Hodgson takes birthday time to reflect

BRAMPTON, Ont. – In three seasons with the Brampton Battalion, Cody Hodgson has gone from highly touted Ontario Hockey League rookie to one of the best known junior players in Canada.

National recognition flowed from Hodgson leading the Canadian team in scoring with five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in the six games it took to capture gold at the 2009 World Junior Championship at Ottawa. A first-round choice in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection, he has 95 goals and 104 assists for 199 points in 172 OHL games, ranking fourth on the Battalion’s career points list.

“It seems like a long time ago that I was picked,” centre Hodgson said Wednesday, his 19th birthday. “Things have really worked out for me here. I’ve made a lot of great friends and had a great time playing hockey here.”

Hodgson, who has exhibited great maturity for years, said he’s grown even more in his time with the Troops.

“I’ve learned a lot of the little things. I have more confidence, and I’ve learned from a lot of the guys I’ve played with, like John de Gray and Bobby Sanguinetti. You see the dedication of guys who have moved on, and that’s taught me a lot. I’m grateful I’ve had this opportunity.”

Coach Stan Butler has described Hodgson as the pulse of the team, but the Battalion captain said he gets as much from his teammates as they get from him.

“I feel like I feed off the rest of the team. We have a great leadership group here, so I don’t have too much responsibility. I just try to focus on my own play and lead by example.” 

Hodgson’s example has been worth following. Second to Matt Duchene in team scoring with 32 goals and 36 assists for 68 points in 41 games, he reeled off a club-record 23-game points streak, the OHL’s longest this season, during which he scored 17 goals and earned 23 assists.

That performance has helped the Battalion, with a won-lost-extended record of 38-16-2, to first place in the Central Division, two points behind the Belleville Bulls for top spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand.

“The team has been great,” said Hodgson, a native of Toronto. “We’ve put some long winning streaks together. If the team is doing well, we all look good. We’re trying to build a team here, and it takes more than one player to win.

“I think we’re really solid throughout our lineup. We all work together, and it’s a fun group. At this time of the season everybody’s feeling the grind, but we’re happy to come to work every day.”

There are 12 games left in the Battalion’s regular season, starting with a visit by the London Knights at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“This is crunch time. This is why you want to be a hockey player. You see how competitive guys are and how bad they want to win. We’re all looking forward to the playoffs. There’s a bunch of guys on this team who have only ever won one playoff game. We’re looking to end the myth that we aren’t good in the playoffs.”

A first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft last June, Hodgson played three NHL preseason games and signed an entry-level contract with Vancouver before being assigned to the Battalion on Oct. 6. With Hodgson recording at least one point in all but five games, the Troops are 32-8-1 with him in the lineup.

“I didn’t really have any expectations when I came back here. I just wanted to do my best. I enjoy the challenge of playing against the other team’s top line. If you can beat them, you’re doing something right. I haven’t really changed my game. I just try to do my job.”

Hodgson acknowledged things have changed somewhat since he helped Canada win the world tourney in January.

“It’s almost surreal. You never realize the magnitude of a tournament like that when you’re playing in it but, as soon as it’s over, people everywhere are asking for autographs or asking you to speak to their minor hockey teams. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.”

The Markham, Ont., resident said he doesn’t mind the attention.

“It’s part of the job if you want to be a professional hockey player. I looked up to older players when I was a kid, and I always have a lot of time for the younger kids who want autographs or want to talk to me.”

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