VANCOUVER – Two summers ago, Vancouver Canucks rookie Cody Hodgson suffered a severe back injury – one that forced him to miss nearly the entire 2009-10 season.
Hodgson initially suffered the injury while working out near his hometown in Ontario with Dave Gagner, the club's Director of Player Development, during the summer of 2009.
On Monday morning, the 21-year-old admitted there came a point where he thought he'd never see the day where he plays pain-free.
"I couldn't see this far," he said. "To tell you the truth, there was no thought about (playing in the NHL) at all. At this time last year, it was a totally different world.
"It's pretty incredible what a year can do and it'll be even nicer if we can go all the way here, cap everything off … but we're still in a great series here against San Jose."
Hodgson's agent, Ritch Winter, introduced him to Minneapolis-based physical therapist Dennis Thompson, who has created a back treatment he calls Accelerated Recovery Performance Protocols (ARP).
The Toronto native's patience and persistence with the nagging injury has paid off, despite doing regular exercises for his back. He's now playing without the lingering affects of the injury.
"To put in all the hard work, it wasn't getting better for a long time, but I'm feeling good, that's all in the past now," he said. "I'm just looking forward to getting on the ice every day. Every practice, I don't take anything for granted. It's just nice to be out there playing and competing – enjoying the game."
Hodgson played 52 games this season with the AHL's Manitoba Moose. He missed some time due to a broken orbital bone after he was hit in the face by a teammate's stick during practice. Vancouver's first selection (No. 10) in 2008 played eight games with the Canucks in February registering a goal and an assist.
At the conclusion of Manitoba's regular season Vancouver recalled Hodgson for the playoffs where he now has an assist in nine games.
"First game stepping on the ice in Chicago was incredible with all that history between the two teams," said Hodgson. "The next round against Nashville and it just keeps ramping up every series."
With the Canucks, Hodgson is in a role he isn't all too familiar with, as the Ontario Hockey League product was predominantly a top-six forward in his junior hockey days. In 2009 he was named the OHL's Player of the Year and was also an alternate captain on Canada's gold-medal winning World Junior team in Ottawa.
"Everybody has a role. In the past I played on some pretty good teams growing up, every team has fourth liners that need to go out and do their role and they're a really big part of it," he said. "We need to go out and do our best and at the same time help the team.
"It's important to stay positive, encourage the guys and be part of the team – it's a big responsibility as well. It's overlooked a lot of the time for guys that play in that position, but it takes a whole team to win."
Hodgson's maturity hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"He's been solid for us," said Daniel Sedin, who took Hodgson out for dinner prior to the start of the playoffs to get him comfortable with the playoff atmosphere. "I think he understands his role and the minutes he gets, he's doing really well.
Added coach Alain Vigneault: "Cody has come in and hasn't maybe played big minutes, but he's stepped on during a pressure time in the playoffs, and he's done well for us. He makes high-percentage plays.
"You can see that the young man has a tremendous amount of upside."