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REPORT: Rangers Sign College Free Agent Patrick Khodorenko

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The Michigan State senior would add some center depth to the Rangers’ prospect pool.

NHL: JUN 27 Columbus Blue Jackets Development Camp Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Rangers are “closing in” on college free agent Patrick Khodorenko, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

UPDATE: Seravalli is now reporting that terms have been agreed to, and Khodorenko will be joining the Wolf Pack on an amateur tryout.

Khodorenko, 21, had just completed his senior season at Michigan State. The American center led the Spartans in both goals and points by a sizable margin, with 16 goals and 17 assists in 36 games.

The overwhelming majority of NCAA free agent signings don’t stick in the NHL and the few that do typically fill depth roles. Expectations should be measured.

But for what it is, Khodorenko is a good signing. In my opinion, at least. Khodorenko has been a favorite sleeper prospect of mine for a few years now. Last season I noted him as a potential signing for the Rangers.

The American center has an October birthday, making him a rare case where he began his draft season in 2017 was spent as a natural freshman in college hockey. He put up decent numbers for his age and earned an invite to USA’s world juniors summer camp. I thought he showed well there, but really hit the radar his sophomore season at Michigan State, when he produced 32 points in 36 games. Khodorenko did not get drafted at the 2018 draft, but many people, including me, thought he was more than deserving of a selection in rounds 5-7. Though his production plateaued the last few years, it plateaued at a level that is still fairly good for a college player his age.

Khodorenko has the aesthetic of a bottom-six NHL forward because he does a lot of things well. At 6’0 and 206 pounds, he’s already in the range of NHL size and strength. He works hard every shift and tries to establish a forecheck. His skating brings mixed reviews. He’s not particularly speedy up and down the ice, but he has quick pickup speed in confined areas of the ice. He’s done a lot to improve his abilities with the puck on his stick and he’s good for the occasional goal with soft hands in front of the net.

I don’t think there are any gaping holes in Khodorenko’s game. Rather, the concern with him is a lack of standout qualities. He’s just pretty good at a lot of things, and while the rounded game is appreciated, there may not be an ability or two that he can tap into to separate him from the pack and make the cut for the NHL. In particular, I think the biggest question is his skating; can he work with skill and skating coaches to find another gear? That may be the difference between playing bottom-six minutes in the AHL or bottom-six minutes in the NHL.

Beggars can’t be choosers when trying to find the needle in the haystack of free agent prospects, but serendipitously Khodorenko happens to address a need for the Rangers. The team’s center depth below Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil is incredibly weak. Brett Howden has struggled heavily, Lias Andersson may never play in the organization ever again, and 2020 third-round pick Karl Henriksson is currently in Sweden and nowhere close to the NHL radar. Khodorenko isn’t a game-changer by any means, but he’s a decent depth prospect who adds some much-needed reinforcement to the prospect pool at the center position.