When the news broke a few months ago that the Rangers signed Patrick Khodorenko, I couldn’t believe it. I remembered Khodorenko from his days with the US NTDP. Back then I had access to their games through ESPN America on TV in the Netherlands. He was one of those prospects who I expected to be drafted but somehow wasn’t. So who is Patrick Khodorenko? I was fortunate and excited to sit down and chat with the young center to find out.
California to Michigan
Patrick Khodorenko was born on October 13th, 1998 and grew up in Walnut Creek, CA. His parents moved to the United States from Belarus in the mid-90s and young Patrick started playing hockey thanks to his dad who also played. His path took him to the Oakland Bears, Santa Clara Blackhawks, San Jose Jr Sharks and the Anaheim Wildcats. He moved to Irvine when he was 11, after he was spotted by a coach who saw great potential, and Khodorenko ended up with the LA Selects. He played against Ty Ronning and Mathew Barzal who were on the Burnaby Winter Club Bantam team at the time.
He was traveling on weekends to play hockey and while Khodorenko enjoyed it, he decided in 2012 to move to Michigan and stay with a billet family. “I traveled a lot more than the average youth hockey players, that is for sure. When I was in 8th grade actually I was traveling down on Fridays to LA to practice and play games with the LA Selects Bantam team“. Moving away from his family at age 14 was an adjustment, but he set goals that would be easier to achieve in Michigan than California. Khodorenko finished the year 3rd in his league in scoring with 40 points in 23 games while winning the National Championship.
Khodorenko played for the Honeybaked Bantam team together with Mitch Lewandowski, who has been his teammate for the last 3 seasons with Michigan State as well. All and all, Patrick would spend 10 yeas in Michigan. “I billeted for 2 years with Honeybaked and we actually won the national championship in my first year there.” Patrick also talked about the sacrifices of his parents, “After that I went on two play for 2 years with the NTDP and my parents moved out to live with me for those 2 years.”
After two years with the Honeybaked program, Khodorenko moved on to his next adventure: the US National Team Development Program. He was ranked no 1 in his age group by several scouting services at the time, and joined a team that included Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller, Matthew Tkachuk, Charlie McAvoy, and 2 current Rangers in Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren. Khodorenko broke his leg just a few weeks ahead of the u18 WJC and he was forced to sit that one out. He also announced he had committed to Michigan State for the 2016-17 season. “I committed to Michigan State because it felt like I was comfortable in Michigan and it seemed like a great opportunity for me to get better in all areas of my game“, he explains his decision.
Still a year away from being draft eligible, the young center had options, but his injury put things into perspective. “You never know what’s gonna happen. If I get injured again, I have my degree to fall back on”, said the then 17 year old. He had lived in Michigan for 4 years by the time he committed and he felt it was a good fit. Starting the season with 4 points in 9 games, Khodorenko had a good freshman year and he was one of those prospects that fans loved.
As a highly skilled player with good hands, he moved up a line when Keller moved up to a different age group. With Khodorenko getting more minutes it saw his production spike and pre-draft scouting reports were positive. The transition to college however wasn’t as smooth as many had hoped. It was a decent year for the then 18 year old, but the following summer he went undrafted.
Head coach Danton Cole has been a huge inspiration and help to Khodorenko. Having coached him with the US NTDP for 2 years, and later on with Michigan State for 3 years, they have worked together 5 out of the last 6 years. Cole praises Khodorenko for his maturity and has seen him develop over the years. What stands out this season is how he has taken his team by the hand and carried them through the season.
After the departure of Taro Hirose, who sighed with the Detroit Red Wings last year, Patrick Khodorenko led his team in points in his final season. He was involved in 44% of his team’s goals this season and leading the team both on and off the ice. Khodorenko looks back on his time in college with a smile. It was a great way to develop and it’s something he won’t forget. “My experience at school was amazing. We had good times and bad times on the ice but ultimately I think I grew as a player and person over the 4 years”, he said.
When asked about his most memorable game as a Spartan, Khodorenko didn’t need to think long. “One highlight I had from the 4 years was my Junior year we were down 7-4 with maybe 4 minutes or so left and we ended up winning the game in OT. One of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of or witnessed“. Khodorenko refers to the game against Ohio State on January 4th 2019. Assisting on the last 2 goals by his team in the final 5 minutes, the Spartans tied the game 7-7 and Khodorenko finished the game with 4 assists in total.
For anyone interested, highlights are available HERE.
With Khodorenko spending most of his life in the state of Michigan, it should come as no surprise that his favorite player is a legendary Red Wing. “My favorite player growing up was Pavel Datsyuk. I loved how he was able to be dangerous from anywhere on the ice. Especially his extraordinary ability to steal the puck away from opposing players“.
Fans who have read previous interviews know that I am always curious about a player’s number, so I had to ask our latest free agent acquisition. Khodorenko chose 13 when he played for the Honeybaked team and the LA Selects before that. Datsyuk was the main reason behind that decision but when he played in college, number 13 wasn’t available. Khodorenko decided to go with a number that holds special meaning to him.
“55 wasn’t actually my first choice at school but I like how it looks. I played with it when I was younger and I chose it when I was in house league because that’s the number my dad had when I watched him play in his adult league games“. If Khodorenko makes the team, he would have to fight his former teammate Ryan Lindgren for the number 55. Patrick also played with Adam Fox on the US NTDP and has remained friends with both of them. The rugged defenseman and slick blue liner were the first to reach out to Khodorenko when he signed his ELC: “They both texted me saying congratulations. I was really happy to hear from them as I haven’t spoken to them in a while so that was cool.” Patrick is eager to hit the ice with some of his old teammates in the near future.
Turning pro and picking the Rangers
After finishing his 4th year in college, Khodorenko had 1 goal; to turn pro and sign an NHL contract. The exact number of teams interested in him is unknown, but he was widely regarded as the top college free agent available and I wouldn’t be surprised if many teams approached him. Khodorenko was flattered when the Rangers were one of the teams to reach out. “It’s a great opportunity. They seemed really eager to add me to their organization and I felt like they really wanted me. It felt like the best option for me”, he said about his decision.
Khody, as his teammates call him, played 1 game for the Wolf Pack before the season was cancelled. Khodorenko isn’t eligible to be part of the extended roster once the NHL playoffs start, as his entry level contract kicks in when the new season starts. The pandemic has certainly impacted life in the Khodorenko family, who are currently back in California. “I’m just trying to find things to do and entertain ourselves with around the house. Basically just workout in the morning and then the rest of the day is filled with finding things to do around the house, playing ping pong or basketball“. In his parents’ backyard he has a hoop and plays there with his brother to pass the time.
When he starts in Hartford next season, an added bonus is that it gives Vitali Kravtsov someone to talk to. Khodorenko speaks Russian at home, and with Shesterkin in the NHL, Rykov possibly going back to the KHL with a European Assignment Clause in his contract for the upcoming season, Khodorenko and Kravtsov could spend some time talking in Russian.
Author’s Note: As always, I want to thank the player, Patrick Khodorenko in this case, for sitting down with me and telling me his story, giving me the opportunity to share it with our readers.