Despite missing Brampton’s first five games due to a lengthy stay in Vancouver and sitting out two games due to suspension, Hodgson is among the Ontario Hockey League leaders. In only 16 games, Hodgson has already notched 28 points, reassuring the Canucks organization that he was indeed the right choice at 10th overall in last summer’s entry draft. Instead of popping his own collar, however, the Battalion captain credits the team for his early season success.
“I think it’s just playing within the system that we have here in Brampton,” said Hodgson when asked about his impressive point totals. “I have a lot of chemistry with Thomas Stajan, my left-winger, and Jason Dale, my right-winger so we’ve just clicked so far.”
Along with Stajan and Dale, projected 2009 top ten pick Matt Duchene and New York Rangers draft-pick Evgeny Grachev have also been key components in Brampton’s winning ways, but according to Battalion head coach Stan Butler, Hodgson deserves a bulk of the credit.
“Cody’s the pulse of our hockey team,” said Butler prior to Friday night’s game. “What I mean by that is he’s the guy that everybody else gages from. He’s such a good leader and he’s so good with the other players. That’s such a valuable thing especially in junior hockey."
Hodgson’s stellar leadership skills, which have been well advertised, may suggest a complicated formula. But according to Hodgson, this isn’t the case.
“I find that if you do what you know is right, others will follow. I just try to do what’s right in any situation.”
And the Markham, Ont. native has been excelling in more than a few situations. Hodgson plays the right point on Brampton’s first power play unit and is the first over the boards on the penalty kill. Additionally, Coach Butler acknowledges Hodgson’s leadership qualities away from the limelight.
“I think it’s just the way he conducts his life on a daily basis,” said Butler when asked what makes his captain such a good one. “He’s the hardest working guy in practice, he works hard in the weight room, and he makes good decisions on and off the ice. People are watching the type of player he is, and the kinds of things he does so they see him as a role model and reflect accordingly.”
Butler believes that Hodgson’s improvements this year are simply a matter of the experience he’s gained over the past few years, including at Vancouver’s training camp this past summer.
“I really just [learned] that it’s a job, 365 days a year and these guys are really committed to it,” said the 18-year-old when asked about his experience with the Canucks. “I loved every minute out there including the atmosphere and everything that came along with it.”
Hodgson singles out Ryan Johnson as someone with whom he really bonded on and off the ice, but couldn’t stress enough that he enjoyed the company of the entire group and was thoroughly impressed with the character they displayed. Prior to training camp, Hodgson also spent time training with the Canucks’ director of player development Dave Gagner, and their dialogue is ongoing.
Gagner checks in every few days, ironing out minor wrinkles in Hodgson’s game. Primarily, the two work together to find ways for Hodgson to create more offence. So far, this has done the trick.
Not only Hodgson been a force with the Battalion, but he also potted three goals and added a helper in the first game of the OHL portion of the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. The combination of Hodgson, Matt Duchene and John Tavares – projected first overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft - stole the show in what has all the workings to be a deadly trio in the upcoming World Junior Championships in Ottawa next month, something that has been on Hodgson’s mind.
“I’d love to be a part of that,” he said. “It’d be a real honor to represent your country. I’ve done it a couple times already, but the World Junior stage is the biggest junior stage so it’d be unbelievable.”
He’d better believe it.
“I’d be very shocked if he was not only back here in Ottawa, but also playing a pretty key role in trying to bring Canada a fifth consecutive gold medal,” said Butler, who also coached the Canadian world junior squad in 2001.
If Hodgson continues his dominance, not only will he be showcasing his talent on the biggest junior stage, but it won’t be long before he does the same on the biggest professional stage.
“I think he’s got a really good chance to go up there at 19 and be an impact player for [the Canucks],” said Butler. “And I think the Vancouver Canucks are a very smart organization in that I think when they do bring him up, they’ll want him to be a contributor on a daily basis.”
When asked if there may be something Hodgson needs to work on in order to make the next step in his career, Butler’s response was music to the ears of the Canucks’ brass and supporters.
“I don’t think there’s a negative thing you could say about him. I’ve coached a lot of years in hockey, and I can’t say that about too many players.” Farhan Devji is the author of a hockey-based novel, The Hockey Farmer. Visit http://www.thehockeyfarmer.ca.tp for more information.