Attention, NHL scouts with jobs!
Evgeni Malkin isn’t the only Metallurg Magnitogorsk player on a tear right now.
As of Wednesday, forward Justin Hodgman (who?!) has put up nine points in his last three games, moving him to 16th overall in KHL scoring with 19 points in 21 games. This is despite his averaging only about 13 minutes of ice time per game, the lowest of any KHL scorer in the top 80.
Ottawa-born Randy Robitaille, a 26-year-old veteran with nine NHL teams on his resume, has 20 points this season, but he’s played three more games than Hodgman.
Thus, Hodgman is the most productive non-European in the KHL, widely considered the world’s most elite active hockey league. And a look at his statistical history indicates that he’s only getting better.
Yet only those with the deepest puck memories will recall who he is.
His profile on NHL.com — which contains no stats or notes, just a few dusty AHL game reports and an outdated headshot — hasn’t been updated in two-and-a-half years.
Hodgman is as tough to track as he is to knock over. He changes jerseys as often as hybrid-car owners change oil.
In the last nine seasons, the physical 200-pounder has played for 10 different teams in nine different leagues.
The Brampton, Ont. native is an Erie Otters (OHL) graduate and was a three-time Turner Cup champion with the IHL’s Fort Wayne Comets.
A onetime Toronto Marlies centre, the 24-year-old Hodgman has never been drafted into the National Hockey League, but one figures a player couldn’t get much closer. The Marlies acquired him in a 2010 trade with the Rockford IceHogs in exchange for future considerations.
In 38 games with the 2009-10 Marlies, Hodgman put up 23 points and was a minus-seven. The following season he increased his totals to 12 goals, 17 assists and became a plus-seven. He only played 42 games, however, due to a series of injuries.
Marlies coach Dallas Eakins praised Hodgman at the time, who once mentioned him as “the most fundamentally skilled player on the team next only to Nazem Kadri,” according to kylethereporter.com.
Hodgman was not re-signed by the Marlies, who were flush with centremen at the time (Mike Zigomanis, Joe Colborne, Philippe Dupuis, Darryl Boyce). His choice was to have his already-limited ice-time chopped further, move to the wing or just plain move.
The next season, Hodgman hopped a plane to the Finnish Elite League and scored 53 points in 59 games for the 2011-12 Lahti Pelicans. He was a plus-12 on the ice, but spent 123 minutes in the box due to his style of play.
But in the KHL this year, Hodgman has drastically reduced his penalty minutes (14) while again upping his production. In each of his last three seasons, his points-per-game average has increased.
Granted, it helps that Hodgman is playing with Malkin, who commands most of the attention on Magnitogorsk and is now the KHL’s assist leader. But what if the late bloomer continues to light it up? What if he starts getting the ice time he wants?
Those scouts might take notice, if they haven’t already.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see the NHL lockout play a role in bringing an undrafted Canadian-born KHL player back the other way?
Highlights of Hodgman’s 2011-12 campaign with the Lahti Pelicans (best viewed on mute):