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All-American Game, Five Nations Mark Memorable Highlights from NTDP Career for Daniyal Dzhaniyev

By Becky Olsen, 03/17/20, 1:00PM EDT


Penn State or junior hockey awaits the forward next year

Photo by Rena Laverty

Daniyal Dzhaniyev might have had the biggest smile on the ice during the BioSteel All-American Game at USA Hockey Arena.

“It was unbelievable,” he said of the Jan. 20 contest. “I had one of the best experiences of my hockey career. To play in front of that many scouts and teams, you think you would be nervous under the pressure and the lights, but rather you are really calm and collected.

“You feel you need to play to the best of your abilities, and I feel that I did that. I feel that it was really good for us as a team; we are never going to get that experience again. We played our hearts out and left it all on the ice.”

The game was won by Dzhaniyev and USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team, 6-1. But more important than the score or the stats was the experience, something the coaching staff made sure to impress upon the players.

“There is one thing that they said and that was to soak it all in, play to our identity and you will come out with a victory,” said Dzhaniyev. “I think the most important thing they said was to soak up everything and that was so important, especially in the first few minutes of the game and your first shift. You really need to bring it all in — all the scouts that are watching and all the people back home since you are on national television. It is unbelievable.”

Dzhaniyev definitely had a personal cheering section as his dad was in the stands, but he also had a rather large cheering section back home in Brooklyn, New York, who were able to watch him play on NHL Network.

“My dad came down for the game but my whole family was back home on the couch watching it and sending me videos after the game,” he said. “It was fun and a great experience. I think they had fun cheering me on.”

Dzhaniyev believes he has made some big strides from last year to this season as a member of the Under-18 team.

“I feel like I became more comfortable in my ability,” he said. “Over the past year, I have learned a lot and I feel more and more confident in my play. I feel that I can make more plays out there and really succeed.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

One of the biggest differences this season was adding the college games to the schedule.

“It was definitely tough. It was hard to get used to the speed and the pace that the game was played at [in college],” said Dzhaniyev. “I feel it was a really big stepping stone for us, getting a couple wins over college teams and then, heading back to USHL play. It really helped us in the Five Nations.”

In that December tournament, the U18s beat the Czech Republic (1-0), Switzerland (6-2), Finland (3-2) and Sweden (3-1) to claim the title.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“It was surreal,” Dzhaniyev said. “We were all waiting for a while for that one and we knew that was our shot at redemption. We knew that there were other countries that were above us, so we had to prove that we were No. 1. I feel like we have done that through these past two tournaments, and we have been with the best of them.”

He credits a very simple formula in helping the team have success this season.

“We have stuck to our identity,” he said. “We play hard and are in the other team’s face the whole game. We were relentless on the puck. We have to put pressure on the teams. Once we stuck to that, it really helped out to win games but also with our team play.”

The 5-foot-4, 136-pound forward understands the importance of team identity and that is why he committed to Penn State University. He knew it was the perfect spot for him once he set foot on campus.

“I visited there one time and it was the nicest facility that I have ever seen,” said Dzhaniyev. “The most important thing that stood out to me were the coaches. The whole coaching staff was unbelievable.

“Coach Guy Gadowsky brought me in, and it was unbelievable how they treated me and how they spoke to me the whole visit. They showed me around and told me a lot of good things about it. I think that was the thing that really stood out to me — just how much the coaching staff cared about their players.”

For Dzhaniyev, he is still trying to decide his plans on next year.

“I have a choice between going there next year and waiting for another year,” he said. “I think I’m going to play a year of juniors. I think it will help me with my development and I want to go into Penn State ready to go as a top forward so I can change the game and help them out.”

No matter when he plays college hockey, he understands just how important it will be to have played the college teams this season. He already knows he will reap the benefits once he sets his feet on PSU’s campus.

“It will definitely help,” said Dzhaniyev. “Since some of the freshmen class haven’t played any of the games yet, I will be able to know what I am up to, what is coming at me and how I should take things into my own hands and own perspective. I feel that I will be more ready to play at the college level than I would be if I haven’t played any college games.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

No matter what else happens, Dzhaniyev will always been honored for the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue.

“It’s an honor that you get wear it every day,” he said. “So many kids dream of having that crest on their jersey and I’m living my dream. I have to take it all in and never get lazy on the ice, or in the weight room, or never be late to anything. The USA crest on your jersey means so much and it is something that so many people dream about. I’m in a great position being able to wear it.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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