The Vancouver Canucks drafted Cody Hodgson in the 2008 NHL Draft with the 10th-overall pick. Although the forward showed a lot of promise in his junior career, his NHL career didn’t work out as expected. Hodgson’s trade for Kassian during the 2011-12 season is one of the big trades the Canucks made in the last decade. What once seemed to be a long-lasting and promising career ended up lasting just six seasons as injuries plagued Hodgson.
Career in the Junior and Minor Leagues
Hodgson spent his junior hockey career playing for the Brampton Battalion. The Toronto-native spent four seasons with Brampton in the OHL, totaling 243 points in 197 games. The 2008-09 season was his most successful season in the juniors as he led his team to the OHL finals with 31 points in 21 games. He won gold with Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships and led the team with 16 points in 6 games. That team featured Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban, John Tavares, and Jordan Eberle. During the 2008-09 season, Hodgson was named the CHL player of the year.
That same season he had the opportunity to play in 11 playoffs games with the Manitoba Moose, who lost in Game 6 of the Calder Cup. Hodgson started on the fourth line but made his way up to the second line, alongside then prospect Michael Grabner. The Canucks sent him back to the OHL the following season, but he only played in 13 games due to a back injury he suffered while preparing for the main camp.
Time as a Canuck
The relationship with Hodgson started great. The Canucks believed they had drafted the future captain of their team. He was part of a slim group of prospects that the Canucks had in the late 2000s. The team lacked prospects as they failed to draft well, and this led to the first-round pick becoming very important for the organization.
After his impressive 2008-09 season, Hodgson injured his back during a team supervised off-ice training session in the offseason. He recovered in time for the preseason where he would struggle and was unable to crack the main roster. The problem between the prospect and the organization started when head coach Alain Vigneault questioned the seriousness of his injuries. The injury resulted in him refusing to train with the team’s director of player development Dave Gagner.
Hodgson didn’t get an opportunity to play for the Canucks until 2010-11 — he played 8 games during the regular season and appeared in 12 games during the playoffs. The following season, Ryan Kesler was recovering from a hip injury, which left the second-line center spot up for grabs. Hodgson finally cracked the main roster out of training camp. As Kesler came back, he would return to the second line, which slid the rookie to the third line. He was one of 12 rookies who were invited to the NHL All-Star Super Skills competition that season. He impressed in his first season, scoring 16 goals and having 33 points in 63 games while playing on the third line for the majority of the time.
Shocking Trade to Buffalo
During a Calder nominee season, the Canucks traded Hodgson moments before the trade deadline in 2011-12 to the Buffalo Sabres, alongside Alexander Sulzer, for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Related: The 5 Greatest Hockey Players Ever
Many in Vancouver were shocked by the trade, as the team was trading a promising piece for the future of the team. Some speculated that the rookie forward had requested the trade due to bad blood over the misdiagnosed back injury he had suffered seasons prior (from ‘Cody Hodgson and his agent try to end trade request story, The Province – 03/02/2012). General manager at the time, Mike Gillis shut down the rumors and chalked the trade up to adding size, something the team felt they lacked and would need when going up against other contenders in the Western Conference.
“Cody is a really good young player, he’s going to continue to develop and be an excellent NHL player, but for our needs immediately and moving forward, we felt that we needed better balance on our team and we needed size and we needed toughness,” General manager Mike Gillis told reporters in Phoenix, where both players were expected to join the team in time for Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes. “I think we got more balance in our lineup, more diversified.”
Career After Leaving Vancouver
Hodgson spent the next four seasons in Buffalo, totaling 99 points in 218 games. His first full season in Buffalo he showed progress. During the lockout-shortened season, he had 34 points in 48 games, which is a projected 58 points in a full 82-game season. He signed a six-year, $23.5 million contract before the following season. He hit the 20-goal mark for the first and only time in his career in his second season with his new team, but would slowly start to decline.
The Sabres bought Hodgson out of his contract after his fourth season. He had a lackluster 13 points in 78 games, as the Sabres were starting to form a new core for the team moving forward. In 2015, on the opening day of free agency, he signed a one-year contract with the Nashville Predators, but would only play 39 games before passing through the waivers unclaimed.
Helping Grow the Sport After Retiring
Once seen as a promising figure in Vancouver, Hodgson’s career ended early due to his inability to play at the same level he once had. He was suffering from shortness of breath, blackouts, and heart arrhythmia due to malignant hyperthermia, a genetic disorder that can be triggered by prolonged physical activity.
Although Hodgson’s career had been cut short due to injuries, they aren’t holding him back from helping grow the sport. After retiring, he has been helping run the Predators youth-development program. He gives back by teaching kids who know nothing about the game from scratch.
Related: Edmonton Oilers’ 2003-04 Season
“It’s really fun to [meet] kids who can barely stand up on skates — and then six weeks later they’re doing drills with all the other kids and playing in games,” he says. “It brings me back to when I started playing hockey.”
A Promising Career Cut Short
Hodgson’s junior and rookie season with the Canucks showed that he would eventually take over the reins of the team in the future. The team traded him due to a rumored rift between the forward and the team over a misdiagnosed back injury and the team’s need for size. Hodson’s career did not pan out as he had hoped although he continued to progress his first few seasons in Buffalo. Although he can no longer play the game he grew up playing, he is helping grow it across the southeastern states.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.