BRAMPTON, Ont. – Cody Hodgson, acknowledging he never fully overcame injuries that plagued his Ontario Hockey League season, tipped his cap to Brampton Battalion teammates and staff in the aftermath of the 2009-10 campaign.
“I was never 100 percent, but I was at a level where I could compete and contribute,” Hodgson said Thursday, a day after earning an assist in a 5-2 loss to the Barrie Colts that completed the visitors’ four-game sweep of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“This season was a learning experience, and I took some positives out of it,” said centre Hodgson, whose four years in Battalion green made him perhaps the most prominent player in club history.
“There were some dark days, but it has taught me a lot. I know more about my body now than if I had never been injured. Hopefully that will serve me well the rest of my career.”
Assigned to the Battalion on Sept. 29 by the Vancouver Canucks, who had made him the 10th pick in the National Hockey League’s 2008 Entry Draft, Hodgson missed the Troops’ first 50 games while recovering from a back injury suffered in offseason training.
He made his OHL season debut Feb. 4 in a 4-2 home-ice victory over the Erie Otters, accumulating eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points in 13 games before sitting out the final five games of the schedule to heal a broken right foot suffered Feb. 12 against the host Sudbury Wolves.
“I’m stronger mentally, personally and professionally,” said Hodgson, who turned 20 on Feb. 18. “I think it will really help me in the future. I know a lot about injuries now and how to recover quicker from them. I now know my limits and when to push it and when to step back.”
The Battalion’s captain the last two seasons, Hodgson had three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 11 playoff games. The Troops, who finished fifth in the conference, eliminated the fourth-place Kingston Frontenacs in seven games before facing Barrie, which had the league’s best regular-season record.
“I wanted to be able to go out and help the team any way I could. I was just happy to be able to play hockey again after the injury and show teams that we could make a good run. A lot of people thought we wouldn’t even be able to make the playoffs, and to beat Kingston in the first round was a bonus.”
After leading the Battalion to a conference title and the OHL Championship Series last year, Hodgson returned to a team featuring plenty of fresh faces.
“To join a group of younger guys was a lot of fun. Being around them every day, I could see the youthful exuberance they had. I really appreciated the work the guys put in. We had a great group of guys with a lot of character, and that bodes well for the future of this organization.”
A first-round choice in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection, Hodgson produced 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points in 63 games as a rookie in 2006-07. He said the roster this year reminded him a lot of that season. Four other players from that team, defencemen Brad Albert and Ken Peroff, centre Thomas Stajan and goaltender Patrick Killeen, played Wednesday night.
“The young guys this season have a lot of skill, and they’re having a lot of fun together. It reminds me a lot of my first season. We had some great rookies that season, and we all came through this together. It’s tough to see guys like Stajan, Peroff, Albert and Killeen leave after four years.”
Hodgson played a total of 197 regular-season games, scoring 114 goals and earning 129 assists for 243 points. He trails only Wojtek Wolski on the club’s career lists for goals, assists, points and power-play goals. Hodgson, who holds the club record for game-winning goals, is the Battalion leader in playoff scoring with 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 points in 41 games.
In 2008-09 he won both the Red Tilson Award as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player and the William Hanley Trophy as the Most Sportsmanlike Player. In a season in which he led the Canadian national junior team in scoring as it won a fifth consecutive championship, he also was named the Canadian Hockey League’s Player of the Year.
“It was a great group of guys to play with,” said Hodgson, who was awaiting word from the Canucks on what they had planned for him. “The Battalion organization has done so much for me for the past four years. I can’t thank them enough.”