It's official. Penguins defense prospect Clayton Phillips has enrolled at Penn State, DKPittsburghSports.com confirmed on Monday.
Phillips, who turns 20 next month, was the Penguins' third-round pick in 2017.
Penn State was rumored to be Phillips' preferred school since it was reported in June that Phillips was transferring from the University of Minnesota. Also, when Da Beauty League opened its season in July, it listed Phillips as playing for Penn State.
It's not surprising to see Phillips looking for a new start. He was initially not supposed to begin his collegiate career until the 2018-19 season, but was brought in by Minnesota midway through the 2017-18 season when Minnesota was looking to provide a spark to its offense. He played in just 11 games that season but burned a year of eligibility.
Last season was Phillips’ first full NCAA season, and he played under a new coaching staff in Minnesota. He was given a large top-pairing role and quarterbacked Minnesota’s power play, but he still didn’t seem quite ready for that responsibility.
“In my opinion, this is another unfortunate example of a player entering big-time college hockey before they are physically ready and, more important, mentally ready to compete against men and handle the demands on and off the ice,” saidCary Eades, general manager of Phillips’ former USHL team, the Fargo Force.
NCAA rules dictate that Phillips must sit out one year before playing for another Division I school as a result of his transfer. We reported in July that the Penguins are working to get Phillips immediate eligibility, however.
The NCAA can grant Phillips a one-time transfer exception, which would make him eligible to play for Penn State without having to sit out for a year. To obtain the exception, he would have to be academically eligible at his previous school (which he presumably was), and have the University of Minnesota state in writing that they do not object to Phillips being granted the exception.
If Phillips does play for Penn State next season, he'll be teammates with Penguins 2015 seventh-round pick Nikita Pavlychev, who will be a senior.