By Brian O’Neill
Buffalo Sabres’ center Cody Hodgson reacted just like every NHLer does when told they reached a career milestone.
“Did I?” he said.
OK, so maybe his take wasn’t typical, but recording his 100th career NHL point in Toronto – in his hometown in front of a gathering of family and friends – is not lost on the 23-year-old.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I didn’t know that but that’s quite an honor playing in the league just at all, to be able to have some success and be part of a team, which not everybody gets to be a part of.”
With the puck deep in the Maple Leafs zone, Hodgson swatted at a loose puck that trickled along the goal line and managed to squeak by goaltender James Reimer.
“I still don’t know how it went in,” he said. “I was asking the guys after the goal, I really don’t know exactly how it got through, but I’ll take it.”
It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but it’s fitting for a guy whose road to the NHL has been ugly at times.
For a while it looked like his career would end before it started. Hodgson was a highly touted prospect drafted 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2008. As a member of the last Canadian team to win gold at the world juniors, Hodgson led the team with 16 points, outscoring eventual first-overall pick John Tavares. The sky was the limit.
Then came that injury.
In an off-ice training session with the Canucks in 2009, Hodgson was diagnosed with a disc issue in his back. It was later discovered he actually suffered from a torn muscle. He missed the majority of 2009-10, and a second chance at representing Canada at the world juniors.
He never quite met the expectations of Vancouver Canucks observers and the club decided he was expendable. At the 2012 trade deadline, Hodgson was dealt to Buffalo for right winger Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.
That’s all in the past. Hodgson is focused on the present, and signed a six-year, $4.25 million contract with the Sabres this past September. He is a man who seems at peace with the detours his career has taken.
“I’m very blessed, very fortunate to be able to be in the situation I’m in right here,” he said. “I feel really confident the ways (Sabres management) have taken this team. They’re just good people. You can always trust good people and I’m happy to be here.”
It’s showing, too. Hodgson has begun to slowly rediscover his offensive game and resemble the first-line center scouts envisioned him to be, averaging almost 20 minutes per game. He currently leads the Sabres with 23 points in 36 games. Defensively, he still has work to do as his minus-10 will attest.
But it’s a work in progress. Hodgson said he owes a lot to former NHLer Gary Roberts and the summer training camps he puts on in the summer.
“Robs has helped me the last five years,” Hodgson said. “I wouldn’t be in the NHL without Gary. When I was hurt, missed a year of hockey, he brought in the right guys to help me, rehabbed me, got me strong and able to play in the league.”
“I owe a lot to a lot of people.”
As for the puck he scored his 100th point with?
“I’ll only save the one puck, that’s my first goal.”
It’s already in the past.