Over the past week, the eyes of Canuck nation have been on two new members of the team, Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani, with a large majority of those eyes focusing directly on Kassian.
It’s no secret that Kassian has big shoes to fill, even if he isn’t stepping directly into the role or position that Cody Hodgson served during his brief time as a Canuck.
The good news for Canuck fans is that, despite the team’s two straight regulation losses for the first time since November 3 and 4, Kassian has been a bright spot in the lineup, moving up to the second line.
How long he’ll stay there for remains to be seen, but he’s clearly made enough of an impression on the coaching staff to at least be given an opportunity in a bigger offensive role.
This is an encouraging sign for those who were worried about how Hodgson’s point production would be replaced heading into the playoffs.
After all, the Canucks are in a position where they need to win now rather than later and scoring depth is a must, especially if the Sedin twins fall into the same type of slump they’re in now come playoff time.
What about the long-term implications of having a player like Kassian on the Canucks’ roster over Hodgson, though?
Is there any way of really knowing if one player is going to turn out much better than the other?
Of course not.
Although, many fans would have you believe that Hodgson will be a point-per-game player within the next two or three seasons, simply because of his pedigree and his encouraging rookie season.
However, Kassian has nearly the exact same pedigree as Hodgson and, in some ways, is a year ahead of Hodgson in development because he wasn’t forced to sit out for nearly a full season with back problems.
As a result, he’s already an NHL regular in his first year as a professional, whereas Hodgson took a full year to crack the Canucks’ roster as a full-time player.
Naturally, much of Hodgson’s lack of playing time in his first year of professional hockey also had plenty to do with the Canucks' depth at the center position, but this is also why he was traded in the first place.
Why bury a talented prospect behind two all-stars like Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler for half a decade when you have the option to trade him for a prospect that’s nearly as talented and has an even more unique skill set?
This is exactly why Canuck nation shouldn’t lose any sleep over how good Hodgson will end up being as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Even if he becomes a point-per-game player in Buffalo, you can bet your last dollar that he wasn’t going to get the opportunity to produce at that rate in a Canucks' uniform.
Hodgson’s best case scenario would have been one where he played well enough to move ahead of Henrik and Kesler on the depth chart in three or four years, but that would probably have had just as much to do with those two being past their prime, in which case the Canucks' Stanley Cup window would have likely closed already.
Fear not Canucks' fans because this deal really isn’t as risky as you might think in the long run.
It's also nowhere near the disaster that the Keith Ballard trade has turned out to be, even if Michael Grabner has only put up 25 points in his sophomore season with the New York Islanders.
While there’s a good chance that Hodgson will fare better than Grabner down the road, Kassian has much more potential than Ballard.
Plus, the Canucks already have a new defenseman in Gragnani that will likely jump ahead of Ballard on the depth chart in no time.
The Canucks can always draft another Hodgson over the course of the next decade as well.
This isn’t to say that players with his ability and character grow on trees, but the Canucks seem to have a knack for finding power forwards like Kassian, who can mix it up physically and have the hands and skating ability of a future 30-goal scorer.
At the end of the day, it’s one top prospect for another.
It has same implications in the future for the Canucks as it does in the present, and therein lies the fun of watching how these two great young players will develop over time.
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