TEMPE, Ariz. -- Continuing to stick firmly to their "reload not rebuild" stance, defending ACHA national champion Arizona State picked up yet another significant recruit in their 2014 class on Monday.
Head coach Greg Powers has announced the addition of defenseman Ed McGovern, a Scottsdale native, to the Sun Devils. McGovern is the fifth addition to the class, joining fellow defensemen Gianni Mangone and Connor Schmidt, as well as forwards Connor Mailey and Mak Baden.
The pursuit of McGovern was a lengthy one by the Sun Devil program, and his commitment came as something of a surprise to the leader of the ASU program.
"Eddie is a kid that to be quite honest I did not think we would land," Powers said. "I have been reaching out to him for a couple of years now just trying to put ASU on his radar and everything kind of fell into place with him a couple of weeks ago."
“It’s a great school, great academics here. To top it off, they have a great hockey program," said McGovern. That’s something I want to be a part of.”
He also liked the prospect of staying home right here in the Valley.
“Growing up here and trying to get hockey more active out here, and playing in front of my friends and family and being close to home played a big role,” said McGovern, now one of four current Sun Devils who were born in Arizona.
Like several of his new teammates, the 21-year-old McGovern passed up on scholarship interest from a number of NCAA Division I programs to come to ASU.
"He had a handful of DI schools highly interested in him and in the end, the chance to win and play right away at his hometown school ended up being what won him over," said Powers.
McGovern spent the past three seasons with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, where he tallied 44 points and 279 penalty minutes in 183 games. Most importantly, the high level of competition developed his game.
“It made me grow as a person, and it made me grow as an athlete," McGovern said. "Last season, I think I played my best hockey ever. I’m glad I played there for three years. It’s great hockey up there. It helped my game grow.”
The 5-foot-10 McGovern brings a physical presence to the Sun Devils, and at 216 pounds is the heaviest player currently on the roster.
"Eddie is a leader on and off of the ice, he exemplifies what we want in our program in every way," Powers said. "He's big, tough, skilled, and plays with an edge that invigorates his team-mates every time he's on the ice."
“I’m going to bring a physical presence every night," said McGovern. "I’m a stay-at-home defenseman, but once in a while, if there’s an opening along the ice, I’m not scared to go up there and make some offense happen. Typically, I’m a feared player to play against, and I’m not easy to play against.”
Beyond his physicality, McGovern is also an accomplished leader, having served as the Stampede's captain. With the departure of eight key seniors from last season's championship team, including captain Colin Hekle and assistant captains Kale Dolinski and Danny McAuliffe, McGovern will be looked to early to help fill that void.
"I see him as an obvious and immediate impact guy but also as a guy who will be a great leader," said Powers. "He's a natural leader and when he is on the ice, other teams are going to know it with the physical presence he brings. Eddie is the kind of kid who can take our program to the next level with the presence he brings. He's that good."
That quality did not happen overnight, but rather was something McGovern worked on over the last few years.
“I’ve worked on it (being a leader) for the last couple of years, especially playing up in the USHL," McGovern said. "I lead by example, working hard every day, being consistent, doing the right things on and off the ice. If I need to say something, I’m not afraid to say it, but mostly I lead by example.”
McGovern, Mangone, and Schmidt join a blueline led by junior standouts Jordan Young and Brett Blomgren among five defensemen that tallied extensive playing time last season. That kind of depth will make for some tough game day decisions for Powers.
“We have a deep roster back there," McGovern said. "Everybody can play the game well. It’s going to be a challenge every day in practice to make the lineup. That’s going to push us to get better.”
"Our D core is clearly stacked," said Powers. "We now have 4 USHL vets on our back end and literally all of the other guys are incredibly high end too, so our depth at that position is scary."
It's not just a deep and talented group, but also a young one that could terrorize the ACHA for years to come.
Last season, ASU leaned heavily on a group of first-year defensemen comprised of Drew Newmeyer, Alex Temby, Jarrod Levos, and Troy Hoban. Those players now return with championship experience. Along with goaltender Robert Levin, the ACHA's Rookie of the Year and MVP of the ACHA National Tournament, the Sun Devil defense has the opportunity to grow into not just something special, but perhaps historic.
"I think the best thing about our D core is that we have no seniors and only two juniors, so this core along, with Levin in net, has a chance to take our program to a even higher level of excellence as a unit and I know they will embrace that opportunity," said Powers. "I believe without any shadow of a doubt that our D core is the best the ACHA has ever seen."
For McGovern, his goals for his freshman year are a little more modest.
“I just want to be toughest guy to play against on the ice," said McGovern. "I just want to win the game. That’s the most important thing."