Story by Evan Oscherwitz
Arizona State’s hockey program added another highly-touted player to its 2021 recruiting class on Thursday, when defensive prospect Ethan Szmagaj announced his intention to play out his college hockey career in Tempe.
A 6-foot, right shot defenseman who was originally committed to the University of Michigan, Szmagaj has eight points in 14 games this season for the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks.
According to scouting reports, he excels at puck retrieval, making breakout passes, winning one-on-one battles and using his smooth skating to elude forecheckers.
I am honored to announce my commitment to play Division 1 hockey at Arizona State University. Thanks to everyone who’s helped and supported me on this journey to becoming a Sun Devil.#ForksUp ?@SunDevilHockey pic.twitter.com/DBj8YfLUvl
— EthanSzmagaj (@SzmagajEthan) January 13, 2021
ASU’s defense corps has struggled to produce offense since losing Brinson Pasichnuk and Josh Maniscalco to the NHL, so Szmagaj’s offensive instincts will be a welcome addition to the Sun Devils’ blue line.
While Szmagaj’s path to Arizona State may seem unusual, he is not the first blue-chip recruit to trade maize and blue for maroon and gold.
Current Sun Devils defenseman and fellow Canton, Michigan native Jacob Semik was also formerly committed to play for the Wolverines, but ultimately chose ASU due to his relationship with assistant coach Mike Field, who served as an assistant with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints during Semik’s time with that organization.
Despite being the new kid on the block in the world of collegiate hockey, Arizona State has established itself as a prime destination for some of the nation’s best young hockey players in recent years.
The Sun Devils’ 2020 recruiting class was rated seventh in the country by online scouting service neutralzone.net and produced the likes of Matthew Kopperud, who leads the entire NCAA with 12 goals at the time of this writing.
Five of ASU’s six signees from last year have already earned spots in the team’s everyday lineup. As good as that class has proven to be, the 2021 class, headlined by Szmagaj and Arizona-born forward Josh Doan, has a chance to be every bit as strong.
Even with the impending departures of seniors like Jacob Wilson and Johnny Walker, the influx of young talent headed for Tempe ensures that the Sun Devils will continue to be a major player in college hockey for years to come.