Ben Schoen, a 4.5-star recruit who committed to Penn State this summer, is looking to take his game to another level for the Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) this season.
Schoen had 28 points (6 goals, 22 assists) in his USHL rookie season last year. This summer he had five points (1 goal, 4 assists) at the Select-17 camp and then was selected for Team USA’s entry into the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he posted three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in four games.
The former Miami recruit is an Ohio native who grew up playing youth hockey for Belle Tire and Little Caesars in Michigan. He was selected No. 239 overall (12th round) in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Sarina Sting.
“He’s super quick and light on his feet and has a clever stick to get around defenders 1v1,” our scouts noted last summer. “He has excellent puck touch, processes the game with pace and has just enough jam to show he isn’t afraid despite his size but doesn’t go as far as to get distracted and get himself in bad spots. He’s an exciting player to watch because he can fly and makes slick moves at full speed but disguised in his flashy skill is a sophisticated approach; he reads plays, he has a patient stick and makes really smart passes. He isn’t a powerful shooter but he reads goalies movements and positioning and can aim his shots in stride and he takes the right pursuit angles when pressuring the puck.”
NZ: As you were going through the recruiting process – originally choosing Miami and then switching to Penn State – what made Penn State the place for you?
Schoen: “Penn State has shown their success in the Big Ten and also with how they are developing players for the next level, which was huge for me. The campus and ice arena are unbelievable and the coaches were great to me the whole time during the recruiting process. The biggest thing for me was just how comfortable I felt with all the coaches and how I could really see myself there and playing at Penn State.”
NZ: You’re listed on as an Ohio native, but it looks like you grew up in the Michigan area? Or at least played hockey there. Granted there was a coaching change, but was it a tough choice to re-open your recruitment being committed to Miami and being born in Ohio?
Schoen: “It was really tough to leave Miami, and being from Ohio makes it tough for sure. But I just felt with Penn State was the best fit for me and developing me for the future.”
NZ: How would you describe yourself as a player? What do you see as being your strengths?
Schoen: “I’m obviously a smaller guy and playing with bigger guys is tough. But the biggest thing I use is my speed and quickness to get away from guys or to get around guys. I also can see the ice well and can make plays for me and my teammates. I’m good in tight areas because I can get out quick and make space for myself.”
NZ: Making the jump from midget to the USHL last season, what was the biggest adjustment you needed to make? What were some of the biggest things you learned playing with and against older players in the USHL?
Schoen: “Yeah, it was not an easy adjustment moving to the USHL and playing against bigger, older and faster guys. The biggest adjustment was just making faster plays. You only have so much time with the puck so you have to move it and get up the ice quick. It was tough at first but you adjust to the speed and get more comfortable as the season goes on.
“The biggest things I learned was just how little time you have with the puck and how making quick plays up the ice will get you to offense faster than trying to skate it all the way up by yourself. Also, just how to act on and off the ice. We had great leaders in Youngstown who taught me a lot and great coaches.”
NZ: What are some of your personal goals for this upcoming season? Anything within your game you’re looking to improve, specifically?
Schoen: “A personal goal, for sure this year, is to have more production on offense. I also want to have a great regular season and have a run in the playoffs.”
NZ: You were selected by USA Hockey for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer. What was that experience like?
Schoen: “It was an honor to be selected for Team USA and to be able to play in a tournament like the Hlinka. It was an incredible experience and just awesome to be able to compete against some of the best players in the world. You never know when you’re going to be able to do something like that again, so I just took in as much as I could and enjoyed every bit of it.”
NZ: Our scouts have noted your quickness and speed. What do you do to work on that speed?
Schoen: “I’ve always kind of had quickness. I think the biggest thing for me was just playing other sports at a young age and having to use it to my advantage. For example, I played basketball, and as a smaller guy, you have to get around the defender with quickness. I also played baseball and when pitchers are throwing pretty hard you have to have quick hands to hit the ball. So I’ve always kind of had that quick touch in the sports I played.”
NZ: How important is that speed when you are going up against some bigger, stronger D? I’d imagine that’s where your elusiveness comes into play the most.
Schoen: “Yeah, my speed and elusiveness is huge for me in my game and how I play. I think just being able to make a defender bite one way and being quick enough to go the other way and get distance so I have time and space to make a play.”