With former Vancouver Canucks draft pick Cody Hodgson leaving the game of hockey at just 26 years of age, it’s appropriate we take a look back at the star that could have been.
At just 26 years old, Cody Hodgson is leaving the game of hockey to join the Nashville Predators Youth Hockey Program. The forward was once seen as the future of the Vancouver Canucks franchise and a potential successor to Henrik Sedin, but now has seen his career come to a screeching halt because of injuries. As such, now seems like a perfect time to revisit the career of Hodgson with the Canucks.
Hodgson had just finished his sophomore campaign with the Brampton Battalion and had 85 points in 68 games, emerging as a solid top-10 draft pick in that year’s draft. Hockey’s Future had this to say about the emerging star following the season:
"“Hodgson has emerged as a top prospect for the upcoming NHL draft. Hodgson has raced past his point and goal totals from last season. He is in the top five in the OHL in goals, and the top 15 in the OHL in points. He led the Battalion in goals and finished second on the team in points Hodgson was named to the Eastern Conference squad in the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic.”"
After finishing first in the Northwest Division in 2006-07, the Vancouver Canucks struggled mightily in the 2007-08 season finishing last in the division and putting them in a position to snag a top-10 prospect for the upcoming draft which they used to take Hodgson.
Then-GM Mike Gills had this to say about Hodgson in an article in The Hockey News:
"“Character, integrity – he’s been a winner all the way up. The captain of the (Canadian) under-18 team with a long-time NHL coach (Pat Quinn). We felt he was the best player at that tournament. He has a lot of great features, we’re really pleased.”"
With Hodgson in the Canucks system, the development process began and it would take a bit longer than many had hoped before Hodgson would make his debut in the NHL.
Hodgson had another monster year with the Battalion in the 2008-09 season. He recorded 43 goals and 49 assists in 53 games for Brampton and was named CHL Player of The Year. Furthermore, Hodgson represented Canada at the World Junior Championship, with five goals and 11 assists in six games to lead the tournament.
After the Battalion’s season concluded, he joined the AHL’s Manitoba Moose for their playoff run. In 11 games there, he had two gals and four points.
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In 2009-10, Hodgson suffered a major back injury in the preseason which would keep him out until February. He only played in 13 regular season games for the Battalion but still managed to pick up eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points. In five playoff games, he had five goals but re-aggravated his back injury.
With his OHL career behind him, Hodgson spent the majority of the 2010-11 campaign with the Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, and played in 52 games while recording 17 goals and 13 assists. The Canucks got their first look at him in NHL regular season action as he joined the team for five games in early February. There, he recorded one goal and one assist before being sent back down to the Moose. However, Hodgson was back on the Canucks roster within 10 days for a second stint, which lasted three games, but he was held off the scoresheet.
After the Moose season concluded, Hodgson joined the Canucks for their 2011 Stanley Cup Finals run and was held to one assist in 12 games.
After three training camps, where he failed to make the Canucks, Hodgson finally secured a spot on the opening night roster in the 2011-12 season, as Ryan Kesler was still recovering from offseason hip surgery. By January 2012, Hodgson was ranked fifth among rookies in scoring and was one of 12 rookies who participated in the NHL All-Star Game Superskills Competition. He finished the month off with 10 points in 11 games and was named NHL rookie of the month.
Despite Hodgson’s production, he was only averaging 10-12 minutes of ice time on the Canucks’ third line and seemed to be stuck behind Sedin and Kesler.
On February 27, 2012, GM Mike Gillis pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer to the Sabres for forward Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani. In an interview with Jason Botchford of The Province, Gillis acknowledged the move as “an effort to balance his team out by trading Hodgson’s skill and finesse in return for Kassian’s size and toughness.”
The trade was seen as a shocker and one of the most unpopular trades in Vancouver in years. Some members of the media linked it to a 1996 trade when the Canucks acquired the skilled Markus Naslund from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for the more physical Alex Stojanov.
In 2012-13, Hodgson had another good season finishing with 34 points in 48 games and earning himself a six-year contract extension worth a total of $25.5 million.
In the following year, Hodgson continued to produce offensively and he finished the season with 44 points in 72 games.
The Sabres fell apart in 2014-15 and so did Hodgson. He only contributed 13 points in 78 games and was bought out at the end of the season.
Hodgson managed to get a one year deal with the Nashville Predators but only had eight points in 39 games before being placed on waivers and subsequently joining the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.
What Could Have Been
Cody Hodgson had all the potential to be a No. 1 centre in the NHL. But due to a number of factors, he didn’t realize that potential. Now at 26 years old, he’s on the outside looking in. It’s so hard to predict how a prospect will develop and Hodgson’s downfall should be a gentle reminder of that when watching prospects impress in the preseason, because you never know what can happen.