I won’t call Canucks top prospect Cody Hodgson a diva like my friend Richard did a few months ago. I won’t label him a bust like some Canucks fans already seem to have. However, I will say that this is perhaps the most important year of his young career so far.
Hodgson’s 2009/2010 season was as disappointing as his 2008/2009 one was impressive. In 2008/2009, he was the CHL Player of the Year, a gold medalist with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships, and the Canucks best, most highly-touted prospect in a long time (arguably ever). Last year, he suffered a serious back injury (in the offseason) and a broken toe (just before the playoffs) and played in only 24 games.
I think it goes without saying that a good 2010/2011 season will go a long way in proving he is still one of the top prospects in the NHL than, say, another Pat Peake.
What’s caused some consternation among Canucks fans is how Hodgson seems oddly detached from the rest of the Canucks organization. Mike Gillis has been able to convince almost every other Canucks player to buy into his program. That is, every other Canucks player except for Cody.
Shortly after drafting Kevin Connauton, the Canucks suggested that he leave the Western Michigan Broncos early and play in the WHL. Connauton signed with the Vancouver Giants, who owned his rights, and he went on to break the Giants’ franchise record for points in season by a defenseman and lead all WHL defensemen and all WHL rookies in scoring.
After the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers’ season ended, the Canucks convinced Jordan Schroeder to turn pro. Schroeder impressed in his short stint with the Manitoba Moose and finished with 15 points (7 goals-8 assists) in 17 AHL regular season and playoff games.
I realize this is a small sample, but at least in Connauton’s and Schroeder’s cases, you can’t argue that Gillis and the Canucks didn’t prescribe programs that were good for their development.
Which brings us back to Hodgson.
Cody caused quite a stir when he decided to stop training with Canucks Director of Player Development, Dave Gagner. Instead, he spent this summer training under ex-Leaf Gary Roberts’ training regimen, and in fact, he missed the Canucks summer prospects camp so he could complete it without interruption. He’s dictating his own destiny and that’s certainly his right. It is odd though that the team’s top prospect is the one guy that doesn’t follow his team’s development program.
This isn’t to say that this is a good or bad thing. At the end of the day, Hodgson’s performance at the main camp will determine whether or not he made the right decision to go against Gillis’ grain. At the end of the day, it will be up to him to prove that he belongs in the pros, whether it’s in the NHL or the AHL.
His first step will be on Friday when he flies in for his physical.