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Hodgson in retrospect

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Last June Cody Hodgson was handed a jersey.

With Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and Vancouver chief amateur scout Ron Delorme at his side, among others, Hodgson swung his new sweater over his head and down onto his chest, instantaneously a feeling of pride and accomplishment took over.

"It's unbelievable, this is a great day for my family and I, and I'm just really excited," the first round pick told reporters following the draft.

The 18-year-old had fulfilled phase one of his plan, the next few parts would come when he was in Vancouver for rookie camp, then hopefully main camp, pre-season and the regular season.

Hodgson glided his way through rookie camp, he was easily the most noticeable player whether in skates or sneakers. He flashed offensive prowess on the ice, off of it he smiled like, well, a kid that was living out a dream.

With a toothy grin that would put an elated Alex Ovechkin to shame (just with more chicklets), Hodgson became a media darling. His face was splashed across sports pages throughout Vancouver, but underneath his zealous demeanor lurked a mature beast ready to butt heads with the Canucks at main camp.

He headed to Whistler just wanting to "play the way I can play and just work as hard as I can," - he's still full of cliches but you can't really blame him, he's been waiting his whole life to walk the walk, so he was bound to talk the talk - and from his first practice with the senior Canucks he held his own.

Hodgson absorbed first hand NHL knowledge from skilled, character players like Daniel and Henrik Sedin and he began camp skating between Steve Bernier and Pavol Demitra, not bad for a kid who was just learning to tie his shoes when the latter first entered the NHL.

Maturity is in Hodgson's repertoire, that much was clear when Vancouver took the Ontario product 10th overall in this past summer's draft and he reinforced it throughout training camp.

He convinced most people who doubted his place in the Canucks line-up during the pre-season that he had a right to be there. Hodgson's mantle remains without an NHL puck as he failed to score in three pre-season games, but he did help set up a goal alongside collecting six penalty minutes.

He impressed and impressed before impressing a little more, and it earned him an NHL deal. The Canucks inked Hodgson to his first pro contract in early October, right before re-assigning him to the OHL's Brampton Battalion.

It's been a few weeks since the future Canucks star departed Vancouver, the recently named captain of the Battalion is now focused on leading his team to its first Memorial Cup, but just what did he think of his first run with the Canucks?

From the 2008 NHL draft until now, what have these past few months been like for you?

It's been a whirlwind. First the draft, then the World Junior camp, then the Canucks prospect camp, then main camp, then the exhibition games, I've been living out of a suitcase really. But it's been a lot of fun as well, I've enjoyed every minute of it.

How did you grow as a player from the first day of rookie camp to your NHL pre-season debut?

I think I just got a lot more comfortable on the ice. I started to realize that I could play with those guys and that I could keep up with their play, and contribute as well. That was the biggest change from the beginning where you watch these guys on TV and you think they're unbelievable, then when you get out on the ice you realize that they're just humans and you can play with them.

Do you think your speed and intensity picked up and improved in each of you pre-season games?

Definitely. I think each game got a little more intense and a little more exciting and I was more driven. Each one was gearing up for the regular season so it got a little more intense and a little faster and I think I adjusted pretty well to it.

Did you feel that any parts of your game were lacking?

My game is holding onto the puck and making plays and I felt that I didn't have the confidence originally to do that in Vancouver and I can work on that this year, holding onto the puck and making plays, setting up players; that's important for me.

Your goal was to stay in Vancouver, do you think you were close?

I felt great on the ice, I didn't feel too far away from it, I feel like I can play there. The Canucks think this is the best spot for me to play right now for my development so whatever they think is best, that's what I'll do.

There's a great bunch of guys there though, a lot of character, a lot of really good people both on and off the ice. It was a pleasure to play with them and hopefully next year I'll get to be part of the team.

What did you learn about the game at the NHL level?

Just that the guys take it so seriously, obviously it's their job, it's their lives, it's their profession, and I loved that intensity of it. I loved the speed of the game and just the overall atmosphere of the games on and off the ice, I loved every part of it.

The overall pace of the games was a big change, I think the short bursts of speed and things like that aren't that different, but just the overall speed of the game, the puck moves faster, the passes are quicker, the guys move faster when they don't have the puck, so pace of the game was a pretty big adjustment.

What about the NHL lifestyle, think you started to get a feel for that it's all about? Were you surprised by it at all?

Yeah a little bit. It's a neat experience. It's eating out every night, there's no home cooked dinners at the hotel. You never really think of that stuff when you're growing up, you just think about the hockey, but it's a lot of work with the morning skates and afternoon workouts and everything like that. Then flying in a first class jet and staying in five-star hotels, that's a little different than what you get in junior. I just really took it all in and enjoyed the whole experience.

You're back in Brampton playing for the Battalion once again, but you were recently named team captain, obviously that's a challenge you're excited about?

Yeah, I'm really excited about it. It's a huge honour being the captain for this franchise, a lot of great players have captained this organization before so I'm really looking forward to it.

For me, I think leadership is just doing what's right, that's the main thing. Just follow what you think is right in all situations, on the ice and off the ice, and that allows you to lead by example. I try not to say too much, I don't really like to say too much, but if something needs to be said, I have no problem saying it. But we've got a lot of good players here with a lot of leadership, so I think it'll be a great year.

Canucks fill the middle
Leading Brampton squad
Being smart and successful

1 - Assist for Hodgson in pre-season action with the Canucks

10th - Overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft

12 - Points in seven games as captain of Canada's 2008 IIHF World U18 Championship team

  131 - Points in two seasons with the Brampton Battalion

Training with Gagner
Prospect profile part 1
Prospect profile part 2
First timers
One on One
Summer training
Hodgson arrives in Vancouver

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