With the 23rd best offense in the NHL last year, the Canucks lacked goal scoring to complement their great defense. They addressed that need at the 2008 NHL entry draft, taking Cody Hodgson from the Ontario Hockey League’s Brampton Battalion with the 10th overall pick.
Hodgson, 18, is currently tied for fourth in the OHL in goals per game, scoring 16 times in 18 games. Hodgson exhibited his goal-scoring ability on a larger stage recently, notching three goals in the OHL’s 6-3 win over the Russian Selects at the ADT Challenge in Guelph on Nov. 20.
Despite his goal-scoring prowess, Hodgson will fit in with the defensive Canucks because he’s committed to an all-around game as his +15, second on the Battalion last season, attests to. He’s +7 for this season so far.
"I try to play an offensive game that creates chances for my teammates but not be a defensive liability at the same time," said Hodgson after his three-goal performance in Guelph. "I look at guys like (Sidney) Crosby. I try to play like him. Guys that create offense but are also two-way players."
Hodgson’s three goals helped lift the OHL Selects to victory over the Russians, but he’s even more valuable to his OHL team. The Battalion captain missed the team’s first five games because of a two-game, NHL pre-season stint that saw him notch an assist and a shootout goal for the Canucks. The Battalion struggled in their captain’s absence going 2-3 until his return. Since then the team is 16-3 and have won 16 games in a row.
"We have a great group of guys. We have a really character group," said Hodgson. "I don’t know. We just get along really well off the ice. We don’t do any policing or anything like that. We all like each other. We all like to go to the rink. It’s just a fun atmosphere playing."
You don’t have to look far to find a leadership pedigree in the Hodgson household. Cody’s father Chris was a cabinet minister in the Ontario government from 1997 to 2002.
The Battalion captain downplayed his father’s political contributions.
"My dad never really talked about politics. Not at all. He got into it just to help out the Town of Haliburton where I’m originally from same as Matt Duchene (Battalion teammate). Things got escalated from there. He did what he could and once he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish in Haliburton and in all the areas he’s been in, then he got out of politics."
Interestingly, Hodgson played on the same Novice team (4-5 year olds) as Duchene who was also at the ADT Challenge in Guelph. After going their separate ways after Novice, Duchene is now an OHL teammate and is a regarded as a likely top-10 NHL Draft pick in 2009.
"It’s a little surreal actually," said Hodgson. "We started off our minor hockey in Haliburton, a little town in northern Ontario. It has been a lot of fun. We’ve been fortunate enough to get drafted by the same OHL team."
While Duchene’s NHL future has yet to be decided, Hodgson was glad to be drafted by Vancouver.
"I was ecstatic," he said. "Growing up you always watch Canadian teams on Hockey Night in Canada. Vancouver was an unbelievable city once I got out there. I just went into the draft not thinking about where I went or when I went. I was just happy to go. I was lucky going to Vancouver."
Hodgson is already working with the Canucks to improve his game.
"I’ve been working with Dave Gagner pretty much every couple of days. He’s the player development guy with the Canucks. So I work with him all the time on little things. If I want to play at the next level I have to work on some little things and hopefully I can achieve something."
While the Canucks are the future for Hodgson, he’s still focusing on the Battalion.
"It’s going to be fun playing against (Doug) Gilmour in Kingston coming up," he said of the new coach. "I was always a big Gilmour fan growing up."