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Picking a Leader

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
 He’s drawn comparisons to a young Trevor Linden and he’s already had the chance to play for Pat Quinn. So in some ways, Cody Hodgson was the perfect selection for the Vancouver Canucks with the 10th overall pick in the National Hockey League entry draft.

Now, his goal has to be to help the Canucks get back to where Quinn and Linden led them in the spring of 1994.

The 6’0” 180-pound right-handed centreman put up decent offensive numbers this past season for the Ontario Hockey League’s Brampton Battalion. But what caught the attention of scouts everywhere – and obviously the interest of the Canucks – was the 18-year-old’s leadership.

Hodgson served as team captain under Quinn, the former Canucks coach and general manager, when the two teamed-up to help Canada strike gold at the World Under-18 championship last April.

Many in the Hockey Canada camp thought the Canuck draft pick was that team’s best offensive player, best defensive player, best penalty killer and best face-off man.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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“I really like this pick because this is a guy who is all about character and leadership,” TSN draft analyst Bob McKenzie said as Hodgson made his way to the podium to pull on a Canucks jersey for the first time. “Every coach who’s ever had this guy says he’s nothing but leadership, competitiveness and will go to the net and do anything it takes to score a goal.”

Hodgson, who was 10th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings and moved up to ninth on the final list, led his Brampton team with 40 goals last season and finished the year with 85 points.

He was also +15 indicating his ability to contribute at both ends of the ice. He also has incredible head for hockey as evidenced by the fact Hodgson was voted smartest player in the OHL’s Eastern Conference by the coaches of the teams he played against.

A former minor hockey teammate of Steve Stamkos, the first overall selection by Tampa Bay in this draft, Hodgson was all smiles as he shook hands with new general manager Mike Gillis and the rest of the Canucks brass.

“This is something I’ve always dreamed about,” Hodgson told TSN moments after joining the Canuck organization. “Playing in a Canadian city, there’s a ton of hockey fans out there and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Quite clearly the feeling from the Canucks standpoint is mutual.

“Well, we’re thrilled to get him. He’s a great young player. He’s got terrific leadership skills and he fits into our plans as soon as he’s able to make our hockey team,” says Gillis, who wasn’t ruling out Hodgson coming to training camp in September and making a push for a spot on the hockey club. “We expect to give him a great opportunity and we’ll see what he does with it.”

Hodgson, who wears number 19 in Brampton in honour of his boyhood idol Steve Yzerman, likely won’t be overwhelmed coming to a major hockey market with intense media coverage. He’s grown-up with a father who was very much in the public eye as a cabinet minister in Ontario’s former Progressive Conservative provincial government.

His dad tried to help lead his party to victories in elections. Cody Hodgson is on his way to help lead the Vancouver Canucks to victories on the ice.

“This is such a smart pick by Vancouver because of Trevor Linden’s retirement and the fact that Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund could potentially be going away,” raved Pierre McGuire, working alongside McKenzie on the TSN draft coverage. “Cody Hodgson will replace some of that leadership down the road. That’s why I like this pick so much.”

And it looks like Vancouver Canuck fans could like this pick for years to come, as well.
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