By John Vogl
Cody Hodgson has been in Buffalo for a while working out, so he was confident a contract was coming. As the hours ticked closer to training camp, however, he felt a few nerves.
Not anymore. Armed with a six-year deal worth a reported $25.5 million, Hodgson opened camp today as the team’s confident No. 1 center.
“When they have that much faith in you, you want to try that much harder and make sure you reward them for that opportunity,” Hodgson said in First Niagara Center. “It was a great summer of training. Obviously, I had a lot of time to make sure I got a lot more explosive, a lot more power.”
Hodgson finished last season as the Sabres’ second-leading scorer. He’s back with the top guy, skating alongside right wing Thomas Vanek. Marcus Foligno, who ended last year as center, is getting an early look as the top-line left winger.
Hodgson has always wanted a top-line role. He entered camp last year competing with Tyler Ennis for the job. The contract and depth chart make Hodgson the clear go-to guy this season for coach Ron Rolston.
“You just want to do what you can and complement the players you’re playing with,” said Hodgson, who has struggled defensively but hopes to make major strides. “This year, we’re going to get a chance to know the systems a little better. Having Ron know right from the start of training camp what we’re doing system-wise, I think we’ll all get on the same page.
“I was working on power, strength, making sure I can muscle guys off pucks. Hopefully, that will translate into good team defense.”
He’ll have plenty of time to get to know the team with his contract covering the next half-dozen years.
“I’m really happy to have some concrete knowledge of where I’m going to be for a few years,” Hodgson said. “Playing in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Rochester and Buffalo the last couple years, you’re never really sure where you’re going to be. I’m really happy I’ll be able to buy a house or something. To have some security, it’s nice.”