Hockey

Hodgson ready for NHL job with Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are giving top forward prospect Cody Hodgson every chance to crack the roster, and will have him skate between Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler in Wednesday's pre-season game against San Jose.

Top forward prospect to skate between Burrows, Kesler against Sharks

As the reigning Canadian Hockey League player of the year, it would be hard to argue Cody Hodgson has much to prove at the junior level.

A second-place finish in scoring at last year's world junior championship and a 92-point season with the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League strengthen Hodgson's case.

Still, the 19-year-old centre has less than a week to show Vancouver Canucks brass he is ready for the rigours of an 82-game NHL schedule, and a few obstacles stand in Hodgson's way.

First of all, he has been less than spectacular at training camp, having posted a minus-2 rating in Monday's 5-4 shootout win over Calgary. Some might question his defence and say he hasn't been fast enough, although he continues to recover from a back injury suffered in the summer.

"I don't think I'd develop much at all [in junior]. This is where I need to be for more development. This is where I think I fit," Hodgson, who will skate between scoring forwards Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler Wednesday night against visiting San Jose, told reporters.

Problem is, the Canucks are deeper at forward this season, even with centre Pavol Demitra sidelined after shoulder surgery. 

Hodgson's rookie-maximum salary of $850,000 US, potentially doubled by bonuses, could also work against him since Vancouver, on paper, currently exceeds the $56.8-million salary cap.

"Because his skill set is better than another player, he might become, near Christmas, a better player than what we have here," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said of Hodgson, who is battling speedy incumbent Jannik Hansen and Russian rookie Sergei Shirokov for one or two forward spots.

Should Vancouver cut Hodgson, he would return to Brampton since the CHL's agreement with the NHL prohibits any player under 20 from playing professionally in a minor league until the junior season is over.

"I know I can play better than [Monday's game]. I felt better skating wise," Hodgson said. "Mentally, I still need to get up to that level."

He will try to help the Canucks extend their pre-season record to 5-0-0 Wednesday against Dany Heatley and the 2-2 Sharks.

Roberto Luongo is expected to play the full game in net for Vancouver, which has three exhibition games left after Wednesday's contest.

Heatley made his Sharks debut following a Sept. 12 trade from Ottawa in Saturday's 5-4 overtime win over Phoenix. He finished plus-1 in 18 minutes of ice time in Monday's 3-2 loss to Anaheim, skating on a line with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres

More than 30 players remain on the Leafs' roster including 2009 first-round pick Nazem Kadri, who forced overtime on Tuesday and scored a fancy goal in a 3-2 shootout win over Pittsburgh.

Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, François Beauchemin and Mike Van Ryn (recovering from knee surgery) won't play against the Sabres, who held Washington's Alex Ovechkin scoreless in a 2-1 triumph on Monday.

Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers

Theo Fleury survived another round of cuts Tuesday in his attempt to return to the NHL at age 41. The five-foot-six winger probably will see action in the Flames' final two exhibition games Wednesday night in Edmonton against the rival Oilers and Saturday versus the visiting Vancouver Canucks.

Jamie Lundmark, Mikael Backlund, Brett Sutter, Dustin Boyd, David Moss and newcomer Nigel Dawes are other forwards battling for a roster spot with Calgary.

Like the Oilers' off-season moves? Hate 'em? How do you feel about Edmonton's 2009-10 team? Talk about it Thursday on CBCSports.ca at 1 p.m. ET with Tyler Dellow of the fine Oilers blog mc79hockey.com.