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Hodgson is a thinking man's hockey player

NHL.com @NHL

Cody Hodgson, selected No. 10 by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2008 Entry Draft, was considered the smartest player in the draft -- on and off the ice.

Hodgson played competitive chess as a youngster, but gave it up to focus on hockey. In hockey, there likely is a chain of events that leads to a goal, and the same can be said of chess. Hodgson knows that in hockey, as in chess, a multiple-front attack is the best plan of action.

"There are a lot of similarities between chess and hockey," Hodgson, a star forward for the Ontario Hockey League's Brampton Battalion, told The Toronto Star. "You're always planning your attack beforehand, and when you're moving up (the board), you should always attack with more than one piece."

Hodgson was the captain of Team Canada at the World Under-18 Championship that won the gold medal and was coached by former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn. Hodgson said playing for Quinn was a learning experience.
 
"I didn't really know what to expect, but when we got there he was great," Hodgson told The Calgary Herald. "He taught us a whole different style."

As impressed as Hodgson was with Quinn, the feeling was mutual. Quinn felt Hodgson, who led the tournament with 12 points, was intelligent and mature beyond his years.

"He's a special young man, and he had a lot to do with our success," Quinn told the Battalion's web site. "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."

Hodgson, who likely will return to Brampton for a third season, will get another chance to represent Canada; he was invited to Team Canada's World Junior Championship training camp and many believe he has a good chance of making the squad.

While Hodgson and Team Canada are surging, the same can't be said of the Canucks. Vancouver, which scored the fewest goals in the Northwest Division last season with just 213, is in desperate need of more firepower. Gone is the franchise's all-time leading scorer, Markus Naslund, to the New York Rangers via free agency this summer. His offensive production will be hard to replace, particularly on a club that already struggles to score.

General Manager Mike Gillis signed free agent Pavol Demitra to a two-year contract to help fill the offensive void, but the Canucks also are going to need some scoring depth -- and that's where Hodgson could fit in.

Hodgson can trace his hockey roots back to his father's love of the game at the family's cottage.

"I got into hockey because my dad always loved hockey," Hodgson said. "We're a really big hockey-oriented family. My brother got into it when he was younger, so I had to join in.  I started skating on the lake at my cottage. I got into the game when I was 4 and loved it."

"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."
-- Pat Quinn talking about Cody Hodgson

While Hodgson realizes he is no Sidney Crosby, he plays a similar style that enables him to know when to pass and when to shoot. He can't be labeled as a pure goal scorer or playmaker.

"I try to play like Sidney Crosby -- obviously not to his level, but something like that style," Hodgson said.

Hodgson was one of just 10 players in the OHL who had at least 40 goals and 40 assists last season; he led the Battalion with 40 goals and was second on the team with 45 assists, 85 points and a plus-15 rating in 68 games. Hodgson improved remarkably from 2006-07, when he had 23 goals, 23 assists, 46 points and a minus-21 rating in 63 games. 

His improvement helped Brampton jump from eighth place in the OHL's Eastern Conference in 2006-07 to second last season.

Hodgson recognizes his game's weaknesses and plans to address them this summer. While his numbers prove he has splendid vision and a good shot, they don't reveal his skating deficiency.

"My skating needs to improve," Hodgson told The Toronto Sun. "Agility, going sideways, stuff like that."

While the Canucks' power play, which featured a multiple-front attack keyed by twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, was in the middle of the NHL pack last season, Hodgson could be a big contributor if used on the point.

"Cody is a treat to watch," NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire said. "He is a very skilled center 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. He's also a good faceoff guy; he can take faceoffs with the best of them and win them at the OHL level."

The Battalion wasn't able to get past the first round of the OHL playoffs, but they still had two of the better power-play point men in Hodgson and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, who was second among OHL blueliners with 70 points in 61 games.

If Hodgson can have the same success in Vancouver that he's enjoyed in Brampton, the Canucks could make life easier for All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo -- and tougher for the rest of the Northwest Division.

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