Jan 312011
 

With Cody Hodgson called up and poised to make his NHL debut, there’s no shortage of opinion among Canucks fans on which line and how much ice-time they think or expect the former CHL Player of the Year to play.

One thought is that, as a natural center, Cody will make his debut as the team’s fourth line center. The Canucks, of course, have been playing Tanner Glass, a natural winger, out of position the last few games, and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra are all on top of Cody on the depth chart.

The opposing thought is that, as a highly-skilled prospect, Cody’s development may be hampered by playing limited minutes and thus should be playing in the top-9, even if it means a move to the wing.

I agree with both.

After suffering various long-term injuries, Cody has had a tough past couple of seasons. In fact, he struggled at the start this season, his first as a full-time pro, before getting better, playing in all situations and becoming the Moose’s points leader by December. But while he’s certainly made progress at the AHL level, he’s coming off another serious injury, one that sidelined him for more than a month, and we don’t know yet if he’s ready to make the bigger jump to the big leagues.

As a fourth line center, Cody will play limited and sheltered minutes. Just as importantly, it allows him the opportunity to get accustomed to playing at NHL speed and against NHL competition. Wouldn’t this be best for someone who hasn’t played a lot of hockey recently?

Obviously the hope is for Cody to eventually push and play himself to a more prominent role. We all know coach Alain Vigneault has a propensity for juggling his forwards as often as Tiger juggles his porn stars; if Cody plays well enough, I don’t see any reason for AV to not give him the added responsibilities and additional ice-time.

In theory, Cody can center the fourth line, but with some special teams time, end up playing closer to Tanner Glass’ approximately 10 minutes TOI/game than Aaron Volpatti’s 5 minutes TOI/game.

Or – and this is probably more ideal – Cody can strengthen the fourth line. Maybe AV will feel more comfortable rolling out a fourth line with Cody, Glass and, say, Jeff Tambellini or Jannik Hansen for more than 7 shifts a night.

In the short-term, there’s nothing wrong with giving Cody limited minutes. At some point however, the hope is that he can develop and play more. At only 20 years old, he needs to play and play lots. The question is whether he can do that now at the NHL level or if he needs more seasoning down with the Moose.

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