When the Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier traded for Cody Hodgson on trade deadline day of the 2011-2012 season, he was planning to fill the void at center. It was awhile before hitting the scoresheet but in the 2013 season, he has produced regularly while centering the top line between a hot Thomas Vanek (LW) and steady captain, Jason Pominville (RW). The consistency in scoring by Hodgson at this position can be seen as one of the few high points of the Sabres at the quarter-mark of the season.
Despite routine production offensively, Hodgson has been responsible for inconsistent, and even noticeably poor, play in the defensive zone. The turnovers have been especially scrutinized as they have lead to goals in their own net, one coming on the first goal by Pittsburg Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis. Matthew Collier of WGR 550 in Buffalo had cited how this was evident in his play as a Rochester American during the lockout. These misplays on the puck have been costly for a team with inconsistency on the blueline and are nonetheless more magnified as the Sabres have struggled. Going forward, Hodgson must improve his decision making in the D-zone in order for the play to transition to the zone where his skill set can be on display and help the team win.
Is this meant to down-play a player who has produced more consistently than his teammates have? No. It is merely showing that Hodgson is a significant component to the team’s push towards a playoff spot, based on ice-time and ability to produce. He has certainly showed the will and effort to be a solid, if not better, two-way center. The transformation of his defensive play is vital to the team’s success as well as his own. He is undergoing what many 22-year old centers experience as they strive to make an impact. Along side the struggles, he shows he belongs on an NHL roster and is worthy of big minutes. Hodgson is also in the last year of his entry-level contract and the rest of the season will have a huge effect on his near future. It could even have an effect on the future of his team.