GLENDALE – Forward Justin Hodgman came to the Valley of the Sun about a month ago because he wanted to get acclimated with the community before Coyotes training camp began. Being a tryout in a camp packed with 62 players, Hodgman knew he needed to be focused solely on hockey once camp began if he was going to avoid getting lost in the crowd.
"I wanted to make a good first impression and I feel like I’ve done that," said Hodgman, who has scored three goals in his first two preseason games. “I felt like I tested well … and I’ve gotten off to a good start. I just want to stay grounded and keep things rolling here."
|Justin Hodgman. Photo by Getty Images. |
Head Coach Dave Tippett has noticed Hodgman. In fact, Hodgman was the first player Tippett mentioned when asked who had impressed him in the team’s first camp scrimmage on Sunday.
"He thinks the game well, makes good plays and he's a good-sized guy," Tippett said. "He’s interesting."
Hodgman signed a two-way contract with the Coyotes on July 1.
"I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity the Coyotes have given me," Hodgman said. "I’m just going to try and run with it."
Hodgman, 26, has never played in an NHL game but his resume features KHL, AHL & ECHL experience.
Playing for three different teams in the KHL last season, Hodgman notched 11 goals and 15 assists in 49 games.
Unable to get an AHL contract a few years back, Hodgman decided to try his luck playing in Finland and then in Russia in the KHL. He said those experiences have made him a better player – a hybrid, if you will, of a North American player and a European player.
"I’ve taken a lot of stuff that I learned over there and I’m trying to use it in my game now," Hodgman said. "I think it’s a good mix."
He added, “Being able to play in Russia you’re flying through so many different countries and playing unbelievable hockey against some of the best talent in the world. I got tons of experience; there were a lot of ups and downs.”
Hodgman is pleased with his preseason goal production but he wants the Coyotes to see he also is a solid two-way center.
"In order to be where I want to be, I have to be that two-way center," Hodgman said. "That’s one thing I’ve been trying to work on… I just want them to be able to trust me. I feel like I belong (in the NHL) and I’m just going to keep trying to show them everything I have."