When Arizona State University made the transition to NCAA Division I, it was only a matter of time before the hometown Arizona Coyotes took advantage at the NHL Draft. As it turns out, "a matter of time" meant less than a year.
#19 on our countdown of players under 21 will forever be remembered as the first ASU hockey commit to be selected in the NHL Draft. That player is defenseman Patrick Kudla.
#19 - Patrick Kudla - Left Defenseman - Arizona State University - 158th overall pick, 2016 NHL Draft
Highest Rank: 15
Lowest Rank: 20
A native of Guelph, Ontario, Kudla came from the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he produced 13 goals and 53 assists in 50 games. His arrival in Arizona will be delayed by a year however, as he will play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL for the 2016-17 season before heading to ASU in 2017-18.
While in Dubuque, Kudla will join Arizona natives Carson Vance and Jaxon Castor, the latter of whom will also head to Arizona State. Dubuque will afford Kudla a chance to play high level development hockey for a team that has produced NHL players like Johnny Gaudreau and Zemgus Girgensons.
Kudla transitioned from forward to defense earlier in his career when it was clear he had a higher ceiling as a big D-man. He went from 5’ 11" to 6’ 3" in a matter of a couple of years, though his frame has not yet matched his prodigious growth in height. But his offensive instincts have persisted as a defenseman, which made him a natural target for GM John Chayka.
Kudla has only been a defenseman for a couple of seasons, which means he will need more time to truly know the position inside and out. So expect a slower development track on top of the already lengthy amount of time defensemen typically take to grow.
Yet in relatively short order, Patrick Kudla has demonstrated a knack for the position at a time when his skills will be at a premium. If Kudla continues to produce in the USHL and NCAA at the rate he did in the OJHL, Kudla could be a tremendous asset to the Coyotes.