When the Vancouver Canucks called up Cody Hodgson for an eight-game tryout near the end of the 2010-11 season and kept him in the lineup for 12 more games during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, it was evidence of the team's belief the 2008 first-round pick was making progress toward emerging as an NHL star.
Hodgson took a big step forward in realizing that potential this past month. Thursday he was honored by the League as its Rookie of the Month for January.
Hodgson was virtually a point-per-game player, posting 6 goals and 4 assists in 11 games, while also representing the Canucks as one of the rookies selected to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
"He's really developing into a great player," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said after Hodgson scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner with 4:17 remaining in a 4-3 win over San Jose on Jan. 21. "He seems like he's on the score sheet every night."
It was the first two-goal game of Hodgson's young career and helped Vancouver end a two-game losing streak.
"It was a great win for us," Hodgson said afterward. "We haven't been playing the way we've wanted to the last few games, so it was a big win for us and a great team effort. Obviously I'm feeling comfortable, I feel good out there, I'm playing with some strong linemates so it's been great."
Hodgson's first game-winner came exactly two weeks earlier and had to be a thrill as well -- a power-play goal scored 69 seconds into the third period, it proved decisive in the Canucks' 4-3 win over the Bruins in Boston, in a rematch of last spring's Final. Hodgson ripped the puck from the top of the circle, and it deflected off the crossbar and past Tim Thomas, the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe trophy winner.
As a result of his January heroics, Hodgson has put himself front and center in the Calder Trophy discussion. His 14 goals are now second among rookies, one behind Philadelphia's Matt Read, while his 30 points are tied for fourth, five behind Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who won Rookie of the Month in both October and November. New Jersey's Adam Henrique, second in rookie scoring with 34 points, earned the honor in December.
Hodgson also has 5 power-play goals, one behind Nashville's Craig Smith, and a solid plus-8 rating.
After he was selected by the Canucks with the No. 10 pick in '08, a back injury threatened to derail Hodgson's career. In the end, it may have delayed his development some, but Hodgson still found himself in Ottawa this past weekend with the NHL's best and talked about the perspective dealing with that adversity leant him.
"It's just a blessing to be able to play hockey for your life, your career, your profession," Hodgson said. "It's pretty cool to wake up every day and go to the rink. Not everybody gets a chance to do this, and that's a pretty cool outlook."