EAST LANSING -- Matt Morrissey, a sophomore safety for MSU Football, was on the field when MSU shocked U-M on the final play of the game this fall. So he has already made a lasting impact on Spartan sports history. Now his buddy, Sam Saliba, will look to do the same on the ice for MSU Hockey.
Saliba will put on the Spartan sweater next season as a key member of a highly-touted incoming freshman class. The class is considered Anastos’ best yet, with the potential to one day be the greatest in MSU Hockey history. Saliba, a skilled forward prospect, officially signed his National Letter of Intent on Nov. 11, 2015 and is ready to begin his time in East Lansing.
He recently joined Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio.
“When I was in my meetings on my visit I got the sense, the feel that Coach (Tom) Anastos, Coach (Kelly) Miller and Coach (Tom) Newton, you just knew the passion and desire to want to win and I wanted to go somewhere (like that),” Saliba said. “I got that feel from everyone on the coaching staff. The campus was great. I know the standings have made it tough the last couple years but it’s a process. I’m really excited to get there and contribute in any way I can. I think we have some good days ahead.”
Of all the recruits coming to East Lansing next season, Saliba might hold the most experience of competing at a high level. Saliba has played three seasons in United States Hockey League from 2013-2016. During this time in the USHL he played for the Sioux City Musketeers (67 games) and the Green Bay Gamblers (82 games).
Saliba exploded on to the scene this past season with the Gamblers, leading his team in scoring with 52 points (29-23-52) in 59 games. He ranked tied for ninth in goals and 14th in points in the USHL. His strong offensive play helped the Gamblers reach the playoffs, which begins on April 17 against the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
As a player who has been around the USHL for the better part of three seasons, Saliba understands the importance of playing against tough competition. He said his time in the USHL has helped him grow as a player and could result in him making an instant impact next season.
“When you are graduating high school a lot of guys go to the USHL and it's such a demanding league,” said Saliba, who is 20 years old. “You play 60 games, you are on the ice everyday. Most guys play a year or two years in this league and the hope is to come in and go to college and be able to make that immediate impact. Help and contribute in anyway that you can.
“It kind of takes away the redshirting aspect out of it like you might have in football. The USHL prepares you so much for that. It really makes players ready when they step in right away.”
Saliba’s scoring ability was obvious this past season, but there is more to his game then putting the puck in the back of the net. He said he models his game around Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, looking to contribute in all facets of the game.
This ability to go into the corner and dig out the puck or not avoid contact to complete the breakout is credited to Saliba’s drive to win.
“The biggest thing is I love to win,” said Saliba, who is from Lake Forest, Ill. “I’m a guy who has taken pride in growing his game a lot (and) being able to play in different situations. Whether it’s power play, penalty kill, five-on-five late in the game, winning face-offs and being physical. So for me the biggest importance is to help the team win and whatever that role may be I try to do the best I can.”
Saliba’s passion for the game and winning makes him a perfect fit for a MSU Hockey program on the rebound. He is ready to get working next fall, and has already started to think about the first time he slips on that green-and-white sweater and steps onto the ice surface at Munn Ice Arena.
“Well it’ll be a lot of chills for sure going through my body,” Saliba said. “It’s definitely going to be a dream come true. I mean you work so hard to get to play D-1 college hockey and then for a program like Michigan State. Obviously with the ties I have there with Matt, other buddies, it’s going to mean a lot. Definitely going to wear it with a lot of pride.”