|Cody Hodgson is leading the Brampton Battalion in scoring this season with 22 goals and 25 assists for 47 points in 34 games. |
Stan Butler has been around junior hockey long enough to know when a player is worth a gamble.
Butler, the only coach and GM that the Brampton Battalion have had since joining the Ontario Hockey League in 1998, did just that when he picked Cody Hodgson with the 17th overall pick in the 2006 OHL priority selection. Hodgson sounded like he was planning to go south and play college hockey, but Butler knew that the Markham, Ontario native was perfect for his squad.
“He’s a game breaker,” Butler said after drafting Hodgson. “He’s made a difference everywhere he’s played, and those types of players are hard to get.”
Hodgson racked up team and personal accolades in minor hockey and was one of the top rated players in the OHL draft in 2006. Butler convinced Hodgson to come to Brampton and neither side was disappointed with the results. Hodgson scored 23 goals and 46 points in 63 games as a rookie and quickly became one of the team’s top offensive performers.
Butler was right on the money with his prediction. After just one season with the Battalion, Hodgson is already one of his most consistent forwards.
“Cody’s a great two-way player for our team,” Butler told the Kingston Whig-Standard after Hodgson scored a pair of goals in a 6-3 win there last Friday. “He’s kind of one of those guys who goes under the radar. But when you see what he does for our hockey team as a 17-year-old, you gain a greater appreciation for him.”
Hodgson has a lot of the attributes that make pro scouts stand up and notice. He has a goal scorer’s touch around the net, isn’t afraid to go into the danger areas on the ice and is dependable in all three zones.
He was rated second behind Steven Stamkos among OHL forwards in the NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings released last month. Stamkos, the star centre from the Sarnia Sting, is predicted to go first overall. Both players hail from the same city and Hodgson had the opportunity to play on the powerhouse Markham Waxers minor midget squad with Stamkos and Oshawa Generals’ prospects Michael Del Zotto. Hodgson elected to play up a level with the midget team.
Hodgson and Stamkos teamed up last year to lead Ontario to the under-17 Canada Winter Games title and that success has given him even more desire to help the Battalion become championship contenders.
“We’re very optimistic right now – we’re really positive,” Hodgson said. “We’ve got two solid goaltenders, four solid lines and good D. I think all the guys are just working really well together. I think when you have lines like that and everybody’s chipping in, when the playoffs come it will be really helpful.”
The Battalion have stocked up this year after being swept out of the first round of the playoffs last year by the Barrie Colts. They added New York Rangers’ prospect Bobby Sanguinetti on defence in the summer and picked up Detroit Red Wings’ second rounder Cory Emmerton earlier this month.
“It’s a lot better atmosphere,” said Hodgson, who wears number 19 in honour of Steve Yzerman, who was his favorite player growing up. “Last year was a tough year for us and I think we learned a lot from it. We got Sanguinetti in the summer and he’s been incredible. We’ve got Emmerton now and everything is rolling for us.”
Emmerton is sidelined with mononucleosis but Hodgson has lined up with veterans Jason Dale and Luke Lynes lately and the trio has shown flashes of being a dominant line in the OHL.
“It’s been great to play with those guys,” Hodgson said. “Jason is so fast and gets so many loose pucks and Luke’s a great scorer. He’s always getting open. It’s been great so far playing with those guys. We’re a good combination so far.”
Hodgson picked up points in his first seven games this season and recently enjoyed a six-game streak that included seven goals and nine points. He also had a career-game with two goals and six points last month against Kingston. He plays a responsible game that sets the tone for the other forwards on his team.
“We’ve got good team chemistry and we’re not afraid to get in there and mix it up,” Hodgson said. “But we can play the speed game as well and I think that’s a testament to our character. We can play any type of game. I think that’s why things are going well for us.”
Hodgson is leading the team in scoring this season with 22 goals and 25 assists for 47 points in 34 games. The Battalion are the only team in the Eastern Conference with seven players with 10 or more goals.
“I think we’re showing that we’ve got some legitimacy now,” Hodgson said. “Emmerton is an incredible player. (Newly acquired defenceman Zack) Shepley is obviously a great player. We’ve got such great talent this year - I think we can go a long way.”
While Hodgson said that he hasn’t put a lot of thought into where he will fall when the draft comes around next June, he came into this season in the best shape of his career in hopes of putting together a solid season for his draft year.
“Over the summer, we did pretty extensive workouts,” Hodgson said. “Our trainers always have great workouts for us – especially for skating. It was really helpful that way. You can always improve and fitness is one thing you never reach your peak at. You can always get better. That’s the main attitude I take into it. I just try to get better every day.”
Author: Aaron Bell | NHL.com Correspondent