January 24 2012 01:56PM
Hodgson is tearing it up in his rookie season, but is he a realistic Calder contender?
Yesterday Elliot Pap wrote a column that appeared in the National Post under the slightly misleading headline: "Canucks' Hodgson making case for Calder Trophy." Pap's piece wasn't exactly a full-throated piece of advocacy on behalf of the Canucks talented rookie, it was more about Hodgson's impressive play and continued improvement in his first full NHL season. Here's what we know for sure: Cody Hodgson is already a reasonably consistent difference maker at the NHL level, and headline writers at one of the country's biggest papers seem to believe that Cody Hodgson should be in the rookie of the year conversation. I'm sure most Canucks fans would agree.
The hopes and dreams of the Canucks fan-base aside, Hodgson faces some stiff competition in his Rookie of the Year bid. In fact, at this current juncture, it would be a stretch to consider him anything but a long-shot to receive a nomination. In the Nation Network's midseason awards, for example, Hodgson finished fifth in Calder voting among our writers. He finished behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Henrique, Matt Read and Gabriel Landeskog. Of the four forwards who finished ahead of Hodgson in voting, three have put up more points than he has, and the fourth (Landeskog) is playing the most difficult minutes of any rookie, and is more than keeping his head above water.
Where you can make a case for Hodgson, is if you look at the efficiency of his point production. A quick note, all of the following statistics are provided by behindthenet.ca, an indispensable resource for hockey-math nerds. Here's the top-5 rookie scorers, and Landeskog, based on their scoring rate (goals, assists and points per sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time).
So Hodgson is the third most efficient even-strength goal scorer, the most efficient apple producer, and the 2nd most efficient point producer among the six most high-profile Rookie of the Year Candidates.
If we look at the efficiency of these same rookie's power-play production, Cody Hodgson's numbers again compare favorably to the other rookies in his class:
|PP Scoring Rates||G/60||A/60||P/60||PP TOI|
On the power-play Hodgson is the most efficient rookie goal-scorer, and the second most efficient all around point producer. Consider, however, that the only two rookies in the same stratosphere as Hodgson (the Nuge, and Smith) are in the top-5 on their own teams in power-play ice-time (meaning they play on the first unit). Hodgson on the other hand is 7th on his own team in power-play ice-time. So while Smith and the Nuge play with top-line players, Hodgson is the second most efficient rookie on the power-play, despite spending a fair deal of his power-play time with top-9 forwards like Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen.
Despite Hodgson's scoring rate, the issue with his Calder candidacy, as I see it, is two-fold. Firstly, he's not playing enough minutes, and secondly, he's been largely sheltered by Alain Vigneault. Matt Read, Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, Craig Smith and the currently injured Nugent-Hopkins are playing bigger roles on their respective teams than Cody Hodgson is in Vancouver, and that matters.
While Hodgson's play has been both tantalizing, and impressive; all of the other Calder contenders play top-six (or modified top-six) minutes, while Hodgson plays pivot on the Canucks third line. In terms of even-strength ice-time per game, Hodgson is 19th among rookies who've played more than 10 games this season. He also doesn't spend any-time shorthanded, whereas Henrique, Read and Landeskog are regular fixtures on the short-handed units of their respective clubs.
When you look at how much Hodgson has accomplished through the first 48 games this season, it's pretty spectacular. Some Canucks fans were calling him a bust as recently as this summer, but that feels like ancient history now. As the snipe-show highlights begin to pile up, it's becoming clear that Cody Hodgson is what's next in Vancouver.
So if the PHWA pays attention to scoring efficiency, or if Cody Hodgson can finish the season strong, he may earn himself a Calder nomination. But through nearly 60% of the NHL season, I have to think that he's a long-shot to be nominated. In fact, if I personally had a vote, my three choices through 48 games would be Matt Read, Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Henrique.
If this upsets you, it really shouldn't: Cody Hodgson has exceeded all reasonable expectations for his performance in his rookie year. So forget the Calder, and just enjoy what looks to be an upcoming decade spent watching opposition goaltenders whiff on Hodgson's unscreened slap-shots.