While much of the talk at Sabres training camp has been on rookie Mikhail Grigorenko and his chances of earning the job of third line center, the play of the top two centers will go a long way in determining the Sabres fate this season.
A great deal is expected of 22 year old Cody Hodgson, who has one full NHL season under his belt and 23 year old Tyler Ennis, the veteran of the group with a whopping total of 140 games on his NHL resume.
Hodgson, who was acquired from Vancouver last February in the Zack Kassian trade, won’t have to worry about rust being an issue when he takes to the First Niagara Center ice on Sunday to face the Philadelphia Flyers. He spent the lockout playing for the Rochester Americans.
Hodgson missed some time due to a hand injury but still ended up with 5 goals and 19 points in 19 games. He thinks that playing time will give him an edge as the NHL season gets underway.
“I think it definitely was an advantage to play whether it was in Europe or whether it was in the AHL” Hodgson said during a Wednesday morning interview on WGR. “I think it was an even greater advantage for me to play in Rochester because I had a chance to know the system and be around our coaches and get advice from them.”
Ennis centered the hottest line when last season came to an end with Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford as his wingers but Hodgson will center the top line with Thomas Vanek who has scored 230 goals in his 7 year NHL career and Jason Pominville who has netted 157 goals over the last 6 seasons.
“Playing on a line with Vanek and Pominville, those guys are pretty incredible hockey players” Hodgson said “ So just making sure that I do whatever I can to play to the best of my abilities. They move the puck so well, they’re fast and they get in scoring position all the time. I just have to figure out ways to complement what they do.”
Playing on that line and being at the center spot can bring along with it some high expectations and pressure but Hodgson is looking forward to his chance. “You can look at it as pressure or you can look at it as an opportunity” Hodgson said. “I try to look at it as an opportunity. There’s a lot at stake but at the same time, there’s lots to gain as well. I just want to build off where we ended last year. I thought we were one of the better teams in the league.”
You can listen to the entire interview with Hodgson and hear what he had to say about Grigorenko and what the additions of Steve Ott and John Scott will mean: