While the Vancouver Canucks second line hasn’t exactly lit up the first two games, Cody Hodgson has been undeniably the best player on it. The rookie forward picked up his first goal of the season the other night in Columbus on a set play drawn up by Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis and it’s not the first time the two have helped the kid out this season.
When the Canucks arrived a couple days early in Columbus last weekend, it was Bieksa and Hamhuis who took Hodgson out to, as Bieksa called it, transform Cody’s wardrobe from Grade 9 to Trevor Linden.
It may very well have also been Hamhuis and Bieksa who planted the number 9 uniform in Hodgson’s locker without the rookies knowledge a couple weeks back, replacing his training camp issued 39 and cementing his long-term future with this club.
Ryan Kesler‘s offseason hip surgery created a second line hole in the Vancouver Canucks line-up to start the season, and Hodgson has made the most of his opportunity.
In addition to his timely goal in Columbus, Hodgson also had a beautiful chance in the opener against Pittsburgh eerily similar to his first career goal versus Edmonton last year. The only difference is that this time Marc-Andre Fleury was able to get across the crease and shut the door.
As well, Hodgson has been working tirelessly on his faceoffs with Manny Malhotra, and the results speak for themselves. He won just 38% of his draws with the Canucks last year, yet is at 52% over training camp and the start of the season this year. Alain Vigneault, ever the faceoff strategist, has even entrusted Hodgson with some key defensive zone faceoffs to start the year.
Yet, with Ryan Kesler back in practices and perhaps a few games away from returning, Cody Hodgson‘s opportunity may be shorter than anyone expected. If Hodgson keeps up his strong play this week, it may force the Chicago option off the table.
With Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson still kicking off rust, Hodgson could steal one of their spots on the second line and play with Ryan Kesler.
That would certainly spark a debate over who defers to wing. Ryan Kesler is the veteran Selke-winning centre, but he also showed great success playing on Mats Sundin’s wing.
Hodgson is no Sundin, but a shift to wing at this stage of his career may compound his difficulties in transitioning into the NHL.
There’s also a possibility of keeping Hodgson as a fourth line or practice player to deal with the still brewing uncertainty regarding the fourth line.
Either way, this seems like one of those good hockey problems to have.