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Rodney Could be a Regular Next Season

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Note: Dennis Seidenberg skated today but remains out for tonight's game against Florida, so Rodney is in.

If you didn’t check out CanesVision’s interview with Jim Rutherford earlier this week, you missed a pretty interesting nugget about 24-year-old defenseman Bryan Rodney, who’s been filling in for the injured Dennis Seidenberg.

”He’s put himself in a position where, going into next year’s training camp, he’ll have to play himself off the team,” said Rutherford.

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That shows just how highly-regarded Rodney is in the Hurricanes’ organization, and how fast he’s risen through the hockey world. About a year ago, he was playing in the ECHL and wasn’t sure he’d get much further. Along with several other players, he made it to Albany as an emergency replacement during a flu epidemic. He wasn’t expected to stick around when the sickness subsided, but he did, earning an AHL contract off the bat and an NHL deal after the season.

“I guess it doesn’t happen every day and you don’t see too many guys do it,” said Rodney of his rapid rise through the ranks. “It’s just a situation I put myself in after my junior career. I don’t think I made very good decisions about where I was going to go to training camp and where I was going to try out for teams and things like that. I had a couple of years where maybe I was in the wrong spot, but I was still working hard and obviously had aspirations to get here. I guess that was the road I had to take.”

Now, he’s been impressive enough in his first seven NHL games that he apparently has the inside track on a regular roster spot for next year. The Canes currently only have five defensemen under contract for 2009-10.

Rodney’s biggest contribution thus far has been on the power play, where he earned his first two NHL points during the Canes’ three-game road trip. The Hurricanes went 6-for-11 on the man advantage during that span, with Rodney on the ice for four of the goals.

Although he downplayed that contribution, calling himself “Joe Corvo’s sidekick,” for now that has him ahead of Frank Kaberle on the team’s depth chart. Given the veteran defenseman’s solid play whenever called upon, that decision ended up being a difficult one.

“Bryan came in and our power play was as good as it was, and he earned the right to play so he gets the chance,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “At the same time, I would be comfortable putting Frank in as well and would expect a good game out of him. It’s really not a statement about Frank Kaberle, it’s a statement about how Bryan has played his last couple of games.”

Once Seidenberg gets healthy, it becomes a numbers game and Rodney likely won’t stick with the team for the rest of the season. Having two healthy extras on defense is both expensive and impractical for a young player’s development.

However, it appears he’s done enough for the Hurricanes to consider fitting him in to their long-term plans, and assuming he can make the improvements to his conditioning and the defensive aspect of his game that Rutherford said he’d like to see, they might be seeing a lot more of him next season.

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