Brampton Battalion center Cody Hodgson already is a student of the game of hockey. But he got a master's-level education during the Under-18 World Championships in April when he suited up for Team Canada at the event.
|Cody Hodgson may not be the most dynamic player in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft class, he might be the smartest. And when you combine his brains with his 40-goal skill, it makes for a very enticing package.
With long-time NHL coach Pat Quinn serving as professor, Hodgson earned high honors. As team captain, he led the tournament with 10 assists and 12 points – tying Minnesota Wild star Pierre-Marc Bouchard's 2002 mark for the all-time Canadian scoring record at the event – as Canada won the gold medal.
"I'd heard a lot about Cody from other people," Quinn told the Battalion's Web site. "You always wonder where your leadership will come from in a tournament like this, so the feeling among our staff was that Cody had the characteristics of a leader, especially for a guy his age.
"He's a special young man and he had a lot to do with our success. I've had a lot of guys a lot older than him who don't conduct themselves like he does. We played him against the other teams' top lines and he didn't leave us short in any area."
"It was unbelievable, one of the best experiences of my life," Hodgson said. "Great coaching staff, with Pat Quinn and (assistants) Guy Boucher and Jesse Wallin. It was a lot of fun.
"There were a lot of top-end guys there, top-end guys on our team," said Hodgson. "Just a ton of fun to play with those guys and a great experience."
It was an experience that only can raise his draft stock when the NHL convenes the 2008 Entry Draft June 20-21 in Ottawa. He earned the No. 9 rating among North American skaters when NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings, and with his combination of skills and sense, he is an enticing potential draft selection.
"His playmaking, puck skills, energy – there's not much not to like about Cody," said NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards.
"Cody is a treat to watch," added Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire. "He is a very skilled centerman whose hockey sense has him quarterbacking the power play from down at the half-boards. He knows when to shoot and when to pass – his point total reflects that. … Quite an all-around asset to any team that drafts him."
Hodgson posted a team-best 40 goals for the Battalion this past season, and his 45 assists, 85 points and plus-15 rating were second. He followed that with a team-best five goals in five games for the Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. His hockey season was completed by his golden performance at the Under-18 tournament.
Scouts generally pay more attention to international competitions that showcase the best of the best. Hodgson's star turn at the U-18 event certainly opened some eyes.
"It absolutely helps you because you know he's a big-game player now," said Edwards. "He's proven that he can play in big games and tournaments. A lot of the coaches will tell you on the first day of training camp they want to know who they're going to put on the ice in Game 7 of the playoffs. That's a step forward toward knowing he's a big-game player."
He's also a big-game thinker; OHL coaches voted him the smartest player in the league's Eastern Conference.
"I think (smart) is the best thing you can call a guy," said Edwards. "Your smartest players are your go-to guys on the penalty kill and the power play. … You're going to have a better time of finding a spot for a smart player than you are for a guy that has lots of skill but doesn't have as much hockey sense."
Hodgson agrees with the brainy compliment
"I try to play a smart offensive game," he said. "I try to out-smart the other players when I play. I try to get to the puck before anyone else. I try to set up my teammates, which is always fun."
Brains run in the Hodgson family. His father, Chris, is a former member of the Legislative Assembly in Ontario. His mother, Marie, is executive director of a nursery school, and his older brother, Clayton, is a second-year business student at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario.
"What makes a smart player is the ability to read the game, to know where the puck is going to be before it gets there," said Hodgson. "That's what they always said about (Wayne) Gretzky, he's always two steps ahead of everyone else. He can get in and out of the corner before anyone else even knows the puck was in the corner. He stays out of a lot of the physical battles."
Not that Hodgson, at 6-foot and 185 pounds, shies away from physical play. He's just smart enough to know when to avoid it.
"If it comes, there's no problems," he said. "You don't want to wear yourself out with the physical battles. If you can get the puck on net quicker then the other guys know it, that's even better."
Pretty smart answer, eh?
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer
40 – Goals in 68 games in 2007-08
45 – Assists in 68 games this season
18 – Years of age