Emerging as Star for Penn State Men’s Hockey, Hun Alum Barratt Makes Impact on World Stage
LION-HEARTED: Evan Barratt heads up the ice in action this winter during his sophomore campaign for the Penn State men’s hockey team. The former Hun School standout is starring for the Nittany Lions, tallying 32 points on 14 goals and 18 assists through his first 21 games to rank third in the nation in scoring. In addition, he recently helped the United States National Junior Team take silver the IIHF World Junior Championships in British Columbia. (Photo by Mark Selders – Penn State Athletics)
By Justin Feil
When Evan Barratt won a silver medal with the United States National Junior Team at the IIHF World Junior Championships on January 5 in British Columbia, it added another major achievement for the star ice hockey forward who isn’t even 20.
“It’s definitely a bigger stage this time,” said Barratt, who won gold with the U-18 team in 2017. “Being a year older helps a lot in this tournament. It’s hard to win. Being there with a bunch of guys that I used to play with was a lot of fun, and going as far as we did made it pretty special, but it didn’t finish the way we wanted it to. I thought it was a pretty good experience overall.”
Barratt’s list of accomplishments – individual and team – has mushroomed over the last five years since he was skating for The Hun School. He was on a Raiders ice hockey team that twice won the Mercer County Tournament and returned from injury to help them to their first Prep A state tournament title since 1996.
He joined U.S.A. Hockey’s National Team Development Program after his sophomore year and made the national team that won gold at the junior world championships two years ago. In between, he was drafted in the third round by the Chicago Blackhawks and started his college career at Penn State. The sophomore forward was nominated recently for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation’s top men’s collegiate player.
“I love what I’m doing and I have so much fun doing it and playing here at Penn State is so much fun,” said the 5’11, 190-pound Barratt. “You’re not thinking about it as hard work or a job. The guys I play with at school make it easy to just enjoy myself and not think about it too much.”
Each level and each experience has helped to prepare Barratt for the next step, and he’s on the verge of getting a shot in the pros. Chicago has had representatives at Barratt’s Penn State games to monitor his progress and his preparedness for the NHL.
“My two years here, they’ve come and watched quite a bit,” Barratt said. “It’s been good communication between us. They’re just letting me do what I’m doing. They give you feedback when they come.”
The Blackhawks have to be loving what they see. Penn State certainly does. Barratt was third in the country with 32 points on 14 goals and 18 assists through his first 21 games. It’s already a big jump from last year when he had 11 goals and seven assists in 32 games.
“Automatically you see his IQ,” said Guy Gadowsky, the Penn State head coach who coached previously at Princeton University. “He’s a hockey player. His mind is elite, and you notice that right away. And you notice his compete level right away. Both are at a very high level.”
It was the same at Hun. His skills stood out on one of the best teams the program has ever produced, but something else set him apart and it’s continued to serve him well at every level.
“He just carried himself differently,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally. “He was uber competitive. He wanted to win so bad, just really, really wanted to win, and it upset him if someone took his puck. It’s not something that’s bred into everyone.”
Barratt was proud to make the junior national team again and represent the United States for a second world championships. It’s something the Bristol, Pa. resident never could have foreseen five years ago.
“It’s pretty crazy because you’re sitting on the couch during Christmas watching these tournaments and watching these guys, and you’re not really thinking about it when you’re that age,” said Barratt. “You’re worried about your stuff. It’s definitely pretty cool now. You’re thinking, ‘One day, maybe.’ You’re there more as a fan than ‘let’s-get-ready-for-this.’”
Playing in the national development program was a huge plus for Barratt. It was a more serious investment of his time and paired him with many of his future world championship teammates.
“I played with a couple of those guys for two years,” said Barratt. “You never forget your time there and the guys you played with. It kind of makes it easy when you get to play with them again. You share so many memories with those guys, it’s easy to work hard for those guys next to you. Going there with those guys is definitely a pretty cool experience.”
Penn State opened him to a new set of teammates and playing at another level. It’s pushed him to be a more physical player.
