Surprise news this morning, as the Canucks announced that they had called top prospect Cody Hodgson up from the Manitoba Moose. Hodgson will be meeting the team in Dallas, and Ian Walker has tweeted that he'll likely play, suiting up as the fourth-line centre and bumping Tanner Glass back to his natural position on the wing.
Fans are excited to see Hodgson finally make his regular season debut with the Canucks, but they're also a bit confused by the timing. Hodgson is recovering from a broken orbital bone that caused him to miss six weeks, and is still wearing a full shield to protect his face.
Worse, in four games since returning to the Moose lineup, Hodgson has 0 goals, 0 assists, and is a minus-2. This from a guy that was the Moose leading scorer before his injury. He's had 10 shots, but if he's not scoring and he's not coming down on the plus side, fans are right to wonder: why now?
In truth, it's either now or never (never being next season). I would wager that the team was days away from calling Hodgson up before he broke his cheekbone, and that the timing of that injury couldn't have been worse. Now, they can't afford to wait any longer.
We're just under a month away from the NHL trading deadline, and Cody Hodgson is quite nearly the only guy on the farm with NHL potential that hasn't seen a turn in the big leagues, especially among possible fourth-line centres. The Canucks have said numerous times this season they want all those guys to get some big-league experience, but they're also auditioning prospects to see what the organization has, and what they need.
Furthermore, if Hodgson can't play centre at this level, Mike Gillis likely needs to acquire somebody via trade. None of their fourth-line centre candidates have worked, and the team doesn't want to go into the playoffs without one. Since these moves don't happen overnight, Gillis needs time to begin seriously putting something together. He needs to see Hodgson now, in order to formulate a plan going forward. If Hodgson can show he's an NHL centre, then the Canucks can stand pat.
There's an additional benefit. If Hodgson shows he can play at this level, the Canucks could move him into a larger role. Most of the Canucks' forwards aren't scoring, and it's a genuine cause for concern. An injection of youthful skill might be the antidote. The Canucks appear to be in need of one more scorer. If Hodgson, a convertible centre, can be that guy, team depth will have increased exponentially. A best-case scenario might be that Hodgson gets promoted to third-line centre duty, while Malhotra moves down, making the Canucks' exceptionally deep down the middle, like last year's Blackhawks.
Another possibility is that Hodgson winds up on the wing in the top nine and the Canucks get a fourth-line centre after all, knowing there's no need for an upgrade anywhere else in the forwards corps. Much to the chagrin of Gillis and Vigneault, auditions for Kesler's wing remain open.
What Cody Hodgson can be to this team this season remains to be seen, especially since he doesn't appear to be back in top form. But the Canucks can't wait any longer.