter. After an impressive year one under the new staff and now the upswing in talent on the roster, expectations for the program are higher than they have been in over a decade.