Top 5 Canucks Prospects

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Top 5 Canucks Prospects
Is this the year?

What will the 2011-2012 season bring for Cody Hodgson?

Drafted 10th overall in 2008, Hodgson was considered a can’t miss prospect—especially after following his draft year by leading Team Canada in scoring at the 2009 World Junior Championship (where Canada won gold and Hodgson had 16 points in six games) and being named the 2008-09 CHL Player of the Year.

Since then, Hodgson has hit on hard times. Injuries have marred his development, and Vancouver’s depth at centre has limited his opportunity.

Going into this season, Hodgson once again finds himself on the outside looking in if you go by the Canucks’ depth chart. With Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre tentatively penciled in ahead of him, many fans see Hodgson as potential trade bait or in need of more time in the minors. But I disagree.

It goes without saying that this is a vital year for Hodgson. Assuming he’s healthy, it’s time for him to prove he belongs with the big boys and that he’s ready to be an asset on the Canucks third line. Although he’s played some right wing in the past, Hodgson is a natural two-way centreman, and there’s no reason Vancouver wouldn’t consider putting Manny Malhotra on the left wing and Hodgson at centre.

When Malhotra was signed last summer, the scenario of playing as a winger was presented to Malhotra and he was fine with it. Last year, Hodgson clearly wasn’t ready to assume such a prominent role, and everyone would agree that playing between five and 10 minutes on the fourth line is a waste of time for a young offensive player like Hodgson.

As hockey fans throughout North America await training camp to see which prospects are ready to seize a roster spot, Vancouver’s depth and strength in a weak Northwest Division gives them the luxury of helping Hodgson grow into that third-line role. Although you’d have to assume Malhotra will still take the more crucial faceoffs, having Malhotra on that line as a mentor for Hodgson could provide a real boost for Hodgson’s development.

But make no mistake: if Hodgson isn’t ready, he will once again start the year with the Chicago Wolves.

As for this final segment in the “Top 20: Canucks Prospects” series, we count down Vancouver’s top five prospects, all of whom should be regular contributors in Vancouver within the next two-to-three years. Please also note that with Cory Schneider having played the full 2010-2011 season in Vancouver, he is now considered a Canuck, rather than a Canuck prospect.

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