Who is the Rangers latest acquisition, Patrick Khodorenko?
Every year we see players finish their college career and fulfil their wish of signing their first professional contract. And the success rate is often overlooked when fans get super excited about these new signings. There are definitely success stories over the years. Tyler Bozak with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009, or Dan Boyle with the Florida Panthers in 1998. More recently, and more relevant to Ranger fans: Neal Pionk in 2017. Pionk was considered the cream of the crop that year among undrafted college free agents, and we can see why. At the same time, that shows why fans need to be cautious with their expectations. These aren’t kids who will just walk onto the team and claim a roster spot right away. In many cases, these are kids who need a year or two to develop further, and crack the line-up later on.
Who is Khodorenko
Zach Aston-Reece, Drake Caggiula and Austin Czarnik are success stories, but they all needed time. Which brings me to Patrick Khodorenko. Before we dive into who he is, and where he comes from, let’s establish what we can expect from him. He signed an amateur try-out with the Wolf Pack, and an entry level contract with the Rangers starting on July 1st. The most reasonable expectation, if he makes it to the NHL. is that he cracks the line up in 2022. But who is this kid? And is there a reason to be excited?
Patrick Khodorenko was born on October 13th, 1998 in Walcut 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. 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 the potential, and Khodorenko ended up with the LA Selects, 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. Moving away from his family at age 14 was a bit of an adjustment, but he set goals that would be easier to achieve in Michigan than California. Khodorenko played for he Honeybaked Bantam team together with Mitch Lewandowski, who has been his teammate for the last 3 seasons with Michigan State as well.
US National Team
After 2 years with the Honeybaked program, Khodorenko moved on to his next adventure: the US National Team Development Program. He was ranked number 1 in his age group by several scouting services at the time, and joined a team that included Auston Mattews, 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 announced he had committed to Michigan State for the 2016-17 season.
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. Highly skilled, good hands, and the previous season, when Keller moved up to a different age group, Khodorenko got more minutes with the US NTDP team which resulted in better production. 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 year he went undrafted.
Heach 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, being involved in 44% of his team’s goals this season. He may not be the fastest skater but with the style of hockey he plays, he will be a welcome addition for the Hartford Wolf Pack in their hunt for the AHL Play offs.
Whether or not Khodorenko will make it to the NHL, remains to be seen, but if he does, his former buddies Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren will sure be there to look out for the kid.