As the Vancouver Canucks collected themselves following a bittersweet exit from the Stanley Cup Finals, many prognosticators felt their roster would look virtually identical to start the 2011/12 season. They were only mostly right.
Plagued early in his professional career by an undetected back injury, those same prognosticators started to speculate that Cody Hodgson was another 1st round pick gone awry. Hockeyfutures.com (a valuable grade-based resource for all NHL draft prospects) also concluded that Hodgson might be problematic (for the Canucks) to sign. The Toronto, Ont. native, drafted 10th overall in the 2008 entry draft (that brought us Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty), has played 29 games so far this season with Vancouver, and with noticeable results. Thus far, he has 6 goals, 9 assists, has a +4 rating, and is on pace for 40 points. While some detractors would point out that uber-rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on pace for much more than that, one should put his growth into perspective. Essentially, Hodgson is producing at a similar level to Mason Raymond’s breakout season. He’s also doing it while playing mostly 3rd line minutes (approx. 11 minutes per game), with a couple of exceptions early on due to injuries to Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, and Chris Higgins.
Frustration could have easily overpowered the youngster, particularly at the outset of the 2010/11 campaign. Many expected Cody would challenge for a roster spot right out of camp, but lingering back issues prohibited him from claiming a job. Enter: The cynics.
In a short period of time, members of the media fanned the flames with speculation that there was a “rift” between Hodgson and head coach, Alain Vigneault. Some even labelled it as a controversy, pitting Vigneault as the over-expectant, patience-waning coach, and Hodgson as the underwhelming, over-hyped rookie in need of an attitude adjustment. Further from the truth, they couldn’t be, and to be honest, I look back on some of these morsels of gossip with laughter, but mostly disdain.
Thank heavens someone finally detected a muscle tear in his back that had been stifling the development of this fine, upstanding ex-Brampton Battalion. Once detected, and with proper medical attention, Cody set out on the journey that would finally get him to where he’s always wanted to be – A regular roster spot with the Vancouver Canucks.
Hodgson would also turn to former NHL-er, Gary Roberts, to assist in his rehabilitation. Roberts, who is probably most widely acclaimed for his work with Tampa Bay Lightning wunderkind Steven Stamkos, immediately set out to make Cody stronger. Roberts ranch covers everything from proper nutrition to dynamic strengthening and conditioning exercises. Much of Stamkos’ electric release capability for his one-time shots was developed through Roberts, and a lot of focus was placed on strengthening Cody’s supporting back muscles around the injured area. Hodgson even consulted with another ex-NHL-er, Claude Lemieux to speed up his recovery.
Of course, many Canucks fans were appalled at the reckless hit that Nick Foligno put on Hodgson during Saturday’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators. Alain Vigneault said post-game that Hodgson was ‘fine’ and that he wanted to return to action, but that they kept him out for precautionary reasons. Though many hold their breath considering his past injury woes, I think it’s safe to say that the Canucks have a very determined, resilient young man in their midst. Truly, with the way he’s acquitted himself thus far, it would be a substantial loss for Vancouver if Hodgson were out of the lineup for any period of time.