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Jr. Ducks play central role in Choi realizing college dream

 

PChoi mugPatrick Choi’s season with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks changed the trajectory of his hockey career.

Choi, who committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Bentley University (Atlantic Hockey) on Dec. 19, lived in Seoul, South Korea, until he was 12, then moved to London, Ont., Canada, by himself in search of hockey opportunities.

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“I needed to play more hockey,” Choi said. “In Korea, you would play 10 games per year versus 80 or so in North America.”

After playing for the London Jr. Knights, he was certain his next step would be Major Junior hockey. But a meeting with Jr. Ducks director of player personnel Alex Kim, who played professionally in Asia, began a course alteration.

“Everyone knows who Alex is in South Korea,” Choi said. “My second year of 16U, I wanted a new start with a different team and coach.

“I went to his hockey camp in Korea and told him about my situation, and he invited me to try out for his team. The Jr. Ducks helped me find the right track for my hockey career. Alex and the club helped every single player on our team (in 2014-15) and prepared us for the next level.”

Choi, a 1998 birth year, has played the past two seasons in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Premier Division in Syracuse and Boston.

“Just because a player is done playing for us doesn’t mean we’re done with you,” Kim said. “It takes time for these opportunities to come about for many players. We want to help them find the right program and the right coach.”

Choi’s season in Anaheim stood out for several reasons: Not only did the team reach the USA Hockey Youth Nationals, but he gained several friends.

“That ’98 team was probably the closest one I’ve ever played for,” Choi said. “We still have a group chat so most of us can stay in touch.”

Choi is the fourth Jr. Ducks ’98-born player to make a Division I commitment, joining forwards Justin Dixson (Massachusetts) and Jack Gates (Colorado College) and defenseman Chad Sasaki (Colorado College).

— Chris Bayee