“You’re playing against a bunch of older and stronger guys,” said Barratt. “A guy who’s 18 years old and 190 pounds is not the same strength as a guy who’s 23 and 190 pounds. It teaches you how to use your body to your full advantage and teaches you how to play against guys bigger and stronger than you and still be able to do stuff and still be able to make plays when you’re on the ice. It’s definitely helped me.”
He experienced yet another level of competition at the world championships this year, and performed well. It started with his only goal of the tournament, the game-winner in the U.S.’s 2-1 win over Slovenia in the worlds opener.
“The main thing is there everyone is really, really good and everyone knows how to play the game the right way,” said Barratt.
“You go there and you know when someone is trying to make a play, it’s most likely going to be made. You have to be ready for that. All the guys in that tournament are really good players. It kind of makes your job easier when you’re playing with them, and then when you’re playing against guys like that from other counties, it makes it that much harder.”
The world championships brings together the best young players from each country, almost as though it’s a college or juniors all-star game.
“In a sense, it could be a little better than that,” said Barratt. “Everyone is so fast and good with their sticks and so smart, you don’t have too much time out there to make plays. You have to be on your toes for anything.”
Penn State had two players in the gold-medal game. Aarne Talvitie, a freshman at Penn State, captained the Finland team that won 3-2.
“No matter what, it stings, but you’re really happy for him,” Barratt said. “Him being the captain for that team is pretty cool and cool for the Penn State hockey program. Having both of us in there in that game is pretty special. Thank God it was him and not anyone else.”
Barratt, Talvitie and Penn State’s director of operations Alex Dawes, who served as video coordinator for the U.S. National Junior Team, made rooting interests tough for Penn State.
“Honestly, it was similar to when you see parents in the stands when their two boys are playing against each other,” said Gadowsky. “I didn’t care who won, I wanted both our guys and Alex Dawes, I wanted all of them to have a great experience and have a great time and be very successful. I wasn’t cheering for anybody, just individuals.”
Barratt is the first player from Penn State to play for the U.S. National Junior Team. He’s gained more insight into top level hockey, and that’s what the college program finds valuable.
“Whenever anybody has those types of experiences, whether they’re a part of your sport or not, it benefits the individual,” said Gadowsky.
“I think it’s great for your individual character. The sum of the team character is the sum of the individual parts, so that life experience on its own, having someone in our program with that life experience is a benefit. The on-the-ice experience, it’s very fast, skilled hockey. To play the number of games he did, I think they were highly emotional, and to do as well as he did also benefits you as an athlete.”
Barratt was always considered a good athlete. Though hockey was his main sport, he was also a talented baseball player at Hun.
“Wherever he was, everyone liked him,” McNally said. “There are other skilled kids that played and didn’t leave as big an imprint. The school is pretty proud of him.”
Barratt isn’t resting on a good showing at the world championships and his big jump at Penn State isn’t a coincidence. He’s worked to hone his skills further to be an even bigger threat. Gadowsky notes that Barratt still has the same competitive drive and high IQ, but he’s learned to control his emotions better, cares for the puck better and doesn’t take unnecessary risks, and skates faster thanks to his work in the gym.
“No one has ever mastered skating and fast starts and quick turns,” said Barratt. “That’s what I’ve been working on for a while now. That’s what I need to start working on more to eventually make it to the next level.”
That drive may be one of the best things about Barratt. Coming off playing in his second junior world championships, he’s no different than ever.
“It’s like he handles everything – the guys love him,” said Gadowsky. “He’s a great guy. You’d never know. He’s just Evan. He’s the way he’s always been. He has fun at practice, he has fun in the locker room, he has fun on the ice, nothing has changed in that sense.”
Upon his return, Evan Barratt shifted gears from aiding Team USA’s run back to helping No. 18 Penn State, now 14-10-2, go as far as possible. His next big step – a decision on the NHL — will be coming, but that’s not foremost on his mind.
“I haven’t really thought about anything aside from finishing our season,” Barratt said. “I don’t really know. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes. We feel like we have a good enough team to make a run here.”