Hockey captain shoots for success in class, on the ice

Senior nuclear engineering student Patrick Koudys shoots for excellence by balancing sports and studies as captain of the men's ice hockey team. Credit: Cate HansberryAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For Penn State senior Patrick Koudys, both of his primary interests were evident at a young age. At 3 or 4, Koudys had already taken after his father and picked up a hockey stick. At the same time, he was playing with Legos and exploring his interest in science.

It’s no surprise then that Koudys is now not only an excellent student in the nuclear engineering program but the captain of this year’s Penn State men’s ice hockey team.

A southern Ontario native, Koudys began his academic and athletic career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in upstate New York. After two years playing for the RPI Engineers and studying civil engineering, Koudys decided to transfer schools and spent a year playing in the U.S. Hockey League in Muskegon, Michigan.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky said he knew Penn State hockey was interested in Koudys when he was playing in Muskegon.

“There were several hockey programs that wanted him, he had plenty of choices,” Gadowsky said. “We were lucky enough that he chose Penn State.”

The feeling was mutual. Koudys was attracted to the quality coaching staff, brand new facilities and the allure of a pathway to the pros.

“Penn State is a better stepping stone for me to play at the next level,” Koudys said. “It’s a better place to develop as a player.”

Coming into Penn State, Koudys knew he wanted to continue studying engineering as much as he wanted to play collegiate hockey.

“When I was a kid I always said I wanted to be an engineer, even though I probably thought that meant I was going to drive trains,” Koudys said with a laugh.

He had been a civil engineering student at RPI, but decided to try a new discipline at Penn State to go along with his new team and new school.

“When I transferred I was looking at nuclear and aerospace, to try something new,” he said. “But aerospace didn’t accept transfer students, so nuclear was my choice.”

Although Koudys handles the pressure of being a Division I athlete and a full-time student extremely well, it isn’t always easy.

Gadoskwy recalled it was difficult for Koudys to come in as a transfer because of all the regulations he had to follow both to be an athlete and to be accepted into the College of Engineering. It was Koudys’ proactivity that allowed him to become a Penn State engineering student.

“He’s doing a lot more work than other students,” Gadowsky said. “He took five courses during the summer. He’s working extremely hard but he never complains about it.”

Koudys finds no reason to complain. For him, doing what he loves and getting a good education at the same time is well worth it.

“I don’t think many people get to play high-level hockey and get their education at a great university,” Koudys noted. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Koudys was drafted by the NHL's Washington Capitals in 2011, but deferred his professional career to finish his degree first.

“He wants to be successful,” Gadowsky said. “He wants to be successful in the classroom, he wants to be successful on the ice and he wants to be successful at life. Everything he does, he does extremely well. We don’t have to motivate him one bit.”

Gadowsky said Koudys is known as a serious student, a talented player and a dedicated teammate, but also he is “a really great guy to be around.”

“After being here only one year he was a unanimous selection for team captain,” Gadowsky said. “That says a lot about how confident the guys are in him on the ice but also says a lot about him as a person.”

For as much effort as Koudys puts into his education, playing professional hockey is the ultimate dream.

“That’s the goal,” Koudys said. “I want to have a great year and hopefully play pro after.”

This summer, Koudys went to the Washington Capitals summer camp for the fourth time. This year he was pleased to work with the Capitals’ new coaching staff.

“Every year there I grow and develop a lot as a player,” Koudys said.

He explained this year in particular was more effective than the previous years combined with a new, hardworking coaching staff and emphasis on player development.

“I have nothing but good things to say about them,” Koudys said. “I’m excited to hopefully play for them someday.”

Gadowsky said the Capitals were very impressed with Koudys and predicted he has a future in the NHL.

“He absolutely has a career waiting for him in hockey,” Gadowsky said.

“I plan to play as long as I can,” Koudys said. “Maybe after that I can consider a career in engineering.”

Despite his big professional aspirations, Koudys said he is trying not to look too far into the future. He is looking forward to the coming season with high expectations. He doesn’t want to make any predictions, but the plan is to make it to the NCAA tournament.

“We had some growing pains last year, but we look a lot stronger now,” he said. “We also kept a lot of the same guys from last year, so we’re already on the same page to start out. It feels good.”

Watch Koudys in the team’s first home matchup against the University of Connecticut at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Pegula Ice Arena.

Last Updated September 16, 2014