Magnus Chrona is six games into his college career, but it's not too early to put the University of Denver freshman goalie in the "pleasant surprise" category.
Because Chrona played for Skelleftea AIK in Sweden's top junior league last season, no one on Denver's current coaching staff had watched him stop a puck in person until the first day of practice this season. But coach David Carle and his staff like what they see.
Chrona is 6-0-0 with a .930 save percentage, a 1.83 goals-against average and two shutouts for the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
"He's had a couple of games where he's been really, really good. He's had a couple of moments where he's looked like a freshman, but overall we've been really happy with him,'' Carle said. "He has a good demeanor about him. What's exciting is it's his first year over in North America. The way he's adapting culturally, fitting in with classes and his teammates and all of that, is really impressive."
Adjusting to a smaller North American rink has not been a problem for the 19-year-old who was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fifth round (No. 152) of the 2018 NHL Draft.
"He's played four of six games on the small rink," Carle said. "We've talked about it. Things do happen, certainly, faster, but I think it's good for him. He has to be engaged all the time, which is kind of an area of his game that, if you wanted to get nitpicky, needs the most work."
Chrona is the second goalie from Sweden to play for Denver in as many seasons.
Filip Larsson, who helped Denver reach the Frozen Four as a freshman last season, signed with the Detroit Red Wings on April 15. He let his coaches know in February that he was thinking about turning pro, and Denver then got a commitment from Chrona.
Jones pitches in
UMass freshman defenseman Zachary Jones is doing his part following the departures of Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar to the Colorado Avalanche, and Mario Ferraro to the San Jose Sharks.
Jones had a goal and four assists in a sweep of Union College last weekend. He was selected in the third round (No. 68) of the 2019 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers.
A point producer with a high hockey IQ, Jones was United States Hockey League rookie of the year in 2018-19 for Tri-City.
Smith starts strong
After missing the first two games of the season with an ankle injury, freshman center Nathan Smith of Minnesota State University made up for lost time by scoring a goal and three assists in a 4-4 tie with North Dakota in his NCAA debut last Friday.
Smith was selected in the third round (No. 91) of the 2018 draft by the Winnipeg Jets.
"Comes to the rink every day with a smile on his face,'' Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings told the Mankato Free Press. "That goal that he scored was a pretty special goal. Great individual effort and a great finish."
Smith, who is from Tampa, played two seasons for Cedar Rapids of the USHL before enrolling at Minnesota State.
After starting the season at center, Providence College sophomore Tyce Thompson moved back to right wing last weekend with excellent results.
Thompson, selected by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round (No. 96) of the 2019 draft, had a goal and two assists in a 6-0 win at St. Lawrence on Friday and scored two goals in a 4-2 victory at Clarkson the next night.
His father, Brent, is the coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. His older brother, Tage Thompson, was selected by the St. Louis Blues with the No. 26 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft; he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2018 and plays for Rochester of the AHL.
Hobey Baker watch
It takes a special freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the top NCAA Division I men's player in the country.
Jack Eichel of Boston University (2015) and Paul Kariya of the University of Maine (1993) are the only two freshmen who have ever won it.
Look for freshman Cole Caufield of the University of Wisconsin to be a big part of this season's Hobey Baker Award conversation If he continues to find the net as he has over the first three weeks of the season.
Caufield, selected by the Montreal Canadiens with the No. 15 pick in the 2019 draft, has six goals in four games.
Blake Geoffrion (2010) is the only Wisconsin player to win the Hobey Baker Award.