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Pens Prospects Update: March Madness, college hockey style

Tristan Broz scores a huge goal, previewing the best time of the year for NCAA hockey

2024 NCAA Division I Mens Ice Hockey Championship Springfield Regional Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

The Frozen Four doesn’t come with quite the pageantry or attention of the NCAA’s premier March event for basketball, but the action on the ice for college hockey this time of year is worth taking notice of. The action is heated in the single-elimination tournament, and the games are widely available on the ESPN family of networks.

The tournament got started out with a bang yesterday. Penguins draftee Tristan Broz scored in double overtime to lift Denver over UMass.

Broz is something of a forgotten prospect for Pittsburgh. As a college student and player, the 2021 second round pick unavailable with his studies (and the tenuous nature of “amateurism” in collegiate sports that is rapidly slipping away) to participate in professional training camp in September, but has been a part of the team’s July prospect camps. At 21, Broz is finishing up his junior year. He has taken steps at Denver to become a point-per-game player. It might be about time to start his pro career in 2024-25, should he and the Pens be interested in signing a contract soon, there’s not much left for him to prove or grow at the NCAA level.

But for now, Broz is focused on getting the Pioneers a national title. He’s joined by several other Pittsburgh draftees and players to watch in this year’s Frozen Four.

Eyes in Pittsburgh will be looking at today’s Wisconsin/Quinnipiac game. The Pens have two prospects on the Badgers — there’s 6’5” defenseman Daniel Laatsch (seventh round pick in 2021) and newly acquired Cruz Lucius, who leads Wisconsin in assists and points this season. Quinnipiac boasts a Hobey Baker finalist in Collin Graf that the Pens and virtually every other NHL team would love to sign.

Along with Broz, Lucius and Laatsch, Pittsburgh has one other draftee in the tournament, 2022’s sixth round pick Luke Devlin. Devlin, a freshman, is on Cornell’s fourth line. Cornell defeated Maine yesterday and move on to play Broz and Denver in the next round tomorrow.

Pittsburgh has one other draftee that did not make the Frozen Four with Chase Yoder (sixth round pick, 2020) of Providence. Yoder, the Friars’ captain this year, led the team with a modest 11 goals this season. He is a senior but has one extra year of COVID eligibility to come back next season. Given that he hasn’t signed an ATO yet to join Wilkes, it might mean the organization doesn’t have pressing plans to bring him in or sign him at all.

Enjoy the action and from the Pittsburgh perspective, watch for when Denver and Quinnipiac might lose for what that could mean on ideally getting pen to paper on Broz and (fingers crossed) Graf in order to see more young talent taking steps into the organization’s pro ranks.