A rift between the Vancouver Canucks and top prospect Cody Hodgson is growing after the latter said he no longer plans to train under the NHL team's supervision.
Hodgson said yesterday he would not work out with Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner this summer. Hodgson, 19, a former gold-medal winner with Canada's world junior team, suffered a back injury last July while dry-land training with Gagner in London, Ont.
The injury kept him out of action, save a few NHL preseason games, until this week when he returned to action with the Ontario Hockey League's Brampton Battalion.
"I'm not talking about Cody Hodgson," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said from Boston. "He doesn't play for our team."
When asked what he made of Hodgson's statement, Gillis replied: "I don't care."
At one point, Gillis clearly cared.
He hired Gagner to work with the organization's best prospects, believing they could be fast-tracked to the big leagues if directed by a former NHL player who gave them personal attention. Gagner's role is one of the main tenants in Gillis's attempt to rebuild a farm system that has been one of the league's worst.
"[Hodgson]has some ideas of his own," Gillis said. "I haven't talked to him, so I'm not going to comment until then."
Hodgson, an all-star forward at the 2009 world junior tournament in Ottawa, netted two assists in his season debut as Brampton downed Erie 4-2 on Thursday. He has been receiving treatment from Dr. Tony Miniaci at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and from doctors in his native Toronto. He said he was also working with a Brampton-based trainer.
Until his injury, Hodgson was the golden boy of a Canucks franchise starved for prospects. Once considered an untouchable asset, it is now worth wondering if Hodgson could be moved by the NHL's trade deadline on March 3.
The rift began to develop in training camp, where Hodgson clearly wasn't up to NHL pace. (Skating was considered the weakest part of his game heading into the 2009 NHL entry draft, when he was selected by Vancouver with the 10th overall selection.) Hodgson admitted that he had a back injury that was shooting pain down one leg.
"I'm not looking back," Hodgson said on a conference call, his first public comments since September. "All I'm worried about is rehab and hopefully that pain doesn't return. I want to make sure it's healthy and is from here on."
Canucks management had hoped Hodgson would be the rare teenager who could compete in the NHL, but head coach Alain Vigneault said the Canadian Hockey League's player-of-the-year wasn't close to earning a roster spot.
Privately, the Canucks wondered if Hodgson was simply spooked by the talent at camp and used the back injury to explain his underwhelming performance. A couple of days before he was returned to junior, Hodgson cutoff all talk about his back, and he later cutoff interview requests as he was rehabbing in Brampton.
"In the summer, I won't be training with Mr. Gagner," Hodgson said. "I feel I have good trainers I can work with in Toronto."
Hodgson could play 17 more games with the Battalion during the regular season and more in the OHL playoffs. Once his junior season is over, he could be assigned to the Manitoba Moose, Vancouver's minor-league affiliate.