It's been a challenging season for Anton Rodin.
The 26-year-old forward from Stockholm, Sweden, who was drafted by the Canucks in 2009, has played only three games this year and he won't be returning to the ice in the near future.
On January 6th, in a game against the Calgary Flames, Rodin re-injured his left knee; his shin pad slipped down and when Rodin fell and hit the ice, his knee was the primary point of contact.
"We were hoping it was a brief flare-up and we gave it a week-to-10 days to see how it would respond," said Dr. Rick Celebrini, Canucks Director of Rehabilitation. "We've determined that what's best for Anton is to shut him down for now. We want to optimise each stage of the rehab process. Removing him from practices and games will allow his knee to settle most effectively, before we progress to the next step."
Two surgical opinions were gathered helping form the conclusion that conservative care was the best option at this time and surgery is a last resort.
Unfortunately there's injury history at play here that is contributing to Rodin's condition.
Over the past three seasons with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Hockey League, Rodin was a standout with 47 goals and 65 assists for 112 points in 134 games. Last year, despite losing almost half the season to injury, he had 37 points in 33 games as team captain and was awarded the Golden Helmet, an award bestowed upon the league MVP.
To be clear: Rodin missed 19 games and was still named most valuable player.
Sadly it's not an outstanding season that Rodin recalls most.
In January 2016, Rodin lost an edge in practice and glided towards a teammate, who scrambled to get out of his way and accidently stepped on his left leg, right above the knee, lacerating the quadriceps tendon. During surgery the tendon was sutured back together and the healing began.
"They told me it wasn't that big of a deal, that I'd be back maybe even for playoffs," said Rodin, "but I started rehabbing and we established pretty quick that wasn't going to happen. The goal then was to get back for training camp this season."
Rodin returned to Vancouver this past summer and immediately began working with Canucks medical and strength and conditioning staff. The severity of the injury and the resultant surgery was complicated by a pre-existing congenital condition.
During a visit with Dr. Bill Regan, Canucks Team Physician, it was determined Rodin has a bipartite patella, meaning his kneecap is made up of two bones instead of a single bone. Typically these bones fuse together as children grow, but in a small percentage of the population that isn't the case and they remain as two separate bones.
"It's usually not symptomatic," explained Celebrini. "But with the altered mechanics at the knee cap, that resulted from the injury and the surgery, there were increased forces and stress through the cartilaginous joint; the result was a low-grade inflammation of the bones in that area."
Essentially the surgery to repair the quadriceps tendon created a change in the mechanics of Rodin's knee, resulting in this ongoing inflammation of the knee joint.
The focus for Rodin during the summer was to juggle fitness and strength training with an intricate rehab process and heading into training camp, it was mission accomplished. Rodin played in five of Vancouver's six pre-season games, scoring two goals and adding three assists, in what looked like a promising start to his NHL career.
Video: Rodin snipes top-shelf after beauty pass
The low-grade amount of soreness Rodin knew he'd play with became too much heading into the regular season, however, so Rodin took a step back to further the rehab process. The new goal became having Rodin ready to play in the NHL or AHL by the end of 2016.
"We wanted to get him to a sustainable, high-level of function, with symptoms that were manageable for the rest of the season, then make another big jump in the off-season," said Celebrini.
By mid-December Rodin reached that point and he was assigned to the Utica Comets on a conditioning stint. He practiced routinely over an 11-day period, and played three games, returning to Vancouver ready to contribute. He made his NHL debut against the Flames on December 23rd, picked up his first NHL point against the Colorado Avalanche on January 2nd and faced the Flames again on January 6th, which is when he re-injured his knee.
Since then, there have been good days when Rodin has felt healthy enough to play, and bad days where he hasn't felt as ready. Ultimately his knee didn't return to the same level of fitness as before.
"It's been a tough year, probably one of the worst in my career so far," said Rodin. "It is what it is and there's not much I can do except to work hard and get myself back in business again."
It goes without saying Rodin is as motivated and hungry as he's ever been.
"I can't be anything else. You realize how much you miss the game when you're sidelined and you can't play. That's the biggest motivation I have to get back; hockey is what I love to do."
Although no timeline has been set for Rodin's return, Celebrini, who praised Rodin's work ethic and dedication, is confident another comeback can be made.
"Given the fact that he got back from this once and sustained it, gives us confidence that he can do it again. It's really time dependant though, and each stage of this needs time to be optimized. The fact that he did tolerate the demands of practices and games and not have any downward trend, gives us a positive outlook for him and his career."