After a September in which he played seven of eight preseason games and sparked a heated debate about whether or not Alain Vigneault was intentionally trying to torpedo his NHL dreams, one could argue that Cody Hodgson’s got some serious buzz in this town. Heck, he changed his jersey number Monday morning and it was big news. Safe to say Cody’s rookie year is going to be a major focus in Vancouver.
But, elsewhere in the NHL, interest in his first full season has fallen off precipitously. Last year, Hodgson was a Rookie of the Year favourite before he failed to make the Canucks. This year, when he finally did, the oddsmakers at Bodog.com didn’t even include him as a betting option in the category. Here are the lines Bodog released today for the Calder trophy race.
Are they right to leave Hodgson off this list?
Maybe. Hodgson has plenty working against him, most notably the Canucks’ depth at forward. While he’ll be opening the season in a prominent role as the second line centre, it’s only a temporary gig. With Ryan Kesler slated to return by November, Hodgson could find himself back on the fourth line — or worse, in Chicago — by Remembrance Day. And, with Andrew “bust insurance” Ebbett waiting in the wings, a slow start could send Hodgson to the press box even sooner.
On top of that, his second line centre gig isn’t as cushy as it sounds. Sure, Hodgson may have won Kesler’s spot, but he didn’t win Kesler’s job; he’s certainly not eating up the same minutes. In Vancouver’s final game of the preseason, Hodgson’s line averaged three minutes fewer than the supposed third line of Manny Malhotra, Chris Higgins, and Jannik Hansen. Expect that trend to continue. If we’re going by usage, Hodgson will actually be the third line centre.
But, while the Canucks are indeed deep at forwards, they’re thin in playmaking forwards of Hodgson’s ilk, and this is where the former first round pick has a real opportunity to carve out a role for himself.
Raw as he is, Hodgson may already be the best playmaking forward in the Canucks’ lineup not named Sedin, and if he can convince Alain Vigneault of this while skating between Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson (two shoot-first wingers), it would be difficult to keep him separated from a 40-goal-scoring shoot-first centre in Kesler when he gets healthy.
And then he’s in business. Kesler is a point per game centre, and Cody could seriously cash in, numbers-wise, if he were to hold down a job next to him.
Hodgson could also see continued opportunity on the powerplay. He scored a goal there on Saturday night, tipping a Dan Hamhuis point shot past Nikolai Khabibulin, but it wasn’t just the goal that impressed — it was the fact that he made the unit look threatening for the first time since 2009-10. Last season’s second powerplay unit lacked a passer, and Hodgson could again benefit from having a unique skillset. Plus, considering the Canucks couldn’t care less about their second unit powerplay, he’ll have a lot more leeway here. With creative freedom and plenty of room for growth, he could put up some points.
With a powerplay unit to call his own and a cushy spot on a real second line, Hodgson has the potential to surprise some people — including the staff of Bodog.com — with his production. If he does that, he could be a dark horse for the Calder.Tags: Canucks, Cody Hodgson, featured, Wild Speculation