It was December of 2015. Arizona State had just been swept by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Technology, and head coach Greg Powers and assistant coach Alex Hicks were on a six-hour drive from Troy, NY and heading north of the border to just outside of Toronto in Whitby, Ontario.
Destined on landing coveted recruits for an upstart program that was making the jump from club hockey to the NCAA, the coaches were in search of program-changing players - guys who could step in right away and take Arizona State hockey from a club level to an immediately competitive Division I hockey school.
Upon arriving at the World Junior A Challenge, where some of the world’s top junior prospects were showcasing themselves, they took note of two defensemen who caught their eye.
One was Cale Makar, who is now playing for the Colorado Avalanche after being selected fourth overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. The other was a 6-foot, 185-pound, left shot d-man from the small town of Bonnyville, Alberta who was committed to the University of Vermont by the name of Brinson Pasichnuk.
Powers liked what he saw from the Bonnyville native, though himself and Hicks were looking at his future Sun Devil teammate Tyler Busch.
“Since he was committed, we weren’t really iso-camming him,” said Powers of Pasichnuk. “A couple months later, he became available and we jumped all over it. We threw a hat in the ring and put all our effort into trying to make him a Sun Devil.”
The push worked. Then came Nov. 10, 2018. ASU had just blanked Michigan State 2-0 at Oceanside Ice Arena, with Pasichnuk registering the game-winning power play goal.
“People would always ask me when I first committed here my first two years, ‘Why did you go there? You were committed to Vermont, you had other options,’” Pasichnuk said after his team swept the Spartans to start the regular season at 9-3. “Well, it’s funny how no one is asking me that now.”
After compiling 18 total wins in his first two years at ASU, Pasichnuk helped lead the program to two straight 20-plus win seasons, racking up 43 total victories and making the team’s first-ever NCAA tournament berth in 2019 while scoring the first-ever NCAA Tournament goal for the Sun Devils.
Pasichnuk attended his third different NHL Development Camp that summer, this time with the San Jose Sharks. He received a variety of NHL offers as a free agent during that period. However, he declined all of them with hopes of winning a national title in his final year of college hockey.
He was set on doing something special up until the season was canceled amid Coronavirus outbreaks just a few weeks ago.
Pasichnuk tallied 37 points in 36 games in the 2019-20 regular season, leading to his agreement to terms as an undrafted college free agent with the San Jose Sharks earlier this week.
His relationship forged with General Manager Doug Wilson and then assistant coach Bob Boughner during development camp helped speed along that process. San Jose made him an offer last summer, to which Pasichnuk responded honestly to them.
“I told them about my decision to return for my senior year and I built up a really good relationship with them,” Pasichnuk said. “They gave me their word that they weren’t going anywhere on me, even if I was going back...They treated me with nothing but the utmost respect.”
Some other perks of the agreement with San Jose is that the organization’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Barracuda, plays in the same venue as the Sharks at the SAP Center, meaning that Pasichnuk and his wife can reside in the same city whether he starts his pro career in the AHL or NHL.
Additionally, per Greg Cameron of College Hockey News, there will likely be two Pasichnuk jerseys in teal, as Brinson’s twin brother, Steenn, has been rumored to be agreeing to a minor league deal with the organization as well.
Arizona State F Steenn Pasichnuk has indeed agreed to an AHL deal with the #SJSharks, per source. Steenn attended last summer's development camp along with brother Brinson. Announcement should come closer to summer. https://t.co/p9wpAGKt6f— Greg Cameron (@gregdcam) April 1, 2020
The brothers also played together with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Bonnyville Pontiacs, and at Arizona State, or as they nicknamed it, “Alberta State University,” in honor of the western Canadians on the roster.
And now, it seems they’ll be apart of the same side once more with the Sharks organization.
Although nothing is official, Brinson hinted that there will be “exciting news soon,” regarding his brother, but it wasn’t his announcement or news to discuss.
Nevertheless, the Pasichnuk name, along with this year’s legacy of the senior class, is cemented with ASU’s hockey program.
The day that ASU seals a national title, Powers said that championship rings will be shipped off to those seniors, and he’s going to make sure of it.
“I can look myself in the mirror and truly be happy with where me and my class feel we are leaving the program,” Brinson said. “I think we helped build a culture that we really wanted here, and I think the biggest thing was getting the right group of guys in that locker room. That’s what Coach Powers has done.”
Powers believes that Brinson could play in an NHL game immediately, though, only time will tell.
Along with goaltender Joey Daccord, he could be the second Sun Devil to lace up the skates in the NHL.
In a report last week from AZ Central, it was announced that a recent plan has been devised with the Arizona Board of Regents to build a new 5,000-seat, on-campus hockey arena on the old site of Packard Stadium, pending a final approval.
Construction fences are already up around the site, and when it’s finalized, Pasichnuk can have his legacy and photo engraved on the walls of ASU’s new home ice.
That six-hour drive to Ontario in 2015 sure paid off.
“The opportunity to go to a traditional, established program is exciting and something you’ve always dreamed of to have your picture hung up in the walls of NHL players,” Powers said. “Here (at ASU), the opportunity is in our new arena that opens in 2022. You have the opportunity to have that hallway of NHL players named after you. That’s exactly what Brinson has probably done for himself. He took all those opportunities to establish a culture, be a pioneer and trailblazer, and he took it and ran with it and never looked back.”