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Coyotes pick, ASU recruit Patrick Kudla to find warm welcome in the desert

Patrick Kudla is headed for the desert to play for Arizona State next season. (Photo courtesy Dubuque Fighting Saints and Stephen Gassman Photography)

All Patrick Kudla ever wanted was to follow in his older brother’s footsteps as a hockey player.

“I would always go to the rink and watch and then I got old enough where I could start to skate and I took it up right from there. It started from there,” Kudla said.

The 20-year-old Canadian defenseman had no idea it would take him from the snow and cold weather in Guelph, Ontario, to the desert and dry heat to play for Arizona State’s men’s hockey team and, possibly down the road, for the Arizona Coyotes.

“When I went down to Arizona I kind of just fell in love with it,” Kudla said.

Kudla is spending his last year in juniors with the United State Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints before joining the ASU team in 2017.

“Dubuque gives me a really great chance to win and the league they play in the USHL is the best junior league you can play in before college and I think it will prepare me really well for my freshman year at ASU,” Kudla said. “I think that it (ASU) offers a unique experience opposed to a lot of other colleges.

“I could just tell they have a good hockey program and I think that it will excel in the next couple of years.”

ASU coach Greg Powers believes once Kudla arrives he will jump into the starting lineup.

“He’s so dynamic offensively,” Powers said. “He’s playing in a great league and really honing up his defensive skills.

“We are really happy about how he’s developing in the USHL this season. I think he’s going to step in right away and really contribute.”

Kudla believes his offensive skills and ability to move the puck is what will help him succeed as a Sun Devil.

“ASU has a lot of skilled forwards that are good at moving the puck so I think that my job will be to have a good skate and being able to move the puck up to those forward and join the rush and look for a lot of points from the back end,” Kudla said.

Kudla’s Arizona ties do not end with ASU.

The Coyotes drafted him in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft. But Kudla missed his name being called because he did not think he was going to be selected.

“I actually wasn’t watching (the draft),” Kudla said. “I wasn’t thinking too much of it, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to get drafted or not.

“They called my house and my mom was the one who answered it and she came outside to get me. It was a weird situation, I really didn’t have too many expectations of getting drafted but when it happened it was really cool.

The first step to someday playing for the Coyotes lies in Dubuque.

“I think it starts with a good year in Dubuque and hopefully I can do well (in Dubuque) in a good league and a high paced league,” said Kudla, who has two goals and six assists in 13 games for Dubuque. “It starts with one year at a time, not looking to far ahead, just focus on one step at a time.”