Patrick Koudys: Gentle Giant of Penn State Hockey
Patrick Koudys, the gritty, tough defenseman and nuclear engineering major, is making quite a name for himself early this hockey season. However, it was a long journey for the Penn State captain and Washington Capitals draft pick to get to where he is today.
Born in Smithville, Ontario, Koudys was part of a big-time hockey family and was immersed in the sport from a young age. His father Jim was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1982, while two of his cousins also played at the collegiate level. Patrick was surrounded by hockey from birth, and quickly picked up the sport for himself. There was one central figure who he credited to his taking to the sport.
“My dad, definitely. I learned to skate before I could walk. I was on skates around 3 or 4, I didn’t really know what I was doing then, I just kinda got put on skates and loved hockey ever since,” Koudys explained. “It’s just always been in my blood and my family forever.”
He grew up modeling his game after another imposing defenseman with offensive capabilities, Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks. Bieksa was born and raised in Grimsby, Ontario (right up the road from Koudys), and they both attended the same high school. Both players played for the junior league Burlington Cougars, Bieksa 12 years before Koudys. Bieksa also had a solid NCAA career, spending four seasons with the Bowling Green Falcons before being a fifth-round draft pick to the Canucks.
Flash forward to 2010, and it was Koudys’ turn to take on college hockey. The 2010-11 season was his first at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and as a first year member of the team, Koudys skated in 31 games and helped the team reach the NCAA tournament. The highlight of the year came after the season, however, in the fifth round of the NHL Draft. The Washington Capitals selected him with the 147th pick of the draft.
He moved on to spend another year at RPI before recognizing his true calling.
“Coming to Penn State was a no-brainer,” Koudys reflected. “Great facility, having the chance to play in the Big Ten with great coaches, and a great university to continue my education. It was a no-brainer, once I decided to transfer, that this was the place for me.”
After redshirting the season after his transfer, Koudys played a major role in 2013-14 — Penn State’s first Big Ten hockey season. He totaled eight points while playing in all 36 games, and was given two postseason awards: the team’s Top Defenseman and Player’s Player. Before this season, he also was given a new title via unanimous vote: team captain.
“It’s a huge honor to mean that all the guys thought that of me and I’m really fortunate. It means I’m doing something right, although I don’t really know what that is,” he joked. “Then again, we have a lot of great leaders in the room that don’t necessarily have letters that make my job a lot easier.”
Now playing in his final season of collegiate hockey, Koudys is more than an exceptional player. He’s one of the most respected figures on the team, as well as at other levels (having attended the Washington Capitals’ development camp every summer since he was drafted).
“It’s awesome. I have nothing but great things to say about [the Capitals]. Every year I’m learning more and more, and the ownership, management, and the coaching staff are all awesome. It’s a very professional organization, [and it’s a] huge honor to be a part of that.”
In two seasons playing for the Nittany Lions, it’s clear that Koudys has found himself a home. Despite the end of his successful college career nearing, however, he manages to keep himself focused on the present.
“I love all the guys here, love the facility,” he said. “I’m more focused on this year, and getting better every day, and next year we’ll see what happens.”
And he is getting better every day. The captain has a bright future ahead of him, but for now, all that’s on his agenda is leading the young Nittany Lions, and he’s doing a damn fine job.