From the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) to USports to the ECHL to Europe and finally the NHL. Not the most common journey for the average NHL player. However, June 1, 2020 will be a date to remember for journeyman Kodie Curran and his family. A lifelong dream was finally realized as he signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Anaheim Ducks. Curran took the time to sit down and talk about his journey with me. The full audio interview can be found below.
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It’s a process that took a few months to get everything settled and as Curran told me in an interview on the Forever Mighty Podcast, it’s a moment he will never forget.
Well, the process was not quick at all. It started a long time ago actually, about 3-4 months ago. I was signed in Russia, so we had a lot of little details we had to figure out in order to make this happen. I found out two nights ago and that moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. You have so much stress and just kind of doubt that it’s not going to happen. You’ve got a different phone call every day from your agent about what’s going on. Finally, when I got the phone call, I just kinda broke down, I truly broke down… just because of all the emotions that you endure through this time and such a long road to make it happen, and to share it with those around you that made it happen, it’s something I’ll never forget ever in my life.Kodie Curran on the process of signing his NHL Contract – Forever Mighty Podcast
He spent the last two seasons in the Swedish Hockey League playing for Rögle BK, but his journey began in the AJHL with the Calgary Canucks. The Calgary-native spent four seasons in the AJHL, going undrafted, and eventually joining the University of Calgary. He almost joined the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League but was beat out by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt.
He spent five years at the University of Calgary and was named to the USports (West) First All-Star Team twice. Watching teammates and friends find success and get drafted into the Western Hockey League (WHL) and even the NHL was tough for Curran but also rewarding:
I’ve always loved to see my teammates have success, that’s what drives me as a player. There were so many guys around me that were moving on and having success in their careers. I was excited for them, but it was hard for me. It was something that I really had to come to terms with that it was their time now. They’re finding their way now and I just kind of had to trust the process that eventually this was going to work out, and to keep playing the game because you love it, not because you are going to have success. Yeah, it was hard to see these guys have success, but I was also so happy for them and to play against these guys, it was more of a pleasure.Kodie Curran on watching teammates and friends have success – Forever Mighty Podcast
After a successful career in the AJHL and USports, Curran spent parts of two seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the ECHL, splitting time between the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
He had 5 assists in 20 games with Hartford and 25 points in 45 games with Greenville. Curran told us that playing in those leagues really opened his eyes to the difference of professional hockey.
It put things in perspective. It was such a different feel. It went from in college where you have such a family feel and so much team unity, not to say you don’t have that in the pro leagues, but it just changes and it becomes more of a business and you’re an investment and your contract has a huge play. So, it definitely was a huge step for me, because I really had to try and find a way to adapt to that difference. But yeah, you’re right there. I’m in camp and I’m sitting beside Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash for dinner. I remember I was in the back of Dan Boyle’s car going to a team meeting. It was a really cool experience and I wouldn’t change that for the world.Kodie Curran on playing in the AHL and ECHL – Forever Mighty Podcast
Rediscovering the Love of the Game
Curran’s next chapter of his career took him overseas to Europe where he said he rediscovered his love for the game of hockey.
I’ve loved the game since I was a kid and I just didn’t have that same drive. I didn’t have that same motivation to play the game, so I figured I wanted to get back into the college feel. That team unity. You know a lot of camaraderie is something I’ve always loved and I found that in Europe.Kodie Curran Interview with Glenn Campbell – CTV News Calgary
His first foray into European hockey was in Denmark with Esbjerg Energy, where he had 33 points in 45 regular season games and 17 points in 18 playoff games. His team won the championship and he led all defensemen in goals and assists culminating in a nomination to the All-Star team.
After one season in Denmark, Curran spent the 2017-18 season in Norway playing for Storhamar. He captained the team to a Norwegian Championship posting 44 points in 38 regular season games and 29 points in 14 playoff games. He picked up several major awards including Player of the Year, Playoffs MVP, Best Plus/Minus and a nomination to the All-Star team.
His next journey would take him to Sweden where he spent two seasons with Rögle BK. In his first year, he finished with 37 points in 49 games played, and his 12 goals were the most among defenseman. However, 2019-20 was a banner year for the Alberta-native. He finished second in league scoring with 49 points in 48 games played. He had the most points and assists by a defenseman and was awarded SHL Defenseman of the Year, SHL Most Valuable Player and the Guldhjälmen.
He was supposed to continue that journey with a trip to Russia to play in the KHL for Avangard Omsk next season. He was excited about the opportunity to move to one of the best leagues in the world and play for Bob Hartley. However, the Ducks came knocking and he bought himself out of the deal to pursue the opportunity.
In an interview with Mattias Persson of Hockey News Sweden, Curran described what it means for him to sign an NHL contract:
I don’t even have words to describe how much it means to me. I have dreamed about this all my life. The day you stop dreaming about the NHL, then I think you should stop playing hockey. Then you do not want it enough. I was not drafted, but I still dreamed about this from the time I was 15 until now. I’m a late-bloomer and have worked hard to get here. I’ve tried to get better every day and made choices that I thought were the best for myself. I really look forward to this adventure.Kodie Curran Interview with Mattias Persson – hockeynews.se
So, where does he fit on the Ducks’ roster? Let’s take a look.
Curran’s Fit in Anaheim
“Another left-handed defenseman” is the collective groan of the majority of Ducks fans. A crowded position in the Ducks’ depth chart that includes Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Jacob Larsson, Brendan Guhle, Christian Djoos, Josh Mahura and Simon Benoit. You can throw in Michael Del Zotto and Matt Irwin, if they re-sign with the team.
However, Curran brings a level of experience, professionalism and determination that fans haven’t seen among the team’s recent acquisitions. He also has several years of experience playing on the right side of defense:
I grew up on the right! I’ve always played on the right, it’s somewhere where I feel a lot more comfortable being a little bit more agile to the inside. I’ve got my blade to the inside to make plays and when I come back, I can pop pucks off a little easier. My body is open to the middle of the ice and I’m a little bit stronger to my right side cutting. It’s just always been a strong side of mine, so I love the right side. I feel like I’m offensively skilled enough to play there, so I’m always able to adjust.Kodie Curran on playing on the right side of defense – Forever Mighty Podcast
Listed at 6-foot-2 and weighing 201 pounds, he has the size to contribute an effective two-way game. Couple that with impressive offensive instincts and high hockey IQ, you have a recipe for a defenseman who can succeed in the modern-day NHL. His six power play goals were second among defensemen and he sported a solid 54.24 Corsi For%, which ranked 10th among SHL defensemen to play at least 30 games.
As Curran told us in our interview, his goals for next season are simple:
My goals for next season are simply to be the best player that I can be for Anaheim. That’s just where my mindset has always been mentally, I want to help this team win. Whatever I can bring to the table, I want to be my best Kodie Curran… I want to be grateful that I’m in the NHL and hopefully I can inspire someone else.Kodie Curran on his goals for the NHL – Forever Mighty Podcast
He’ll get his chance to prove himself once the 2020-21 season gets underway, but for now it’s the realization of a dream come true and the end of a long journey. And where one journey ends another begins. At 30 years old, Curran can now proudly call himself an NHL player.
Check out my full interview with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kodie Curran on the Forever Mighty Podcast!