Defenseman Patrick Koudys of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute never had the look of a deer in headlights despite being the final North American skater to earn a spot at the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month.
In fact, he looked right at home. In addition to conducting his seven scheduled interviews with NHL teams, Koudys finished in a three-way tie for fifth in the bench press during the fitness portion of the Combine, doing 12 reps with 150 pounds on the bar.
One reason Koudys probably felt so at ease was the fact his father, Jim, gave him a good idea of what to expect. Jim Koudys was drafted in the 12th round (No. 252) by the New York Islanders in 1982, and after playing three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sudbury Wolves, he played three seasons in the minor leagues (1984-87).
"My dad was a huge influence, and still is," Koudys said. "He played at a pro level and knows what he's talking about. He sees a good game and if I need tips, he can always help me and give me good advice. Some people asked if he was pushing me to the (OHL) because he went to the O. But it was almost the opposite, where he was pushing me to school more than the O. He's been a major influence and continues to be."
Koudys, a civil engineering major, has every intention of continuing his career at RPI in the fall despite the fact he was drafted by the Oshawa Generals in the seventh round of the 2009 OHL draft. He chose to follow the same path as his father's cousin, Randy Koudys, and attend RPI. Randy spent four seasons playing forward at RPI (1980-84), totaling 22 goals and 85 points in 100 games.
"I feel I'm a solid two-way defenseman," Patrick Koudys told NHL.com. "I'm a player you could rely on, put over the boards and not have to worry. If a team needs a defensive-defenseman, I'm that guy. An offensive guy, physical presence or a fighter … I can do that, too. I feel I can fill that role, so that's one good thing I can bring to a team -- versatility."
Koudys wasn't too concerned with the fact he slipped from No. 71 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft to No. 76 in the final rankings.
"I realize I was the last North American to be invited to the Combine, so there's still lots of room for me to grow," he said. "I learned a lot at RPI this year and hopefully I'll go back and learn a lot more. I think teams will see that in the next couple of years when I'm able to step up and be a more of a big-name person."
As a freshman this past season, Koudys had 1 goal and 2 assists in 31 games -- all his points came in 19 ECAC contests. In addition to participating in the Scouting Combine, Koudys was part of the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp last summer.
"It's not easy playing hockey and being an engineering major, but all the teachers were good," he said. "A lot of the older guys who had been through it before gave me some pointers. I went to classes with a freshman teammate (Johnny Rogic), and it became easier once I was settled in and was able to meet some people. Time management was a big thing this year, and I definitely learned that, for sure."
Koudys also exhibited plenty of composure on the ice, learning to control his aggression since dropping the gloves would earn him an automatic one-game suspension by NCAA rules. It was a tough adjustment, but the 6-foot-2 1/4, 190-pound blueliner was whistled for only seven penalties totaling 14 minutes in 31 contests.
"It's different in college since you wear cages and not visors … there's no fighting and some people take more liberties with certain things, so you have to make your presence known without necessarily dropping the gloves," he said. "But it's a different game and I like it."
Before RPI, Koudys spent a season with the Burlington Cougars of the Central Canadian Hockey League, where he was one of the team's best players, finishing with 5 goals and 33 points. He was also the Cougars' most reliable defenseman, evidenced by the fact he was named the club's Most Promising Player, Top Defenseman and Rookie of the Year. Koudys, who has been compared to Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, also was named the Ontario Hockey Association's top prospect.
"With a college kid like that, you have to like his potential as much as anything because he's a first-year college guy and he's in the lineup regularly, but doesn't always get in on every shift," Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston told NHL.com. "He's going to be a strong player in college next year as he gets a little more time to develop. He has really good upside, a really strong skater, good defensively. He was a little bit restrained offensively, but I think he can still go with the puck and contribute to the offense. He's a pretty physical kid, strong in the corners and capable of moving to the puck quickly. He played with a lot of poise for a freshman."
Koudys, a native of Smithville, Ont., is a big supporter of college hockey.
"I promote the college game tremendously," he said. "For me, it's the development. A lot of people get caught up in the Ontario Hockey League, and being from Southern Ontario I know it's a big thing to have players go to the O. If you're a good enough player you have that chance to kind of step right in, but for players like myself, it might take a little longer.
"The college route was a no-brainer for me. It gave me more time to develop and hone my skills. I know the OHL does offer a school package as well, but it's not the same as attending an NCAA Division I school. For me, that was a big thing. It was Plan B, but it's a great Plan B to have."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale