The Buffalo Sabres’ needs have been apparent for quite some time. They need a guy that can step up and produce in the first-line center role. Most thought they had their guy when Derek Roy jumped in. However, low production and injuries may have rushed him out of that role, and Buffalo completely.
Roy’s trade is still fresh in the minds of most, a trade that brought agitator, Steve Ott, and big defenseman, Adam Pardy, to Buffalo. Ott, a proven center and winger, could man the dot for the Sabres, but he would be most effective on the third or second line at most, due to his, hit first and score later type of play.
So the question still looms, who will be the Sabres’ go-to-guy to anchor that first line and produce the points and offense that comes with the job?
With the trade winds seeming pretty stale and the free-agency’s lack of a pure scoring center, some have started to wonder if that guy will have to come from within the Sabres’ line-up.
That guy could be one of the Sabres’ newest players, Cody Hodgson. However, one of the biggest threats of putting Hodgson, who is just 22 years-old, in that number one spot could be, rushing him into that role and stunting his growth as a player.
Looking at the past is always a great way to look at the future, so let’s look at some of Hodgson’s past accomplishments and asses whether or not this could even be a possible scenario.
Hodgson played his junior hockey with the Brampton Battalion, of the Ontario Hockey League, where he had a stellar career. Hodgson lit the lamp 114 times and recorded 243 points in 197 games played for the Battalion. The ’08-’09 season, the year that followed his being drafted 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks, was Hodgson’s best.
During that season, Hodgson scored 43 times, recorded 92 points and amassed an astounding plus-41 rating over 53 games played for the Battalion. His play that season grabbed him the honors of OHL First All-Star Team and Canadian Major Junior First-All Star Team selections and the title of OHL and Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year.
Hodgson’s next, and final, season with the Battalion, was cut short when he injured his back and spent the next year recovering before starting his play in the AHL.
After spending the ’10-‘11 season with Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, where he played 52 games, scored 17 goals and totaled 30 points, Hodgson was unleashed on the NHL.
While with the Canucks, Hodgson played 63 games, scored 16 goals, five of those on the power-play, and recorded 33 points. Then the trade deadline came, and Canucks General Manager, Mike Gillis, wanted to add size to the skill on his roster.
The Sabres jumped on the trade bait and just before the trade deadline, Cody Hodgson along with defenseman, Alexander Sulzer, were shipped to Buffalo for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
The Sabres saw Hodgson as a possible solution to their offensive woes, but he went scoreless through his first ten games in a Sabres sweater. Hodgson did find his way out of that slump, and ended his rookie year with 20 games played for the Sabres, a total of 83 on the season, three goals, for a total of 19, and eight points for a total 42 points as a rookie.Hodgson finished the season first among rookies with seven power-play goals, and came in fifth among rookies in total scoring, doing so while averaging much less ice time than the league’s top four rookies.
So, does all of Hodgson’s past success and future promise constitute pushing Hodgson into the first-line center position during just his second year in the NHL?
The potential is definitely there for Hodgson, but there is always the chance of rushing him and putting too much pressure on the young forward, so this is a tricky situation for the Sabres. In this situation, the potential for good is greater than the possible downfall and should make it okay to try it out.Hodgson has already proven he can contribute at the back end of the line-up, and he needs the opportunity to show that he can make it big. The Sabres being unable to find a top center could be the perfect opportunity to see what Hodgson can do with the ice-time.
Plus, the Sabres could always keep Hodgson on a short leash, and if he appears to be struggling, he can be dropped a line or two to where he feels comfortable.
Of course, if the Sabres grab a center between now and the start of the season they will not have to make this decision, and Hodgson can slowly develop to his full potential.
But for now, Hodgson could be the Sabres’ guy, come October.