I’ve been talking about Cody Hodgson a fair amount recently and for good reason. The rookie centre has 7 points in his last 9 games while playing limited minutes, is fifth in rookie scoring, and is on pace for 18 goals and 44 points. He’s on his way to what should be considered an incredibly successful rookie year.
As we all know, of course, controversy surrounds Hodgson at all times and the dark times have not passed. Instead of writing about how great Hodgson is, I’ve had to write about how his icetime is comparable to the rookie year’s of other Canucks’ stars (which Alain Vigneault read, apparently) and speculate on who the source of the complaints about his icetime might be.
Despite my best efforts, Tony Gallagher isn’t done talking about Hodgson’s icetime. He has now switched gears to complaining that Hodgson’s lack of icetime somehow hurts Ryan Kesler. Apparently Kesler is receiving far too much icetime, which will obviously cause his body to melt away like Major Toht once the playoffs come around. Never mind that Kesler’s playing fewer than 20 minutes a game and is currently 30th in icetime amongst forwards; his current pace is apparently going to wear him out.
It seems to me that “Silent G” is in the perfect situation for a rookie looking to become an NHL superstar. Unlike the four players ahead of him in the rookie scoring race, who play on teams with limited forward depth, Hodgson gets a chance to come along slowly on a top-tier team, learning under some of the best centres in the NHL.
Yes, I said some rather than two. Hodgson is in the unique position of being mentored in his position by four different centres during his rookie year, each of which epitomizes their respective roles. The rookie has long been pegged as a complete player: he has the vision and soft hands to be an excellent playmaker, the accuracy to be a sniper, the defensive awareness to be a two-way forward, and the battle level and willingness to go to the net to be a quasi-power forward.
Henrik Sedin is the best playmaker in the NHL, coming off two straight seasons of leading the league in assists and currently leading the league, and is the ideal mentor to teach Hodgson how to be a strong, quiet leader. He is the epitome of a finesse player using his vision, intelligence, and hockey sense to make his linemates better.
Ryan Kesler is a Selke-winning power forward who excels at both ends of the ice. He uses his speed and strength to transition quickly from defence to offense and is willing to sacrifice his body to get to the front of the net. He has an emotional and passionate style of leadership and a style of play that I’m sure Canucks fans would love to see rub off on Hodgson. He is the epitome of the two-way forward who also boasts a lethal wristshot, though he has struggled to use it effectively this season.
Manny Malhotra, on the other hand, has little to no interest in the offensive zone. He is the ultimate team player, recognizing that it is better for the team for him to focus on the defensive side of the puck and that sometimes the best thing for him to do is to go out, win the faceoff, clear the zone, and go back to the bench. He is the epitome of a team-first, selfless leader and he is one of the best defensive forwards in the league.
Finally, there is Maxim Lapierre, who makes up for his lack of top-end skill with pure effort. He’s also not afraid to throw the body, leading the Canucks in hits with 119, good for 8th in the league. But what Lapierre is most known for is being a pain-in-the-neck. He is the epitome of the agitator, who uses checks, chippiness, and chirping to get opponents off their game.
That’s not even mentioning what each of them do on special teams, as Henrik and Kesler are fantastic powerplay performers, while Kesler, Malhotra, and Lapierre are superb on the penalty kill. While Hodgson gets time on the second unit powerplay with the Canucks, he was a key penalty killer for the Brampton Battalion, so that is another area where he can develop at the NHL level. Kesler and Malhotra are also two of the best in the NHL when it comes to faceoffs, an element of Hodgson’s game that needs improvement.
Hodgson has something to learn from all four centres, who each play very different styles. As their protégé, he can synthesize each style into his own game to become a true all-around forward. Back in 2009, he was voted by OHL coaches as the league’s smartest player, hardest worker, best penalty killer, best on faceoffs, and second hardest shot. That sounds like a combination of Henrik, Lapierre, Kesler, and Malhotra (with a pinch of Sami Salo) to me.
With proper development and mentorship, Hodgson could become the Canucks’ version of Captain Planet, though hopefully without the green mullet.Tags: Cody Hodgson, Hodgson, Mentorship, Tony Gallagher