He won’t be in Happy Valley until the fall of 2016, but ’97 born defenseman Kris Myllari has the potential be a huge pick-up for Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions.
Myllari played with the prestigious Ottawa Senators Midget AAA program last year and had 25 points in 29 games played. The 6-foot-2, 185 pound rearguard currently plays for Kanata Stallions of the CCHL, where in 24 games he has two goals and 9 assists for 11 points. Myllari is smooth skating two-way defender, who never seems to be out of position. He can pass the puck with accuracy and isn’t afraid to jump on the rush. Myllari excels in all situations on the ice I know it’s way too early to tell, but he should be a top four defender at Penn State and probably will develop into their top pair.
Myllari did attend Canada East’s World Junior A challenge selection camp last month, but did not make the final roster. Not much of a surprise given he’s a ’97 birth year. He should make the squad next year if his progress continues. What I like about Myllari is his size at 6-foot-2 and his speed. First off, he’s only going to get bigger since he’s 16-years old. Second, you can never have enough mobile defenseman who are poised with the puck.
However, will he actually end up in State College?
Myllari was selected by the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs (34th overall) last year. His father Roy won a Memorial Cup in 1984 with the Ottawa 67′s, and played with current Frontenacs GM Doug Gilmour with the Cornwall Royals. Myllari even attended the Fronts’ OHL camp in August. One would think he’s destined to don the black and gold of the Frontenacs. However, in an interview last month with the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, Myllari seemed excited to join Penn State.
“It’s the Big Ten, nothing gets bigger,” he said. “You’re on the big stage and that’s key.”
We’ll see if he sticks to his commitment.
The reason why I bring this up is because anytime a committed NCAA player has major junior draft rights, there is always the chance he bolts. Just look at Montreal Canadiens 2013 first-rounder Mike McCarron. He originally committed to Western Michigan before jumping to the OHL to play with London. Blues prospect Tommy Vannelli left Minnesota this year to play with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. Heck, even current PSU goalie Eamon McAdam could leave and go to London, who hold his OHL rights.
Kingston is an up-and-coming team in the OHL that is loaded with NHL talent. Players such as Roland McKeown, Sam Bennett, and Spencer Watson all should be top 20 NHL picks come June. McKeown and Bennett both could go top 10 and Kingston should be Memorial Cup contenders for the next two-three years. I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t blame Myllari if he decides to decommit and play with the Fronts. They get NHL scouting exposure every night and play in one of the top junior leagues in the world. Myllari is a top 50 OHL pick and I’m sure Kingston will do anything in their power to keep him. Likewise for Penn State, who don’t want another Conor Garland or Thomas Welsh situation.
If he decides to stick with the NCAA route, I would like to see Myllari next year in the USHL until he’s NCAA ready. The Youngstown Phantoms hold his draft rights and he would only have to play one year in the USHL before coming to Penn State in 2016. Nothing against the CCHL, but the USHL is better competition as a whole. Myllari will have a chance to play against/with players he’ll see in college, and very well could turn into a star. Not to mention, he could have his name called early in the 2015 NHL Draft should he leave Kanata. I can’t say he would if sticks in the CCHL.
Nevertheless, Penn State fans should be excited about what Myllari will bring to the program. The Lions’ are still multiple recruiting classes away from contending for a national title, but Myllari is a heck of good start. Now, Gadowsky and his staff need to convince either a U.S. Developmental Program player to commit or a top USHL/U.S. High School player to come to Penn State. Once that happens, we may see more and more top prospects spending four years in the blue and white.
Update: Penn State dropped both game this past weekend to UMass Lowell to fall to 3-5-1 overall. The Lions’ have no games this weekend due to Thanksgiving break, but will return to the ice on Saturday Nov. 30th and Sunday December 1st as they host No.17 Union College. Tune in next Wednesday as I will preview their series against the Dutchmen.